Visit Date: September 22, 2014
Day Three of my “Goodbye God, I’m going to Texas” road trip turned out to be a great day for seeing new things and exploring old things. For some reason, ancient cliff dwellings have always held a fascination to me, but I had never had the opportunity to visit any. So when I learned that there were cliff dwellings a short distance from Route 66, in Walnut Canyon National Monument, that became a definite stop on my travels to Texas.
I had stayed overnight in Winslow, and yes, I did briefly stand on a corner. And bright and early on day three morning, I got on I-40 and headed WEST. Yes, that's the opposite direction as Texas, but I had it all figured out.
I arrived early in the morning to find a good number of cars already in the parking area at Walnut Canyon. Taking a couple bottles of water and my camera, my first stop was the Visitor Center and Museum. As I was anxious to see the dwellings, I didn’t dawdle. I paid my $5 fee and got to it. There are two trails available to visit the area; the Island Trail and the Rim Trail.
The Island Trail was the one I wanted, as it descends 185 feet into the canyon and provides access to 25 cliff dwelling rooms. I wanted to get close and personal and if possible, enter some of the rooms. The hike is about one mile long and listed as “strenuous.” Probably due to the 240 steps back up to the Visitor Center. The day of my visit the NPS was doing some trail rehab, so a small portion of the loop was closed, but I was still able to see most of the dwellings in the area and even go into a couple of them. It’s a pretty amazing place and definitely one I recommend for anyone in the area.
After I exited the museum building, the stairs almost immediately start heading down and into the canyon. These were a couple of my first views of cliff dwellings in the area. Looking across the canyon, I could spot numerous dwellings. The lighter colored stone and adobe walls give them away.
This is a great view of the "Island." The trail I would be hiking would take me counter-clockwise around it. You can see a portion of the trail just to the left of the large rock outcropping near the center of the picture.
Once on the trail, this view across the canyon demanded that its picture be taken, so I obliged.
The dwellings almost circle the entire island and I believe are all along the same trail, although there could be others above or below and I wouldn't have known it. The Island Trail is the only one people are allowed to use to access the dwellings.
Many of the individual rooms are not open for visitors to enter, but a few of them are.
The dwellings were built under natural rock overhangs which gave them protection from above. The natural rock also provided their back wall and floor. The side and front walls were constructed of stone and mortar. While the rooms may seem small, they were sufficient for the needs of their inhabitants.
This would be a nice view to wake up to each morning.
The day I visited, trail crews were working on the trail and I could only go about halfway around the island before I had to head back the way that I had come. And the stairs back up to the museum? Not that bad at all, I took my time.
It was very cool to visit these old ruins and I'm looking forward to visiting others in the southwest when I have the opportunity.
A few last shots of the canyon walls surround the island. There are cliff dwellings all over this area. It would definitely be interesting to visit some of these other ones, but I don't think it's allowed, and I'm not sure that trails lead to them anymore.
After doing a bit of Christmas shopping at the museum gift store, it was time to continue my journey, east once again. My next stop would be a giant crater.