Directions: From Phoenix, travel on I-17N for 124 miles to Flagstaff. In Flagstaff, take I-40 E for 6.2 miles to exit-204 and drive 0.3 miles into the Walnut Canyon National Monument park.
About the hike: This 1-mile loop trail takes you directly alongside cave-dwelling ruins. The hike begins at an elevation of 6,700 feet but quickly starts to descend 185 feet.
When you arrive at the park, enter the visitor's center to find the Island Trailhead.
The paved trail begins with stairs leading down toward the cliff dwellings. This steep 1-mile hike has 736 steps round trip.
Along the way, informational plaques provide the history of the Hopi Native American's who built and occupied the cliff dwellings. The Ranger offered the tip to wait and read the plaques on the way back up to provide a short reprieve to catch your breath. The views were spectacular as we descended downward.
In the center of the above photograph are the cliff dwellings you'll be hiking around to get a closer look into how the Hopi Native Americans lived during the Thirteen Century.
The path is made up of switchbacks offering views from different directions. But finally, we arrived at our final flight of steps.
At the bottom, you want to take the right pathway. The path is narrow in places with steep drop-offs. The Park Ranger intends to have the flow of hikers all going in the same direction to reduce the risk of accidents.
You don't have too hike very long before you see the first view of cliff dwellings across the canyon valley. Look off to your right.
We arrived at our first close-up encounter at the cliff dwelling a few minutes later. It was exciting to be able to experience these up close.
An informational plague provided details about life for the Hopi Native American's who called this home.
Time has worn away features that made these homes complete, but the ruins provide evidence of what their lifestyle could have been. The large overhangs above the dwellings kept the rain and snow from seeping into their dwellings.
The ruins were in different stages of decay, but preservation techniques have been put into place to prolong the integrity of these structures.
Most of the smaller rooms were used for storage. Archeologists estimate they could store 100 days of water based on the large pottery vessels found. The larger rooms were used for living and sleeping, and multiple families would reside in one area. Most of the household work was done outside the structure, weather permitting.
The door into these structures was small, protecting them from the cold of winter and the heat of summer.
Along the trail, you'll have an opportunity to step inside the structure to feel how much cooler the room feel to the outside temperature.
The door in the above photograph leads to a small storage room. Archeologists believe that the space to the left was an outdoor patio where they could have performed many of their day-to-day household tasks.
The stairs next to the patio leads you back to where the loop started. It's time to begin your climb back out of the canyon.