The grandeur of the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings is hard to capture in a small photo. Hoping for a better look, we held tight to the railing and started down the dizzying 185-foot, 240-step pathway to reach the Island Trail.
The “island” refers to the large rock and hill that stands behind it which jut out into the middle of the canyon (photo above right). The trail encircles the two outcroppings, passing within feet of multiple ruins. Across the expanse of the canyon are numerous other dwellings, all once inhabited by the Sinagua people.
We hadn’t intended on visiting Walnut Canyon, although several people had told us it was well worth the trip…and it was. If climbing down and up the trail is not your thing, or if you’re bothered by heights, the view from the rim is pretty spectacular too.
We took the day off hiking to explore several sites just a stones throw from our RV park. First stop: Montezuma Castle National Park where the cliffs hold the history of the Sinagua people, cliff dwellers who populated the area from 1100-1425. We thoroughly enjoyed the park, but were glad we arrived early. The relatively small parking lot filled quickly.
Our next stop: A natural limestone sinkhole surrounded by lush vegetation. Montezuma Well appears as an oasis in a desert setting. An incredible 1.5 million gallons of water bubble up each day from this natural spring so it’s easy to understand why the waters have been used for irrigation since the 8th century.
Our third and last stop was the V-Bar-V Heritage Site, home to the largest collection of Sinagua petroglyphs in the Verde Valley. It was a pleasant stroll out to the site where a ranger was ready and waiting to provide a history and explanation of the ancient art.