A Trio of National Monuments In Northern Arizona
By Lisa Perez, Girls Who Hike Arizona Ambassador
Being from Arizona, you would think I would be waxing poetically about the Grand Canyon during National Parks Week. However, that big guy gets a LOT of attention so I wanted to highlight some National Monuments that sometimes are overlooked and are located just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. Here is a quick look at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Established in 1930, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is the remnants of an active volcano. The stark landscaping as you walk around the base of the mountain gives you a sense of history – and beauty that comes with that kind of destruction. Hiking is no longer allowed to the summit of the crater but there are several paths to explore the geological wonders and peek into the now closed ice cave. If you want a more substantial hike and great views of the crater, consider O’Leary Lookout Trail.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Established in 1915, Walnut Canyon is only about 10 miles from Flagstaff. The canyon features cliff dwellings and pueblos carved into the wall by the Sinagua. There are a couple of trails to take you to view these amazing features, but the Island Trail takes you down (we are talking a LOT of steps) into the canyon for a closer look at some of them. The visitor’s center sits on a cliff and has a nice area to view the canyon and take in all this gorgeous scenery.
Wupatki National Monument
If you continue on the same road as Sunset Crater, you will eventually end up at Wupatki National Monument. Established in 1924 the area has a scattering of pueblos that are in amazing condition for you to take a glimpse into the past. The self-guided walking tour with map is an education on the history of the people and culture that inhabited the area. Red rocks against the stunning desert landscape is a visual treat! Of course, the visitor’s center is always a treasure trove of history.
As with all National Parks, planning your visit to you and your family is the best way to get the most out of it. For those with kiddos, I highly recommend the Junior Ranger program that is available at most Parks and National Monuments. It is not just an education for the kids-you may learn a lot also!