Picture Canyon Natural & Cultural Preserve

Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve is a natural and cultural amenity located in northeast Flagstaff, at 3920 N El Paso Flagstaff Rd. In addition to significant Northern Sinagua petroglyphs and other cultural resources, an agreement with the nearby Wildcat Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant ensures a year-long water source, providing critical riparian habitat for wildlife and songbirds.

The City of Flagstaff acquired the 478-acre Preserve from the Arizona State Land Department in 2012 with funding from the 2004 voter-approved Open Space bond and a Growing Smarter Grant from Arizona State Parks. The acquisition of Picture Canyon provides a natural place for members of the Flagstaff community to learn about ecology, geology, and archaeology, while participating in outdoor recreation.

Check out our brochure (PDF), trail map (PDF), and Picture Canyon Self-Guided Tour to learn more about the Preserve's resources and trail system. View images from Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. There is more information about the history of Picture Canyon (PDF).

Plateau Magazine

In 2014-2015, the Museum of Northern Arizona published its beautiful Plateau magazine featuring Picture Canyon-People, Petroglyphs and Place, including details about the ecology, archaeology, and history of the Preserve (Vol. 8, nos. 1 and 2). Unfortunately, this issue is out of print, but you may be able to purchase it from the Museum bookstore, or online.

Directions

The address is 3920 N El Paso Flagstaff Rd in Flagstaff AZ. From I-40:

  • Take exit 201 (Hwy 89 N Page, Country Club). If coming from the west, turn left onto Country Club Blvd; if coming from the east, turn right onto Country Club Boulevard
  • At the intersection with U.S. 180/US 89, turn left
  • At the next traffic light, turn left onto W Historic Route 66
  • In 1.8 miles, turn left onto El Paso Flagstaff Road
  • You will see a sign for the Wildcat Water Treatment Plant. Stay on this road, which curves to the right around the water treatment plant property. Parking is at the end of the road on the right.

From Walnut Canyon, take Walnut Canyon Road/Old Route 66 west, back towards Flagstaff. In 5.8 miles, turn right onto El Paso Flagstaff Road.

Recreation

Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve is a great place to hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, photograph the natural environment, watch wildlife, experience fall colors, and discover cultural resources, including petroglyphs.

The Preserve is free and open to the public year round. There is a portable toilet available at the trailhead, but no trash receptacle, so please "pack it in, pack it out!"

Picture Canyon is designated an Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience Site and a Northern AZ Audubon Site given the number of mammals and birds that call Picture Canyon home.

Please follow proper cultural resource etiquette as well as state and federal laws. Do not deface the 1,000-year-old ruins or petroglyphs, or remove artifacts from the Preserve.

To learn more about the plants found in the Preserve, view our plant list (PDF). You can download a geo-referenced map of the trail system to your smart phone.

Trail Information

Trail NameDistanceImportant Information
Don Weaver0.7 milesProvides views of the inner canyon and lush riparian area, and includes Pit House ruins and Petroglyph Overlook. Some elevation change required climbing out of the canyon.
Tom Moody Loop2.8 milesAn outer loop around the entire Preserve, including the main "Water Bird" petroglyph site. Relatively flat trail.
Arizona Trail
(within Preserve)
1.5 milesA segment of the 800+ mile trail that connects Mexico and Utah. Trail is easy to distinguish and there is little change in elevation in this portion.

Upcoming Events

October 1, 2022 10am-noon Plein Air in Open Spaces. Come try your hand at outdoor drawing and painting! As part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science, the Open Spaces Program is hosting a series of free Plein Air events, including this one at Picture Canyon. Artists will be on hand to demonstrate, art supplies and easels will be provided, and all ages and abilities are welcome. Artists may submit their artwork for display at First Friday Art Walk on November 4th, and there are prizes in three age categories! For more information, check out our Plein Air in Open Spaces Guidelines

October 23, 2022 10am-1pm Free Guided Hike of Picture Canyon. In partnership with Willow Bend, we host a guided hike of Picture Canyon, targeted at adults. For more information and to pre-register, visit https://willowbendcenter.org/picture-canyon/

Regulations

Hunting, fishing, woodcutting, or motorized vehicles are not allowed within the Preserve. Do not climb on the Canyon walls or swim in the Rio de Flag. "Pack it in, Pack it out." Please, please, please protect the petroglyphs--do not scratch on the boulders or climb on them...Native American ancestors created them and they are sacred. Thank you!