The Montezuma Castle National Monument is one of the most well-preserved and accessible ancient dwellings in North America. Built amongst the limestone, these 1,000 year-old ruins were once home to ancient farmers known as the Sinagua Indians. Although the monument has adopted the title “castle” due to its majestic appearance, the ruins were actually a multi-family cliff dwelling (similar to a modern-day high-rise apartment complex). Abandoned irrigation systems built by the prehistoric Hokokam Indians made the land and location ideal of these farmers. The high cliffs allowed them to access the fertile land surrounding Beaver Creek while remaining safe from flooding.
In 1906, the Montezuma Castle was declared one of our country’s first national monuments. Since then, it has been a popular tourist location. In addition to the cliff dwellings, the monument includes the Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole that is believed to be the remains of the Sinagua’s irrigation system. Today the Montezuma Well still holds water and is consider very sacred to some Native American tribes.
The Montezuma Castle National Monument is located in Northern Arizona off of I-17, exit 289 (about 90 minutes north of Phoenix and 45 minutes south of Flagstaff). Although at one time tourists were able to climb up the limestone and walk through the majestic dwellings, after extensive damage to the ruins access has been restricted. Their unique and historic presence remains a breath-taking experience, however.
Today, a paved trail allows visitors to look up at the ancient dwellings, take pictures, and imagine a world beyond their own. In addition to the ruins themselves, tourists should set aside a few hours to explore the museum, walk the scenic trails, and have lunch along the shore of Beaver Creek. Dogs are allowed as well, as long as they are on a leash and are picked up after.
Tours & Tickets
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Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Duration: 11 hours (approx.)