If you’ve ever driven to Sedona from Phoenix, you’ve probably seen the many signs to visit Montezuma's Castle (one of two historic castles in the area), but for some reason I always assumed it was a detour "far off the beaten path.” So on our most recent trip to Sedona, my husband and I decided to map exactly how far the Castle was from the freeway, and were surprised to find it was just a short drive. It seemed like the perfect addition to our itinerary of hiking and lunching in Sedona.

The weather that day was perfect for a late morning hike up Sedona's Bell Rock, and rather than hike to the summit, we decided to turn back halfway up and head to our favorite local Mexican restaurant, Javelina Cantina. The food and views are great, and the margaritas always keep us coming back.

Montezuma Castle 1- with frames.jpgSo while our Sedona hike didn’t exactly go as expected, we were still extremely excited about our return trip to Montezuma Castle. Once on Interstate 17, we exited the freeway in no time. The turn to the Castle was right off the road, directly across from the aptly named Cliff Castle Casino (dots – connected), and the scenic path was only a mile or two down to the water's edge, where Montezuma Well can be found. 

After passing through the visitor’s center (which packs a wealth of information about the people who built the castle, as well as a small gift shop), we quickly found the trail that led us to the cliff dwelling. Sprinkled with informational plaques, the path revealed the many uses of the native plants, showcased illustrations of additional buildings (no longer standing) and explained to visitors how the creek allowed the native tribe to farm and attract various animals for hunting.

If you are anything like me, you can get lost in the history, imagining all the people who have walked the same paths (ancient tribes and tourists alike), it’s truly amazing to think that ancient people with no modern technology could build a castle into a cliff 100 feet off the ground! What's more, the castle boasts five floors, nearly 20 rooms, a couple of rooftop "decks" and a built in temperature regulation with limestone alcoves that keep the Castle cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Altogether, our adventure to Sedona and Montezuma Castle was a great day trip full of breathtaking scenery, local dining and a surprise lesson in Arizona history!

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Clea Nabozny moved back to Arizona in 2005 for the food, family and most enjoyably, the weather. An Arizona native, she never passes up the opportunity to explore the area like a tourist.