Montezuma Castle National Monument

Spot one of the Southwest’s best-preserved cliff dwellings in Central Arizona.

The ancient Sinagua people are believed to be the original inhabitants of Montezuma Castle, living along area waterways from the 1100s to the 1400s. But the ruins were incorrectly named for Chief Montezuma by 1800s explorers, who assumed the structure was Aztec in origin. Montezuma Castle was established as a national monument in 1906, the third national monument in the U.S. dedicated to preserving Native American culture.

Tour the Monument

The five-story dwelling that the Sinagua people notched into a limestone cliff remarkably still stands, protected from the rain above and creek below. Access this Native American heritage site directly off I-17 north of Camp Verde. Visitors tour the museum before walking to the base of the castle on a short loop trail. Artifacts on display include farming tools, hunting weapons, household items such as pottery and baskets, and personal adornments such as clothing and jewelry. Get back on the road to reach Montezuma Well in nearby Rimrock. The surprising water feature in a limestone sinkhole includes the remains of a Sinagua pit house near the well.

Picnic on Beaver Creek

It remains a wonder why the original inhabitants were called Sinagua, which means “without water.” This ancient dwelling was built overlooking Beaver Creek, which to this day flows year-round — no doubt the primary reason the Sinagua chose this life-sustaining location in an arid high desert. The monument includes picnic areas on the banks of Beaver Creek for visitors to take a break under a canopy of sycamore and cottonwood trees. Imagine the area’s first farmers using canal irrigation to grow corn, beans, squash and cotton in the fertile valley. The creek also attracted wildlife and supported seasonal crops that supplemented the hunting and gathering culture.

Visit Area Archeology Sites

Present-day Verde Valley was once a trading center used by dozens of native tribes. Learn about the trade routes the area’s original inhabitants shared with Pueblo cultures to the north and Apache cultures to the south. While in the area, drive west through Cottonwood to reach the hilltop pueblo of another archeological site with ties to the Sinagua people. Tuzigoot National Monument once had more than 100 rooms perched above the Verde River. Guests who visit Montezuma Castle receive a free pass to Tuzigoot. In nearby Sedona, Honanki and Palatki heritage sites present the largest cliff dwellings in Arizona’s red rock country.

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