Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Ever heard of Montezuma, the famous Aztec emperor? Well unfortunately these ruins in Arizona are not where he once lived. When European-Americans first observed the ruins in the 1800s, by then long-abandoned, they named them for the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma in the mistaken belief that he had been connected to their construction. The dwelling had been abandoned more than 40 years before Montezuma was even born!

Montezuma Castle National Monument protects a set of well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings near the town of Camp Verde, Arizona. The dwellings were built and used by the Sinagua people. Montezuma Castle is situated about 90 feet  up a sheer limestone cliff, facing the adjacent Beaver Creek, which drains into the perennial Verde River just north of Camp Verde. This 20 room high-rise apartment, nestled into a towering limestone cliff, tells a story of ingenuity, survival and ultimately, prosperity in an unforgiving desert landscape.

It is one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America, in part because of its ideal placement in a natural alcove that protects it from exposure to the elements. The precariousness of the dwelling's location and its immense scale - almost 4,000 square feet of floor space across five stories - suggest that the Sinagua were daring builders and skilled engineers.

It is an easy monument to visit. On our way to Sedona, we had some time to kill and decided to follow the signs to see the monument. It's just a short distance off Interstate 17, at exit 289. There is a 1⁄3 mile (0.54 km) paved trail starting at the visitor center that follows the base of the cliff containing the ruins.

Unfortunately access to the interior of the ruins has not been allowed since 1951 due to concerns about visitor safety and damage to the dwelling. But it was still very cool to look at, even though it had started to rain. There are about 400,000 tourists visit the site each year! The park is open from 8am to 5pm every day of the year, except for Christmas Day. It is $10 per adult to visit (no charge for children 15 and under) or if you have a National Parks Services Pass, it's free (about $30 a year, you are entitled to 4 adults, or 1 car load) the NPS pass is definitely worth investing in.

It was a quick trip, there are trails that continue on and if it didn't start raining we would've stayed to check things out. If you've got the time, make sure to stop off stretch your legs and enjoy the history!

Additional Information:
GPS: Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ (I-17 Exit 289 Follow Signs)
Cost: Adults $10 // Children (15 & Under:) Free
National Parks Services Pass: Free
Hours: 8a-5p Daily // Christmas Day: Closed
Pet Friendly
Stroller Friendly