During my early March 2020 trip to Sedona, I took a side trip to a few Native American ruins and one of them was Montezuma Castle National Monument. Many times while driving North from Phoenix on I-17 I have noticed the turn off for Montezuma Castle and always wondered about it. Well, I was soon to find out. Having visited Tuzigoot National Monument earlier in the morning, this National Monument was only about 25 minutes from there, and 25 minutes from our hotel in Sedona.
Montezuma Castle is a Native Anerican ruin carved into a cliff. This cliff dwelling was built by the Sinagua Native Americans between 1100 AD and 1300 AD. It originally had with 5 stories with 20 rooms. The Sinagua worked the land so the area was a good place to settle as there was water, fertile ground, and plenty of game. The Sinagua left the area around 1425 AD. According to many historians, they migrated north and joined the Hopi people. You can read more about the Sinagua People by clicking here.
Montezuma Castle was named after the Aztec Chief, Montezuma. Early Settlers thought the elaborate design and construction was Aztec in origin. The settlers were wrong. The settlement wasn’t Aztec and Montezuma was not known to be in this area. In addition, Montezuma lived from 1466-1520
To view Montezuma Castle National Monument you will follow a well marked sidewalk which loops around the grounds. It is about a third of a mile in total. In addition, there are interpretive signs along the way. It is a very nice walk with some really unique trees with white bark. I imagine the trees are really pretty when in bloom.
You will see the ruins up in the cliff immediately from the side and as you walk further you will come right up in front of the ruins.
A little further down the walkway there is another pueblo ruin. Comparatively, this was a larger ruin with about 45 rooms and built close to ground level. You will see many openings, or alcoves that were once rooms. Archeologists believe the areas in front of the alcoves burnt down years ago. From my understanding, the alcoves go further back and are actually rooms. Unfortunately, visitors can no longer go in these ruins.
As you follow the walkway to the creek, you will see how it was a lifeline for the Sinagua People, since it is close to where they resided. In addition, the area inside the loop, between the ruins and the creek was used for planting, mainly corn. Beaver Creek is fed by water from Montezuma Well, a few miles upstream. I will be blogging about Montezuma Well in next Thursday’s post.
As you continue on your way you will pass an outdoor interpretation model that represents the structural design and how the rooms may have looked inside. I thought this was a nice addition to the walk. As you continue you will end the loop trail at the visitors center and gift shop.
Montezuma Castle National Monument was an interesting place to visit. It was actually a quick tour but nonetheless I enjoyed it. I would try to get there early, as I was leaving I noticed a couple buses from schools showing up and I would expect it became more crowded!!