Long before settlers arrived in the Southwest, native and indigenous tribes had been living there for thousands of years. One of the most remarkable lasting legacies can be found in Camp Verde, Arizona.
Here, at Montezuma Castle National Monument you’ll find cliff dwellings that are a must see in the area.
In this post, we’re going to dig into the Montezuma Cliff Dwellings. You’ll learn a little bit of history, what to see while you’re there, and how to get to the area.
Pack your hiking boots and come along for the ride!
History of the Montezuma Cliff Dwellings
The Sinagua people first built the cliff dwellings. They were an ancient Native American culture that lived in and around Arizona. The dwellings themselves are ancient, estimated to be built between 1100 and 1425. That means even the ‘youngest’ dwellings are almost 600 years old!
The name Montezuma Castle was given to the area by settlers in the late 1800s. They assumed the dwellings must have been built for the famous Aztec warrior and emperor. But the dwellings had long been abandoned by then and bore no relation to Montezuma himself.
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt designated the area to be one of significant cultural importance and made the cliff dwellings a National Monument.
Things to Do
Imagine a pre-historic apartment complex. That’s what you’ll get the chance to see visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument.
The dwellings are inside a wall of limestone, with 20 rooms carved out over five stories. The carvings rise almost 100 feet into the cliff face above Beaver Creek. Historians think the residents used a series of ladders to get in and out of their homes; This protected them from other tribes and flooding from the nearby creek and rivers.
Today, you can see the dwellings in all their glory. Some special events run throughout the year including silversmithing displays, archeological walks, musical events with the ‘Artist in Residence,” and even concerts.
You can also participate in a number of formal and informal ranger programs while visiting to learn more about the cliff dwellings and the people who crafted them.
The visitors center and trail is open year round, except New Year’s Day and Christmas Day, from 8 am until 5 pm. A small museum is located on site where visitors can explore artifacts and learn a bit more about the history of the area. For day trippers looking to spend more time exploring the cliff dwellings, there are restrooms and picnic areas.
Dogs are allowed but need to be on shorter leashes.
Camp Verde can be found at the intersection of the Tonto National Forest and the Coconino National Forest. Montezuma Castle National Monument is just under an hour from Flagstaff and about ninety minutes from Phoenix. It’s right off of Route 17, which is a major highway that runs between the two cities making it a straightforward trip if you’re in the metro area.