Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle is actually a misnomer for this dwelling, situated about 100 feet up on a cliff. When the ruins were first noted by 19th century Arizona settlers, it was thought that the limestone structure had been built by the Aztecs. The Sinagua Indians were the actual architects of Montezuma Castle, which was built around 1150 and expanded from three or four rooms to 20 rooms over a 250-year period. The five-story structure was home to approximately 50 people; the base of this cliff once supported a larger, six-story structure with 45 rooms. Time and erosion have all but wiped out the base structure. An overhang above the structure protected inhabitants from violent weather and hot sun while allowing early morning sunlight in for warmth during winter. Fire destroyed most of this site shortly after the Sinaguan departed the area at the beginning of the 15th century. Although the tribe left behind few clues, historians speculate that drought and overpopulation may have been the reasons they abandoned Montezuma Castle. Montezuma Castle itself is not accessible due to its fragility, but a pleasant self-guided interpretive trail, one-third mile round-trip, leads to good viewpoints of the structure. A visitor center, located 100 yards away, contains exhibits of intricate textiles, jewelry, and farming tools that were found within the ruins. Other exhibits feature the flora and fauna of the Verde Valley or depict scenes from everyday life of the Sinagua tribe. You can also purchase related books, maps, and videos at the center. A picnic area is shaded by sycamore trees along Beaver Creek, and you can also take advantage of walking and interpretive trails. A small entrance fee is required for Montezuma Castle. There is no fee to visit Montezuma Well, a collapsed limestone cavern about 11 miles away. It is considered a sacred site with 1.5 million gallons of water flowing into it every day. The 74-degree water drops the air temperature by about 20 degrees, making it an ideal place to cool off. Dogs are allowed on leashes. The site is located 2.5 miles off of Interstate 17 and 5 miles north of Camp Verde. Take I-17 to exit 289 and follow signs 2 miles.
2800 Montezuma Castle Highway
90 minutes north of Phoenix or 45 minutes south of Flagstaff
- Camp Verde, AZ 86322
- 34.61143900, -111.83818500
- Visit Website
- (520) 567-3322