Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle is an eight hundred year old, 20-room cliff dwelling, and is considered one of the best preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings in North America. When President Theodore Roosevelt passed the Antiquities Act in 1906 he selected Montezuma Castle as one of four sites of historic and cultural significance to be our nation’s first National Monuments. A paved path leads through a grove of sycamore trees to the ruins which are located in a beautiful setting along a creek.
A larger structure called Castle A once existed next door and boasted 45-50 rooms, but it burned down in antiquity. In 1933 the Castle A ruin was excavated and a wealth of artifacts was uncovered. These have helped greatly in understanding the Sinaguan people who inhabited the area for four hundred years. The location has a great gift shop and museum with dioramas and displays that paint a clear picture of what life was like for the former inhabitants of the cliff dwellings. There is also a Junior Ranger program that is perfect for families vacationing in Sedona. Kids are given a 16-page booklet and challenged to do things like: sketch mesquite trees, touch an irrigation ditch and spot a whiptail lizard.
Directions – Follow I-17 to exit 289 (90 minutes north of Phoenix or 45 minutes south of Flagstaff). Drive east, through two traffic circles, for approximately a ½ mile to the blinking red light. Turn left on Montezuma Castle Road. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee for Adults (16 and over) is $5.00 and covers your admission for seven days. Children under sixteen are free.
Montezuma Well was formed long ago when a limestone cavern collapsed to create a sinkhole. For thousands of years it has existed as a unique oasis for both humans and wildlife with over one million gallons of water flowing into the sinkhole each day. The numerous types of ruins at the site are a testament to the ingenuity of the Sinaguan people who lived there. You can examine: an ancient pit house, large dwellings tucked in caves inside the well, and the remains of numerous cliff dwellings perched along the rim. There is even an ancient irrigation ditch that still flows with water.
To the early inhabitants of the area the well was a sacred place. The Sinaguans lived here for four hundred years, and when they left the Yavapai and Apache frequented the site. Both the Yavapai and the Apache have creation myths that begin in the dark water of the well.
Directions – Montezuma Well is located eleven miles north of Montezuma Castle on I-17. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee for Adults (16 and over) is $5.00 and covers your admission for seven days. Children under 16 are free.
Honanki Heritage Site
Honanki was one of the largest prehistoric pueblos in the Verde Valley. The Sinagua, ancestors of the Hopi, lived at Honanki from about 1100 AD to 1300 AD. The name means “Bear House” in the Hopi language. Pictographs are a key feature of the site and most were created when the Sinagua inhabited the area, although some date as far back as 2,000 B.C. The location was later home to the Yavapai and Apache who also left artwork on the stone walls between 1400 AD and 1875 AD. While living in the shade of the high red cliffs the Sinagua made tools from stone, leather and wood; hunted deer and rabbit; and tended crops and gathered edible wild plants.
The ruins are located deep in Sedona’s western canyons; you can get to them with your own vehicle, or on a tour with one of Sedona’s jeep tour companies. The way can be difficult after bad weather, or when the road hasn’t been graded for a while, and you should only make the trip in a vehicle with good clearance. Keep an eye out for mule deer, coyotes, pronghorn antelope, and javelina.
Visiting information – Honanki is open to the general public for visits seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. The ruins are remotely located and there is no drinking water available. There is a vault-type toilet available to guests. Pets are not allowed beyond the parking lot. A Red Rock Pass is required for all private cars parked at the site.
Directions – Take highway 89A through West Sedona and continue past the last traffic light for five miles. Just past mile marker 365, turn right onto Forest Road 525 for 9.5 miles. Just past the cattleguard at Loy Canyon trailhead you will bear to the left to go around some private property. Parking is on the left side, near a public toilet.
Fort Verde State Historic Park
Fort Verde was a base for General Crook’s U.S. Army scouts and soldiers in the 1870’s and 1880’s. During that period the fort was home to: officers, doctors, families, enlisted men and scouts. It is the best-preserved example of an Indian Wars period fort in Arizona. Several buildings still stand, including the former Administration building which houses interpretive exhibits on military life, history on the Indian scouts, and other Indian Wars era items. It’s a great way to glimpse Arizona’s Apache War history.
There were never any walls around the fort, in fact none of the forty-three forts in Arizona Territory had walls around them because the Indians in this area were raiders and never attacked forts. The maximum number of troops that were stationed at Camp Verde was: three hundred enlisted men, eleven officers, nineteen civilians, and thirty-six Apache scouts.
Visiting information – Camp Verde is located in Camp Verde, just off I-17. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For more information call (928) 567-3275.
Tuzigoot National Monument
Tuzigoot was the largest Sinaguan complex in the Verde Valley with one hundred and ten rooms built to a height of three stories in parts of the complex. The elongated complex was constructed on a limestone and sandstone ridge just east of Clardale, Arizona, about one hundred and twenty feet above the Verde River floodplain. There are very few doors at Tuzigoot; the Sinagua preferred to use trapdoor style openings in the roofs with ladders leading to each room. The remains of several pit houses are visible, as well as petroglyphs, although the area with the petroglyphs is only open to the public on certain days of the week.
Visiting information – Tuzigoot National Monument is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Make sure you enter the site before 4:00 pm to allow ample time to see the entire site. The location features a book store and restroom, plus a museum that was renovated in June of 2011 and now boasts exhibits on the Sinagua, artifacts, and an interactive computer. For more information call 928 634-5564.
Directions – Tuzigoot is located fifty two miles south of Flagstaff, Arizona (via 89A) or ninety miles north of Phoenix. Travel I-17 to Exit 287, and go west on Highway 260 to Cottonwood. Continue through Cottonwood on 89A and go toward Clarkdale.
At the first traffic light after turning on to 89A signs will direct you to turn left to stay on 89A. Go straight through this intersection. This will put you on Historic 89A and take you through Old Town Cottonwood. The road does a lot of twisting around, but once you leave Cottonwood you are almost there. There will be a sign telling you where to turn to get to Tuzigoot. Take the Tuzigoot Road and follow it to the end.
Note: Please follow the directions and do NOT use a GPS. Most systems are based on an old map including a road through Dead Horse Ranch State Park which does not exist today.