Out of Michigan: Montezuma’s Castle, Arizona

My wife and I recently went on a trip to Arizona to visit my father in law. We traveled throughout the state to see many attractions including the widely popular Grand Canyon National Park. We also stopped at a few lesser known attractions that were equally as beautiful. The state of Arizona has a lot of natural beauty and includes many National Parks and National Monuments within the state. We ventured over to Montezuma’s Castle National Monument located just a few miles from Camp Verde. It was worth the visit and we learned a lot of historical facts in the process.

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The structure of the castle is nestled in a limestone cliff. Inside it contains several small rooms. When the park first opened up, the National Park Service provided tours up into the castle. Visitors could get access by climbing up a series of ladders to the structure. However, the changing conditions of the desert and the delicate limestone rocks made it hard to keep the tours going, and they stopped allowing access up into the pueblo ruins in 1951. The main ruins within the cliff contains about 40-45 rooms inside. When archeologists originally uncovered the ruins they found many artifacts that allowed deeper insight into how the Sinagua people lived and their culture. Today, it can be viewed from a distance on a 3/4 mile trail looping through the park. Even though you cannot go up into the structure, it is still a sight to behold.

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As you walk along the loop you will get a closer view of the limestone cliff to the left of the castle. Further down near the base of the wall are a few ruins at ground level. The remains of the ruins are still intact, but it is obvious that much of it has been destroyed. It looks like the historic foundations of a basement that was left behind and lost in history. Walking up into these small square structures are still interesting nonetheless. As you make your way back toward the visitors center to complete the loop you will walk along Beaver Creek. We visited in the early Spring so the waters of the creek were cascading and flowing strong.

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As you begin your trip on the loop or you complete it, I would recommend spending some time in the visitors center. It is a smaller visitors center, but it gives you some history and perspective of the Sinagua culture. It allows you to gain an understanding of civilization in the area long before any of it was discovered. In fact the Sinagua people vacated the ruins long before any other inhabitants took control of the land. The visitors center also showcases some of the archeological finds within the ruins. If we had more time, I would have loved to read up on all the information at the visitors center. The National Monument does get quite a few visitors every year, but some of these National Monuments are overshadowed by the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. When in Arizona, try to visit as many of these National Monuments as you can. You will not be disappointed.