Visiting Montezuma Castle: Ancient Cliff Dwellings 25 Minutes from Sedona

Montezuma Castle National Monument Cliff Dwelling in Arizona

Nestled 25 minutes from the magical red rocks of Sedona Arizona, you can take in the sights of an impressive cliff dwelling once inhabited by the Sinagua people. Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument is a great stop on any trip to Sedona or the Verde Valley in Arizona. Here is what you need to know about exploring this place of cultural significance:

About Montezuma Castle National Monument

This is the third place dedicated to Native American culture to be protected as a National Monument in the U.S. This site is home to the well-preserved ruins of an impressive series of dwellings built into the side of a limestone cliff overlooking the Verde Valley and Beaver Creek.

Built between 1100 and 1300 AD and inhabited by the Sinagua people for over 400 years, this is an engineering marvel. Sitting 100 feet up the cliff in a naturally protected alcove allowed the Sinagua people to protect themselves from unforgiving elements, which often caused major flooding during the rainy season each year. A piece of history preserved for over 700 years.

Alcoves are popular hiking and sightseeing destinations in Arizona and the Colorado Plateau. Carved away by water and weathering over time, Montezuma Castle is a clear example of how this alcove made for a sustainable living situation. Protected high above the ground, the Sinagua people prospered here for many years.

The most easily viewed part of the cliff dwelling is the main “Castle” which is five stories high and contains 20 rooms. Less preserved, archaeologists also discovered a neighboring segment, dubbed “Castle A”. This portion was also five stories and a bit larger, housing 45 rooms.

Montezuma Castle National Monument Quick Facts

  • Location: Camp Verde, Arizona (25 minutes from Sedona, 50 miles south of Flagstaff)
  • Open: 8am-4:45pm every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
  • Price: $10 for a 7-Day Pass (covers both Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments); All National Park Passes accepted
  • Pets allowed? Yes
  • Trail: 1/3 mile loop, paved, flat
Walking along the tree-lined paved walkway at Montezuma Castle National Monument
A large paved path leads you through the park

How did Montezuma Castle Get Its Name?

Settlers who first happened upon this structure wrongly assumed it to be Aztec in origin. In fact, this cliff dwelling was both inhabited and later abandoned before Montezuma was born! It is also not a true “castle,” but it is clear to see why it was referred to as such.

Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument

Previously, visitors to Montezuma Castle National Monument were allowed to access the dwellings through a series of ladders. Due to damage that this access caused, potential safety risks, and a desire to preserve this landmark, observation is now done from ground level, looking up the cliff dwelling in sheer.

Standing below this feat of engineering gives you a deep appreciation for the resilience and ingenuity of the people that came before us. An invitation to sit in awe and ponder with curiosity about how the Sinagua people once lived in this intricate multi-level living system.

Replica of cliff dwelling interior at Montezuma Castle National Monument
Replica of what the inside of the cliff dwellings once looked like

What We Found Fulfilling

Here you have the opportunity to marvel at some of the most well-preserved remnants of cliff dwellings in the United States. Learn about Sinagua culture and farming practices and the ties to Native American people in this region. Take a look back into history through ancient artifacts that were uncovered here. After all that exploration, you might also like to take a few quiet moments at the river overlook. This is a great spot for a few mindful moments to unplug, reflect, and be still!

Montezuma Castle National Monument has an excellent visitor center. There you can learn about all the monuments and the Sinagua people. It also has short paved walking trails that are family-friendly and accessible.

Beaver Creek at Montezuma Castle National Monument

Tips for Planning Your Visit to Montezuma Castle

What You Need to Know:

Montezuma Castle National Monument is just one of many great places to visit in the Verde Valley of Arizona. The park does have some shade structures and a few trees, but it can be hot. Plan accordingly and know summer temperatures can soar. You don’t need a whole day to visit here. Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument is best combined with other great local attractions listed below.

What to pack/bring:

  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring water and/or snacks
  • Be mindful of snakes
  • Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Your National Park Pass if you have one!

Montezuma Castle National Monument Maps

NPS Maps

Other Great Attractions in the Sedona Area

Montezuma Castle National Monument is only one of many attractions in the Verde Valley of Arizona! Combine it with a trip to Sedona, or experience some of the other cultural and historical sites in the area:

  • Montezuma Well
  • Tuzigoot National Monument
  • Jerome State Historic Park
  • Dead Horse State Park
  • Fort Verde State Park
  • Sedona
  • Red Rock State Park
  • Slide Rock State Park
  • Camp Verde
  • Cottonwood
Looking out at the red rocks and green vegetation from the Subway Cave in Sedona Arizona
Subway Cave in Sedona
Please protect these areas - for the wildlife, the environment, and for the enjoyment of future generations. Practice Leave No Trace 
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