A Review of Our Family Trip to Cliff Dwellings
As you may have read in other posts, Ry and I love going on family trips. We recently purchased this book from Target that was full of day trip ideas from Phoenix & we fully intend to go on all of them. Day trips are an amazing meeting of a variety of our interests: Ry likes to take pictures; I like seeing and experiencing new places; Ry likes to learn and geek out about history and science; I like the idea of my girls being intentionally surrounded by beauty; Ry likes that we don't eat Whole30 style on the go; I like to write about our adventures; C&A like to stare at things.
Our first trip we picked from the book, was to Montezuma's Castle, which is quite the misnomer. It neither belonged to a Montezuma nor is it a castle. Rather, it was the dwelling place of the Sinagua people from roughly 1050AD - 1425AD. The Sinagua community benefited from the nearby Beaver Creek, and the adobe apartment-like dwelling in the south-facing side of the cliff offered vantage points, safety from an overflow of the river, shade from the sun in the summer and heat from the sun in the winter.
Montezuma's Castle is located in Camp Verde, AZ, about an hour north of Phoenix. Parking is easy and free. When you arrive, there is a museum/gift shop. Admission costs $10 per person over the age of 15. There are senior, military and permanent disability discounts. The museum and gift shop are small but interesting. It is easy to read everything in the whole museum, and visit with every artifact. It takes about 15 minutes depending on how fast you read.
When you exit the museum and gift shop, there is a paved road with a VERY short walk to the vantage point where you can see the cliff dwelling. You cannot go up or into the dwelling, but you can walk to the bottom, and you would be surprised at how much detail you can see just looking up at it. Nearby there is a shaded picnic area, so it wouldn't be a bad place to have a pre-packed lunch.
Next, ever so slightly down the trail is a ramp to go higher up and see the rocks of the cliff up close. This was cool. There was a sign that said it was to steep for wheeled vehicles, but I had Ryan take our stroller up nonetheless. After that, you can walk straight up to Beaver Creek. It looks a lot more like a river and it truly roars!
Lastly, there is a small reconstruction of what a day in the life of the Sinagua people might have been like. There is an audio story to accompany it. This takes about 2-3 minutes. I found it very interesting. Adelaide was listening the whole time too!
The great part about visiting Montezuma's Castle is that, with your admission, you get free admission into the Tuzigoot National Monument as well! So since it doesn't take too much time to see all of Montezuma's Castle, we left and went straight to Tuzigoot, picking up lunch along the way.
Tuzigoot is near Clarksdale, AZ. It's about 23 miles southeast of Camp Verde. Parking at this national monument is also free, and there is also a small museum and gift shop. Though this museum and gift shop is much, much smaller. It would only take five minutes to go through. When you arrive, you only need to show the ranger your receipt from Montezuma and they'll let you right in.
When you exit the grounds, you can see some ruins and recreations of ancient mountain dwellings. You can even go inside and climb to the top, The views are absolutely stunning.
When we got to the top, C & A played just long enough for their Dad to take all the pretty pictures to his hearts content. Then we packed up and left.
Total time away from the house 10:30-5:30 including driving time. So a very doable day trip!
If you go to either Montezuma's Castle or Tuzigoot National Monument, be sure to mention "Our Family Fiat". You won't get a discount, but you may get a weird look ;)