Montezuma's Castle, Arizona

Staring up at Montezuma's Castle
  • Staring up at Montezuma's Castle

The Grand Canyon may be a geographical marvel that brings the state of Arizona immediate recognition, but just a few hundred miles south of that natural wonder is the lesser-known yet equally impressive Montezuma’s Castle.

This man-made cliffside dwelling is more humble in size than the name would lead you to believe. But its existence is testament to the ingenuity and architectural boldness of the Sinagua Indians.

The Sinagua lived in the Verde Valley region of Arizona from 1100 to 1400 A.D. Farming and some hunting on nearby Beaver Creek were their way of life.

This particular castle has withstood the tests of time, but there’s evidence the Sinagua tribe called several other stone-and-mortar dwellings home in the area. The multiple stories of these dwellings were accessible only by ladders.

Located about an hour south of Flagstaff and less than two hours north of Phoenix, this national monument is a great stop for those traveling on the Interstate 17. For $5 per adult, visitors get to walk the 1/3-mile trail, view a small exhibit on the Sinagua people and witness this spectacular structure.

Although it only takes a few minutes to walk the short trail, I found myself staring into the cliffside for a long time – I was taken aback by how remarkable this ancient apartment was.

To this day, anthropologists still can’t account for what happened to the Sinagua people. They disappeared before European settlers even reached the Americas. However, they did leave a lasting historical impression with their architecture and these extraordinary remains.

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