Montezuma Castle National Monument is a very busy historical site located off the freeway between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Because of its proximity to the freeway, the site is always busy, but it is really amazing to see.
There are actually two parts to this national monument: the Castle and the Well. They are located off two different exits, so if you’d like to see both parts of Montezuma Castle, plan on driving between the sites.
Montezuma Castle has no trails or long walks, though a short paved loop takes you to the castle. This structure is the most complete Ancestral ruin that we’ve ever seen. Though it is not as large or complex as some of Mesa Verde’s ruins, it seems more complete. You can’t get up close, but they say that you can still see handprints on the wall where ancient people packed the outer layer of mud.
The castle sits high above the valley floor in a deep alcove in the rock. There are several “buildings” in the alcove, all of which are covered with an outerlayer of mud, giving the castle a smooth finished look.
The trail walks past a few smaller ruins as well as the beautiful river that the Montezuma Castle is situated on. The path is flat, easy, and very well friendly.
Montezuma Well is a fee free stop, and it is a beautiful little walk. The trail is paved, but there are stairs on the trails, so they are not wheel friendly.
There are two short trails at Monetzuma Well. They both share the same trailhead and run the same first quarter mile until they reach the Well. The Well is a large deep pool of water that constantly refreshes itself. Water runs out through the rock into the creek. Over a million gallons run through the Well in a single day. There are a few ancient ruins tucked away in a crevice above the rock.
The trail splits with one side going down to the edge of the well. It is amazingly green and lush along this trail (for Arizona, at least). We even saw a few ducks on the water at the bottom. The other trail loops around to the right (south) and drops back to the parking lot.
A short spur off this trail is very interesting. It leads down to where the water comes out of the Well through the rock. Eight hundred years ago, the Sinagua people built a narrow canal to take this water to their crops. You can still see the canal, and it functions quite well. This is a must-see if you visit Montezuma Well.
There is gift shop and a Visitor Center at Montezuma Castle National Monument. Make sure to participate in the Junior Ranger program. We earned a badge at Montezuma Castle, and then were able to earn an extra button when we finished the Montezuma Well pages.
At Montezuma Well there is only a small kiosk with a ranger, so don’t plan on purchasing any souvenirs. There are restrooms at both locations. For more information on both sites, visit the Montezuma Castle National Monument website.
If you are traveling in this area, make sure to stop atTuzigoot National Monument, too.