Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot

In Adventure, Arizona, Guides, National Monuments, RV, Travel

Montezuma's Castle

Many readers are familiar with the stunning red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.  Vortexes, canyon hikes, Slide Rock, and the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon are well photographed and visited places, whether you know them or not, you’ve most likely seen images from the area!

Not far from Sedona is the town of Camp Verde, and also the town of Cottonwood, AZ.  And each of these towns host National Monuments of their own.  Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot.  Both monuments are a quick drive from Sedona, and from each other.  And visiting both monuments can be done in a day.  If you’re in the Sedona area, make sure to take the time to visit both of these ancient dwellings!

Montezuma’s Castle

Montezuma's Castle National Monument
Montezuma’s Castle National Monument

Having spent a lot of time in Arizona you’d think that I would have visited Montezuma’s Castle prior to doing research for this article.  And you would be totally wrong.  Like many other people the world over, skipping must see places “close to home” happens even to me, although rarely.  From 2007 through 2012 my home base area was Prescott Arizona.  And Prescott is about 45 minutes from Montezuma’s Castle.  There are no good excuses, I just never got by there until this year!

Montezuma’s Castle is located in Camp Verde, Arizona.  There are many camping opportunities in the area with private parks (4 in total), and a few boondocking opportunities as well.

With Montezuma’s Castle so close to Camp Verde you can make an easy day trip if you’re staying in the area.  Actually, in one day you can visit both Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot.  They’re that close together, with less than a 45 minute drive in between them.

The nature trail at Montezuma's Castle
The nature trail at Montezuma’s Castle

Entering Montezuma’s Castle is quick and easy.  There’s a large parking area in front of the visitor center, and the whole walk into the monument is paved.  It’s very accessible for handicap visitors, allowing them to take in everything other visitors get to see as well.  The hike in to see the actual cliff dwelling is extremely short, and it loops back through some beautiful Arizona forest.  That’s right, forest in Arizona!

Like many other ruins sites in the area, Montezuma’s Castle is an example of Sinaguan homes set into cliffs.  Throughout Northern Arizona visitors can find examples of Sinaguan buildings.  Sedona boasts several cliff dwellings, and Wupatki National Monument hosts several interesting dwellings not built into cliffs a short distance from Sunset Crater.

The dwellings at Montezuma’s Castle are more than 800 years old today.  And they’ve recently received a makeover, reinforcing the structures to ensure they continue to last for years to come.  The park service has done a great job ensuring the structure remains stable and viable.  Visitors can learn more about the repairs on one of the many Ranger guided tours offered!  To learn more about the programs and tours offered, simply follow this link to the Park Service Website for Montezuma’s Castle.

Tuzigoot National Monument

The open land beyond Tuzigoot
The open land beyond Tuzigoot

West of Camp Verde Arizona visitors will find the towns of Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Jerome.  They’ll also find Dead Horse State Park, an extremely popular camping spot for the area.  And just a short drive from Dead Horse visitors will find Tuzigoot National Monument.

Tuzigoot isn’t your typical ancient dwelling compared to other ruin sites in the area.  Unlike the smaller dwellings found in cliffs or on the open plains, Tuzigoot is a very large ruin site that rises level by level above the ground.  Like many of the other ruins in the area, Tuzigoot is also about 800 years old, give or take a little time.  According to the Park Service, it was created somewhere between 1125 and 1400 AD.  The original site was at least 2 stories, and it had at least 77 ground level rooms!

_MG_7206edtDriving in for your first visit to Tuzigoot you might have the same reaction I had.  “Now this looks like a castle!”  That was my first thought on my first visit to the location.  The ruin site spreads outward and upward, giving you a castle like feel.

When visiting, be sure to take a Ranger Guided walk if you have the time.  The Rangers at Tuzigoot are very well informed, and spending time on one of the “private tours” (it was just Jodi and I) we were filled in on the culture and stories by our guide.  His presentation really made our visit!

Beyond Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle

This section is a little different from our standard guides to National Monuments.  Given how close the two monuments are together, and their proximity to other amazing attractions in the area, we’re going to talk a little about what’s close by for RV’ers.  And there’s plenty close by.

As mentioned earlier in the article, the monuments are near Sedona, Jerome, Clarkdale, and Cottonwood, AZ.  Each of these towns offer a lot to area visitors, and there’s exploring to be done beyond the two monuments.  Jerome, a mining town built into a cliff, is now an interesting arts community that tourists flock to year round.  Sedona offers some amazing examples of Arizona’s Red Rock Country, and the entire area offers hikers, cyclists, and visitors so many things to do.  Clarkdale is the launching point for a trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad.  And Cottonwood offers all of the services RV’ers might need while visiting the area.

If you’re coming to the area be sure to hike a canyon or two in Sedona.  Spend an afternoon in Jerome, and be certain to stop by the Haunted Hamburger for a great meal.  And don’t skip out on the Verde Canyon Rail, it’s a fantastic trip through Arizona’s Red Rock Country.  Finally, if you’re a hiker and photographer you’re going to need to block out some serious time to see everything offered in the area!

Boondocking

Palatki Ruins
Palatki Ruin from a unique vantage point currently closed to the public. A ranger was kind enough to let me shoot from this perch!

There are options for boondocking in the Camp Verde area, and on the way from there to Cottonwood as well.  But we’re not going to talk about those.  Instead we’re going to focus on one boondocking spot that is beyond compare, and honestly I never thought I’d write about it.  But this year thanks to a few online boondocking guide websites the location has been “outed”, so we might as well share it here as well.

There is a boondocking site between Cottonwood and Sedona known as Loy Butte Road.  It’s a short off road adventure from Route 89 A, and puts you right in Red Rock Country.  It also puts you extremely close to the Palatki Ruins site as well, so you must pay a visit while there.

Since 2007 I have known about this site, and I’ve camped at it several times.  It makes for amazing photos of the red rocks from the distance, and you feel like you’ve got the whole area to yourself even though you’re close to some densely populated areas!  Of course, no hookups, no power, no amenities.  It’s boondocking at its best.

Camping

There are many places you can camp when you pay a visit to the Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot area.  Camp Verde offers 4 great campgrounds, Cottonwood as well, and there’s always Dead Horse Ranch State Park.  We’ve previously stayed at Distant Drums RV Resort in Camp Verde and had a great experience!  There are also a few boondocking opportunities, the most dramatic being the Loy Butte Road site mentioned above.

Additionally, heading North out of Sedona along Route 89 A, there are several small campgrounds (National Forest) along the way.  Big Rigs won’t be fitting into most of those campsites, and the road north becomes a winding drive, so if you’re in a larger rig just give it a pass.

To see all of the locations available, I would now suggest using Campendium’s website.  They’ve done an excellent job of pulling together both private parks and boondocking locations alike!  To see the area we’ve covered in this article, simply click this link.

Finally, we’ve included a map below of the locations mentioned in this article.  As I said above though, if you’d like to see all of your camping options pop on over to Campendium, as they’re the resource we use these days as well!

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