While we were in the beautiful Verde Valley a couple of weeks ago, we were sure to visit Montezuma Castle and Well National Monuments in addition to Tuzigoot N.M. We were glad that we did Tuzigoot first, because, while it is interesting and a great place to visit, it doesn’t hold a candle to Montezuma Castle! Course, the nice thing about Tuzigoot is that you can walk to and in the actual ruins, while the Castle is up out of reach.
Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well are one park on the NPS webpage, and they share a Jr. Ranger program, but they are in separate locations about 6 miles apart. We went to the castle first.
Montezuma Castle is an incredible cliff dwelling. We have seen quite a few cliff dwellings over the last couple of years; in fact, when I told the kids that we were going to MC, and that is was a cliff dwelling, I had a couple of kids that said, “not another cliff dwelling!” LOL! So, spirits as they were, I drug them along anyway so that we could earn those coveted badges. Once we arrived onsite however, moral changed. :)The castle is really an incredible structure! Built into a hollow in the cliff, the dwelling is quite a architectural masterpiece. And while the Gila Cliff Dwellings in NM were pretty neat also, I think that this one has topped all others. While we weren’t able to go up to the castle, just the sight of it was quite incredible. The entire park is beautiful – and the views from any part of the short, level, paved trail that loops near the front of the dwellings and back near the river, are lovely. The path is easy access even for wheelchairs.
After spending an hour or two at the Castle, we piled back in the van and drove up the road to the site of the well. The walk around Montezuma Well is a very nice one also – there is an overlook along with a staircase down into the bottom where the well’s body of water collects. We didn’t have any trouble navigating it, but it may be difficult for those who feel more secure with a handrail and even steps. Down at the bottom, you can walk to the outlet – where the water leaves exits the collection basin; it runs several hundred feet underground and comes out near a stream. If you get a chance to walk through this park, be sure to go down the rock staircase that leads to where the exiting well water comes out of the underground cavern and flows into the nearby stream. It’s the prettiest place in the park! We took some family pictures there, and stayed there the longest during our tour of the park. The parking lot at the well is not big rig friendly, but the trip is worth unhooking the toad for!
The rangers at both the parks were very nice. I found it interesting that the rangers in this area rotate between the three National Monuments that are near each other here (Tuzigoot, Montezuma Castle, and Montezuma Well). The lady that gave the kids their Jr. Ranger booklets at Tuzigoot the day earlier, was also the one to give them their Jr. Ranger booklets at the Castle the next day!)
We really enjoyed Montezuma Castle and Well. It’s definitely worth the stop if you are heading down I-10!