Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings & well

Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings & well

 Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings & well

Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings & well

I love combing a road trip to a scenic destination along with a visit to a historic or cultural attraction and the area around Highway 17 north of Phoenix is filled with early Indian civilization and pueblos or cave dwellings. Central and Southern Arizona shares a lot of Indian history and culture with their ancient civilizations throughout Arizona. Just a short hour and 1/2 drive north of Phoenix is a rich area that were the ancient Indian Sinagua people who lived along the sandstone cliffs and close to fertile rivers to grow their livelihoods. The Montezuma Castle national monument, Montezuma’s well and the Pictographs are rich in this history with intact Indian dwells along the cliffs and surrounding the Montezuma well.  This area of the Southern Arizona plains where the ancient Sinagua tribes lived in small communities from 1100 to 1425 and eventually moving further up north and merging with many other contemporary Indian tribes including the Hopi Indians of the Grand Canyon.

 

 

 

Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings from a distance

 

 

The Montezuma castle national monument was established in 1906 through Theodore Roosevelt as part of the Antiquities act to prevent more looting in these pueblos and other monuments. The most impressive feature of this monument is the 45-50 room pueblo sitting high above a limestone cliff and accessible by a series of ladders used to climb into the rooms.  With easy access to stones and wood materials around Beaver Creek the pueblos were built mostly by the women while the men took care of the fields, hunting and other related activities.

 

 

Sycamore trees Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings from a distance

 

Earlier visitors to this cliff dwelling at Montezuma and other related pueblos came to visit and find relics and other Indian artifacts for souvenirs. With the passage of Montezuma Castle and nearby Indian cultural sites as National Monuments, these landmarks were saved from massive looting and trespassing to the sacred sites which have had a toll of visitors abusing or even demolishing the sites for the thrill of finding ancient treasures and even staying in many of the dwellings. I learned that Montezuma’s castle was given a national monument certification in 1906 to help preserve the area and prevent the early visitors from camping, looting or even defacing the dwellings and other historic areas of preservation.

 

 

Ruined pueblos at Montezuma castle cliff dwellings

 

 

 

 

Beaver creek Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings

 

You can take a short trail that goes through the cliff dwellings to other dwellings and pueblos nearby and then loop around to Beaver Creek for a water view and distant views back to the main cliff dwelling. Along the way are placards that describe the area, early indigenous people and the daily conditions of farming and living in this region of Southern Arizona.

 

 

Looking up at the Montezuma castle cliff dwellings

 

 

 

 

Beautiful wild flowers at Montezuma castle cliff dwellings

 

Wild yellow broom dots the entire landscape around this region along with other low lying ground covers, above, pretty white brugmansia was used by the Indians for medicinal purposes.

 

 

Beautiful wild flowers at Montezuma's well in central Arizona

 

 

 

Montezuma’s Well

Another national monument along the historic Verde Valley is Montezuma’s Well, a large limestone sinkhole that has a deep aquifer that supported the Sinagua people living along the cliffs and pueblos and farming the areas surrounding the well. A short climb up a pathway leads directly to the well and immediately, you can spot some of the remnant cliff dwellings that surround the well. Further along the trail are foundations of standalone pueblos that were also built and supported a farming lifestyle along the arid plains of Central Arizona. The short 1/2 mile hike is fairly easy and scenic walking around the various parts of this national monument – most of the summer time, you will find beautiful wildflowers also dotting the landscape like the yellow broom below.

 

 

 

The well at Montezuma's well in central Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

The cliff dwellings at Montezuma's well in central Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

Ruined pueblos on the trail at Montezuma's well in central Arizona

 

Along the pathways from Montezuma Well are standalone pueblos made with local stacked stone, many were built for multiple uses and dwellings to house families or other groupings of Indians.

Tip – make sure to take the entire round trip trail since it is relatively short and very scenic of the surrounding canyon areas and other standalone pueblos that you will pass along the way.

 

 

 

Road trip on dirt roads pass Montezuma's well to the petroglyphs

 

 

 

The route from Montezuma well to the Sinagua Petroglyphs of Verde Valley is basically a gravel road with hardly a soul passing through which was great considering how dusty the roads were. It didn’t take too long for my cherry red rental car to acquire a white layer of dust all over the front and sides, but it was fun creating all these big dust trails behind my red roadster.

 

 

 

Indian Petroglyphs site in the Montezuma area off Hwy 17

The Sinagua Petroglyphs

At the end of the dirt/gravel road, you reach a T and make a right and follow the signs to the Sinagua Petroglyps at V Bar Ranch (originally a large private cattle ranch) but now is a part of the national park system at Coconino National park. Once past the parking lot, you have to hike through a dirt trail and then check in at the welcome station and sign in to receive a pass. Afterwards, you continue down another gravel path  for about a half mile through a relatively flat and scenic meadows and forested areas next to Beaver creek.

 

 

 

 

Hike to the Sinagua Montezuma petroglyphs in Central Arizona

While I was visiting there were a variety of wild flowers in bloom including this yellow boom that was prevalent everywhere around the Montezuma castle and well area along with the spiky agave plants sticking out sporadically in the landscape. The Sinagua Petroglyphs are part of the National Park system and requires a permit fee and waiver to use the trails and see the petroglyphs.

Tip – hours are from 9:30 – 3pm and there is no water available on the site so come prepared.

 

 

 

Flora at Sinagua Montezuma petroglyphs in Central Arizona

 

 

Entering the Petroglyph area

When you enter the petroglyph area (cordoned area along the cliff walls with chain link fence), there will be a ranger on the site giving talks or answering general questions about the petroglyphs and some of the key symbols that show the seasonal plantings, wildlife and other day to day functions happening to the Sinagua people during their stay in the area.

 

 

The Sinagua Montezuma petroglyphs in Central Arizona

 

The guide leads you through the various segments of the petroglyphs to explain all the symbols, rituals and daily lifestyle that is shown on these drawings. The red rock art – called Beaver Creek rock art style was dated to around 1,150 to 1,400 AD and highlights a unique solar calendar that was used by the local Sinagua people to start plantings and other seasonal and cultural activities during certain times of the year. This fascinating series of panels was really interesting to witness and have the guide explain many of the relevant imagery and design features of the petroglyphs.

 

Tip – there are restroom facilities at the visitor center and just outside the fenced area of the petroglyphs. Since the hike is about a half mile each direction, make sure to wear comfortable clothes for the hike.

 

The Sinagua Montezuma petroglyphs in Central Arizona

 

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings & well hopefully you will be able to see and experience these amazing landmarks and scenic points in central Arizona. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

 

If you enjoyed this post about the Montezuma castle and well, please check out my other Arizona posts below

A road trip through the Apache Trail

A weekend getaway to Phoenix, Arizona

The Grand Canyon National Park and Unesco Heritage Site

Grand Canyon morning tour

Road trip to Antelope Canyon

Best places to photograph Sedona

Visiting Sedona, landscapes and attractions

If you like what you see, come and check out my other social media channels for more updates, including Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter

 

 

 

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16 Responses to Exploring the Montezuma Indian cliff dwellings & well

  1. Ryan Biddulph December 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    Hi Noel,

    You are capturing some of the better photos of Arizona I’ve seen. Brilliant. I love the landscape out there. With a cousin in Maricopa – albeit for 3 more weeks because he’s moving to Wilmington 😉 – I’ve seen my fair share of awesome AZ scenery.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ryan

  2. Agness Walewinder December 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    That such a great place to explore. I would feel like Lara Croft from Tomb Rider 🙂

  3. Carmen's Luxury Travel December 28, 2016 at 1:01 am #

    Wow, what an incredible place! I never knew this existed. So glad they started properly protecting it in 1906. It’s so important to preserve places like this. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Our Seaside Baby December 27, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    What an amazing place to visit. The landscape and surroundings are stunning! What a fantastic road trip, I wish I lived within driving distance of this! I’ve been to the US several times but have never visit Arizona, it’s on my list though! Beautiful photos. Polly

  5. Anita Hendrieka December 27, 2016 at 7:06 am #

    Wow, I never knew that cliff dwellings even existed in Arizona! Such a great post and I really enjoyed reading about the different things to see there.

  6. Fiona Maclean December 26, 2016 at 7:42 am #

    A great set of tips throughout the piece. And, as always some fabulous photography! Sounds like a great trip

  7. Sia December 26, 2016 at 4:36 am #

    Such an interesting place and absolutely great for a road trip! I love to imagine the people that lived there. Would love to take a walk around the dwellings in these small paths and have a great water view!

  8. Sara Broers December 25, 2016 at 5:25 am #

    I am seeing so much goodness out of Arizona that I really need to get serious on planning a visit. The Indian Cliff Dwellings caught my attention but the petroglyph area is now on my must visit list! Great tip on the restrooms, as those are often an issue for families of all ages.

  9. Nat Deduck December 25, 2016 at 1:41 am #

    Driving across a country is pretty brilliant! We might find out way more amazing landscapes that you couldn’t discover by walking! Pretty inspiring! Well done!

  10. Gokul Raj December 25, 2016 at 12:29 am #

    This place has a lot of historical significance. You did a great job covering it and sharing it with us. The place looks pretty isolated. Reminds me of the movie Hills have Eyes 😛

  11. Megan Jerrard December 24, 2016 at 11:17 pm #

    So many amazing areas to explore in Arizona! We were there for a year and still didn’t manage to see it all, sadly missing Montezuma Castle national monument – hopefully we’ll have the chance to plan a trip back and take it in next time 🙂

  12. Kavey at Kavey Eats December 24, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

    Such a beautiful part of the world. I remember visiting here as a child on a family holiday that took us on a tour of the region. As a lover of history even as a kid, I found the Montezuma dwellings fascinating.

  13. Nathalie December 20, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Amazing and such a pretty area, it’s great that the petroglyphs are preserved so beautifully.

  14. Karen Warren December 19, 2016 at 5:27 am #

    I never realised Arizona had such a wonderful historic heritage. I’m so glad that the area is protected and that the looting has been stopped.

  15. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go December 19, 2016 at 2:36 am #

    Stunning landscapes and, as usual, gorgeous photos! I remember seeing some of the cliff pueblos on a family trip as a kid and being totally captivated by them as well as the ingenuity of the indigenous people who lived in this area. The petroglyphs are also so amazing. I’m thinking we need to make our next road trip in the US an exploration of the southwest and I’d love to visit this area in Central Arizona again.

  16. Rhonda Albom December 19, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    This area and the building of the cliff dwellings is very interesting. The petroglyphs are quite bright and plentiful. I would like to visit this national monument.

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