When we are in the beautiful, northern area of Arizona, we love to visit the many national parks and monuments that are near Flagstaff.
There are quite a few ‘cliff dwelling’ national parks in the southwest. Each one is unique, and has it’s own reason for a visit. We love Montezuma’s Castle because it is just so different! Can you imagine having had a part in building this… in the middle of a cliff, with faces both above and below you?
(and could you imagine living here with a toddler??? eek!)
Montezuma’s Castle requires a short walk from the visitor’s center for a good view of the cliff dwellings. Montezuma’s Castle National Monument encompasses over 700 acres, but the only part that is accessible to the public is a 1/3 mile long paved walking loop. The loop is an easy walk for kids, and is ADA compliant.
The path takes you, from the visitor’s center, right by the castle, to a creek overlook, under gorgeous deciduous trees, and back to the visitor’s center.
At the visitor’s center, the kids had fun searching for lizards on the exterior walls, where the reptiles bask in the sun. The kids found 7 in one small area. This is our 6th winter in the warm, and we still love lizards!
In the visitor’s center you can pick up Jr. Ranger books, visit the cute gift shop, learn about the Sinagua people who lived here and built the ‘castle’, and press pennies for 3 different parks (Montezuma’s Castle, Montezuma’s Well, and Tuzigoot; be sure to get your pennies here as the other locations do not have machines).
The museum also tells you about other nearby people groups, their dwellings, and how they might have interacted with each other.
Outside the beautiful walking path snakes through a small area of the park. The highlight of the trail is the view of Montezuma’s Castle…
but the walk itself is lovely, easy and level, and great for little kids since its short. There are some great backgrounds for family photos too!
The walk offers a couple of short detours to view an additional location of dwellings, and to see the river. The path winds under huge deciduous trees, and is very relaxing.
Montezuma’s Castle is a great stop, especially if you are looking for a quick stop – it doesn’t take long to see the museum, view the cliff dwellings, and walk the short path. We were there under 2 hours, and that was with 6 kids pressing pennies, bathroom breaks, loitering and meandering, and little kids setting the pace!
The park has a great Jr. Ranger program, and there is a sister site to this location, named Montezuma’s Well. You can find out about Montezuma’s Castle here, and Montezuma’s Well here. Both are worth a visit, and offer a great peek into the history of this unique area of Arizona!