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Montezuma Castle National Monument: Arizona Highrise Life in 700 AD

Arizona is a fabulous state filled with beauty and natural wonders. Amazing canyons (Grand!), mountains, and desert scenery await visitors.

Montezuma's Castle

The year that my husband and I decided to head north from the Phoenix area to see Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and more, Montezuma's Castle was on our planned Arizona vacation route. We decided to look at this national monument, listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. The name was intriguing to us.

This national monument comprises 826 acres, although most people like us probably only see a fraction of it. There is an easy quarter-mile paved path from the parking lot, which takes one to an area where one can gaze up at this fantastic five-story structure built up into the cliff.

Supposedly around fifty people used to live there back when it was constructed around 700 AD by the Sinagua. It had twenty rooms. After another 700 years, it became uninhabited. Was this because the creek below dried up or went underground? Was it due to warring tribes or disease?

When the volcano at Sunset Crater erupted, the Native Americans deserted this part of Arizona. They returned sometime later. The ground now had nutrient-rich ashes from the eruption. That enriched soil facilitated the growth of corn and other crops.

We may never know why the Native Americans left Montezuma's Castle. Archaeologists will be delving into this mystery for years to come as they discover and research artifacts found on or near this historic site.

 Monument sign

Monument sign

The Naming of This Monument

Montezuma was an Aztec Emperor of Tenochtitlan in Mexico, where Mexico City is now. He reigned from 1502 to 1520, the latter year being the year of his death.

His death may have come about because of Cortés and his Spanish troops, who were beginning to explore and conquer Mexico for Spanish dominion. There is also the possibility his people stoned him to death. They saw him as weak against the Spanish invaders. That is open to question and differing accounts.

The Aztec empire was at its zenith when Hernán Cortés discovered it, and he began to change history in the central part of Mexico.

The name of Montezuma's Castle has nothing to do with the Aztec ruler in Mexico. Could it be that the temples and pyramids made of stone by the Aztecs in Mexico sparked this name when this high-rise cliff dwelling built into a limestone cliff became known?

Cliff Dwelling

At one time, there was a creek in the valley below this Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling. It would have provided much-needed water for the Sinagua Native Americans, who called this part of Arizona their home. The creek was named Beaver Creek. It disappeared from the surface in the 1400s.

There was a natural overhang with cave-like openings high up this stone cliff. The native Indians decided to make this natural feature more habitable.

Imagine the work that would have ensued in hauling up pieces of stone and placing and securing them with facings to the cliff front, and then making room dividers! They would have used ropes and ladders to access the site in the building and maintaining it. Imagine if you will carrying up daily rations of food and water, perhaps with a papoose on one's back!

Of course, if one could have enough provisions stockpiled within the rooms of that cliff dwelling during times of warfare between tribes, it would have been a safe spot far removed from the open conflict and easy to defend. They could pull up the ropes and ladders, denying easy access to marauding enemies.


Camp Verde is the location where one can find the Montezuma Castle National Monument. This small town of Camp Verde, with a population of just over 10,000 people located off Interstate 17, has visitors arriving at all times of the year for various purposes.

Back when people were homesteading and growing crops, this disrupted the native tribes from their usual hunting and gathering practices. A fort was built to help protect the settlers and to force native Americans to stay on reservations. It was not exactly a shining example of how these first peoples inhabiting these Arizona lands were treated.

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The remains of these fort buildings are now part of Fort Verde State Historic Park. The Yavapai - Apache Nation currently operates The Cliff Castle Casino.

A Starbucks sign in Camp Verde showcasing the Native American legacy has the reputedly largest worldwide Kokopelli sign image. When my German girlfriend and I traveled from Houston to California and back, visiting national parks, she fell in love with the Kokopelli image. She would have loved seeing this sign!

"World's Largest Kokopelli" at Starbucks in Camp Verde, Arizona

"World's Largest Kokopelli" at Starbucks in Camp Verde, Arizona

High-Rise Living

When seeing this cliff dwelling for the first time, it gives a whole new meaning to high-rise living!

It used to be that visitors to the Montezuma Castle National Monument could climb up ladders and walk through some of the rooms and see this monument first hand. To protect this national monument from damage, this type of exploration has been banned for many years now, which is undoubtedly a good thing. A museum now shows visitors replicas of what the site looks like and displays interesting native American artifacts found in this area.

The address of the national monument is Montezuma Castle Road, Camp Verde, Arizona 86322. For entrance fees and hours of operation, check the official government site in the sources below.

Any time of the year would be an excellent time to see this 700 AD high-rise cliff dwelling built into the limestone cliffs. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about this historic site via words, photos, and videos.

Museum exhibit showing the rooms inside of the national monument as they would appear with the stone facing in front removed.

Museum exhibit showing the rooms inside of the national monument as they would appear with the stone facing in front removed.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are always welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

I am glad you enjoyed learning about Montezuma Castle National Monument. Supposedly they are going to make it easier for us making comments by mid-year or so. It cannot come soon enough! Thanks for your efforts in finding this one.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 22, 2021:


I enjoyed reading about this one. I loved the pictures.

But whenever I look at pics after I'm done reading the article goes away but I'm not left at the comment section or news feed.

I then have to search to find you again.

But alas! I DID.

Great write. I hope one day I can make it out West.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2021:

Hi Devika,

I am so pleased that you liked learning about this national monument in the State of Arizona. Arizona has many other monuments and places of interest. Thanks for your comment.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 22, 2021:

Peggy this is a great write up here. Such places need to be seen and your information is interesting and well-researched.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2021:

I hope so too for your sake, Misbah! I hope you enjoyed this day today. It was bright and sunny where we live and we enjoyed an outdoor get-together, socially distant, with some good friends.

Misbah Sheikh on March 21, 2021:

I hope, Thanks Peggy


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

Yes, we can continue to learn about people, places, and things worldwide due to the Internet. I hope you get to eat some tacos soon! Thanks for your comment.

Misbah Sheikh on March 21, 2021:

Very informative and interesting hub, Peggy

Thanks for sharing it with us, the pictures are lovely, at one point, I just stopped seeing the photo of Starbucks behind there was Taco Bell. I love Tacos. I am craving for them, unfortunately Glovo cannot deliver them to my place now due to some COVID restrictions :(

Thanks for sharing the history of Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Isn’t it wonderful that everything carries some history, as we start to know things, we start learning from them more and more


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2021:

Hi MG,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about the Montezuma Castle National Monument. History is interesting! You are a master at bringing much of it to life in your articles.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 20, 2021:

Excellent travel and informative article. You have created a wonderful picture of the monument.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2021:

Hi Ann,

Thanks for your appreciative comment. It was fun getting to see this national monument in Arizona and learning something about the people who at one time lived there.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 20, 2021:

I love reading about any people who have adapted caves for the troglodyte way of life. Most interesting hub. You always come up with amazing places, great photos and superb descriptions, Peggy.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 19, 2021:

Hi Amy,

It was a way of surviving and being safe back in those days. One has to admire the ingenuity of using the environment to secure safety. Thanks for your virtual visit.

Amy on March 19, 2021:

What a way to live. Amazing history of survival in a rugged land.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 19, 2021:

High-rise living back in 700 AD was a bit different than today! I invite you to learn about this national monument in Arizona by the name of Montezuma's Castle.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 29, 2015:

Hi SweetiePie,

That is interesting that a man is now doing that. When you think of it, the native Americans who used caves as a dwelling such as at the Montezuma Castle National Monument were smart. Much of the structure was already there and could be added to for safety reasons and when high up...offered them security as well.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on October 28, 2015:

I love traveling through the American South West. This is a very comprehensive overview of visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument. By the way, there is a man who was in the news recently because he is making livable art caves, so I guess living on a cliff or a cave is back.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 19, 2015:

Hi Au fait,

Parts of our town got lots of rain from tropical storm Bill but there was not the serious flooding compared to the earlier rains which did so much damage. It would be nice to be able to have some dry weather for a change. Thanks for thinking of us. Other parts of the country are now feeling the effects of "Bill." Perhaps you got some of it up your way? If you ever return to Arizona, the monument will still be there for you to see.

C E Clark from North Texas on June 15, 2015:

Came back to shed some light on this excellent article. With people planning their summer vacations, this would be a great place to visit. I still don't know how I missed going there on any of my trips to and through AZ.

Hope that storm changes direction for you people down there. I know you don't need any more rain and for sure you don't need flooding. Take care . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 25, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

So glad that you liked this. It is an impressive site to be sure! Thanks!

C E Clark from North Texas on July 20, 2013:

Came back to share this excellent article with my followers and to pin it to my 'Travel' board.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 20, 2013:

Hi john0000,

The native American Indians were smart using places like natural cliff overhangs in which to make their lodgings. I can tell from your comment that you have traveled to a number of these sites in Arizona and in the southwestern regions of our country and have a genuine interest. Thanks for your comment.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on April 20, 2013:

This is another great travel Hub. I have visited it several times, each time rather in awe of the ancient builders. There are cliff dwellings all over Arizona. The Salado and Anasazi migrated in Arizona and other southwestern areas finding the cliffs a safe and more comfortable place to live. In Walnut Canyon and the Tonto National Monument they could walk to the bottom of the canyon and grow crops in the moist areas.

It is a fascinating subject. Thanks for the good read.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 19, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

Am certain that you would enjoy seeing this unique national monument called Montezuma's Castle located in Arizona. Perhaps next time you go to Arizona you can work it into your travel schedule. Thanks for your votes + share.

C E Clark from North Texas on April 19, 2013:

I have never been to Montezuma's Castle either, even though I toured other things in the area. A great history lesson here and as usual great photos. If I ever get back to AZ I'll have to be sure to visit this castle. Voted up, interesting, useful for helping people plan their itineraries, and will share with my followers!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2013:

Hi Sheila,

It is truly amazing to think what native Americans did to create their lodgings back in earlier times. Whoever first discovered the cliff overhang and then decided to build on to the front of it was smart. Getting up and down would not have been that easy particularly carrying heavy rocks! Thanks for your votes and share. Hope you get to see this and much more of Arizona someday.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 10, 2013:

What an amazing place! I have only been to Arizona once and I am sorry I missed this place. I would love to make another trip to Arizona and see Montezuma's Castle. It amazes me how difficult something like this would have been to make back then. Great information, pictures and videos. Voted up, interesting, beautiful and sharing! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 16, 2012:

Hi Rajan,

I know what you mean about constructing places like this without the modern building devices we utilize today. It would have been a Herculean task! Thanks for the shares regarding Montezuma's Castle.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 15, 2012:

Peggy, I'm always overawed to see the herculean task being carried out to construct all these monumental structures! With none of the modern day technology it was sheer will power that must have goaded on these people, in those times. Really amazing to see these structures still look strong enough to sustain inhabitation.

Very interesting read and it was a pleasure reading it.

Voted up and awesome, gave 5 stars and sharing it on G+1.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2012:

Hi Eddy,

So happy to hear that you enjoyed your armchair traveling to see Montezuma's Castle in New Mexico. Appreciate your comment and wishing you a wonderful balance of this weekend in your part of the world.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2012:

Hi Hyphenbird,

That is sad if children's history books are being censored to the degree that the truth of what has happened in history is suppressed. Traveling and getting to see sites like Montezuma's Castle is an experience that is sure to open their eyes to the past and perhaps stimulate curiosity to learn more. Thanks for the compliments on this hub. I appreciate your comment.

Eiddwen from Wales on October 20, 2012:

Oh wow amazing Peggy and another to save for my favourite hubs (my armchair travelling)slot.

Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful weekend.


Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on October 20, 2012:

You make me want to travel. I have itchy feet anyway but they have been settled the last few years. Some friends and I went out that way many years ago and saw some of these old dwellings. I want my son to experience such things and to keep history alive. Our school history books are so censored that children never know about great works like this unless parents open the doors.Articles like yours are wonderful because they allow us to travel and learn without leaving home which sometimes is the only option. Thank you so much.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 15, 2012:

Hello john000,

Living close to Montezuma's Castle, you certainly live in a gorgeous part of Arizona. Like you said there is so much to do and see of historic interest in that state. Thanks for reading this hub and leaving your comment.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on January 15, 2012:

I live not far from Montezuma's Castle. Arizona is filled with interesting ancient ruins and history. Your photos are wonderful. I hope I don't run out of places to visit and things to do right here in my own backyard. Voted beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 16, 2011:

Hi Prasetio,

I am happy to be able to present information about places like the Montezuma Castle National Monument to you. You always treat us with such fabulous hubs about new and different sites. Thanks for your comment and votes.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 16, 2011:

Hello Deborah,

Enjoy yourself this coming summer at Montezuma's Castle. This is just one of so many interesting and historic as well as beautiful places in Arizona. Thanks for your comment and votes.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on December 16, 2011:

I had never heard about this monument. Peggy, you always be my guide. Thanks for always walk in the right line, I mean in presenting fabulous place in USA. I hope I can visit this place one day. Well done and rated up (useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting).


Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 15, 2011:

Ok you convinced me I want to go there in vacation this summer.. lol.. great HUB AND GREAT WORK THAT WENT INTO THIS.. great research and what a great history lesson..

I voted up and awesome

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 15, 2011:

Hi Cheryl,

Montezuma Castle National Monument is very interesting as you noticed. It is wonderful that these cliff dwellings have been preserved for future generations of people to see and learn about the Indian ways back then. Thanks for your comment.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on December 15, 2011:

Another great historical hub. Montezuma Castle ruins

is so very interesting and a very unusual preserved cliff dwelling. The photos and videos are very informative. It is amazing to see the stone pueblos still in tact for so many centuries. A great hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 13, 2011:

Hello travel-O-grapher,

Glad that you found this hub about Montezuma's Castle detailed and informative. Thanks for your comment.

travel-O-grapher from Dhaka, Bangladesh on December 12, 2011:

Nice! Very detailed and informative!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 12, 2011:

Hi Eddy,

From your comment I gather that you enjoyed learning about the Montezuma Castle National Monument. Thanks! It is indeed an interesting and historic place.

Eiddwen from Wales on December 12, 2011:

Hi Peggy,

You are indeed such a creative person and a great writer.

Thank you for all the effort that you so obviously put into each piece of art.

Take care and I wish you a wonderful day.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2011:

Hi thelyricwriter,

Hopefully you will get to visit the Grand Canyon and sites like the Montezuma Castle National Monument someday if revisiting areas in Arizona. Thanks for your compliments on the quality of my hubs. Appreciate it! Wishing you a grand holiday season!

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on December 11, 2011:

Up, useful, awesome, and interesting votes Peggy. Very well done and informed as all your articles are. If one things is for sure when I visit your writings, they are composed of the highest quality. I never heard of this when I lived out there. I missed out on this one. I always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon area, but never got around to it. At the least, I can visit them in your articles:) Great work Peggy. I hope all is well and happy holidays.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2011:

Hi homesteadbound,

As far as the older people staying up in Montezuma's Castle and not climbing up and down as often, you are probably right. Of course people did not live as long back then as many of us do now. If they were ill or taking care of babies, the other Indians probably did more of the hauling of supplies to help out. What a life! Hard to imagine from the creature comforts that most of us have become accustomed to having in this day and age. Thanks for your comment.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on December 10, 2011:

Wow! This would be a neat place to visit. I can't imagine having to climb up there carrying supplies. I guess some of the older people would have had to just stay up there and never get down.

it really does remind me of a castle. Such a neat place to have lived.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 10, 2011:

Hi Mark,

I know what you mean when thinking of the labor involved in fashioning rooms out of Montezuma's Castle with no modern equipment available to them. Truly amazing! Those Sinagua Indians would have had to closely work together to accomplish such feats over a period of time.

They certainly did not have to work out in gyms to get their exercise in those days! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 09, 2011:

Hi Just History,

You have that right! It would not have been that easy to build the walls at Montezuma Castle National Monument nor keep it provisioned back when the Sinagua Indians utilized that space. Glad that I could show you something new. Thanks for your comment.

Just History from England on December 09, 2011:

Amazing! Fancy the energy taken to build it and then to provision it- Thank you for such a different insight into America.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 09, 2011:

Hi Gus,

A jet airplane flying over Montezuma's Castle would make for an interesting juxtapositioning of the ancient and new. Did you get the photo or wait? Thanks for your comment.

Gustave Kilthau from USA on December 09, 2011:

Howdy Peggy - This one is a great article that brings back memories of my visit to this interesting place. I really enjoyed messing around by Buffalo Creek that runs through the place. I made an interesting photo while looking at the dwelling up on the cliff face. Right when I wanted to make the picture, a jet airplane flew over the "castle." Kinda like the new juxtaposed over the old.

Gus :-)))

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 08, 2011:

Hi Alastar,

Montezuma Castle National Monument is surely that...spectacular. Glad that you enjoyed this hub. Hope you get to visit it someday. Thanks for your comment.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on December 08, 2011:

You bring up some good history and questions as to why Montezuma was so named and why the cliff dwelling was abandoned. No one really knows for sure is right. Thanks for bringing this out Peggy, I've never heard of Montezuma's castle and boy is it spectacular. Fort Verde sounds great too. Another one to visit if I can ever get over Arizona's way

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 08, 2011:

Hi leahlefler,

The thought of caring for one's children in that Montezuma's Castle cliff dwelling is what amazed me as well. So happy to hear that you enjoyed this hub, particularly since you have seen it with your own eyes. It is an amazing site! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 08, 2011:

Hello Derdriu,

That is an interesting legend about the Aztecs. Thanks for adding that bit of information to this Montezuma Castle National Monument hub. Nice to know that you enjoyed the photos and videos and thanks for your votes.

Leah Lefler from Western New York on December 08, 2011:

Montezuma's Castle is one of my all-time favorite monuments in Arizona! I can't imagine being a parent with a toddler on those high rooftops! My cousin went to flight school in Prescott, so we often took a side trip to the cliff dwellings that the Sinaguans made. It is amazing. Fabulous hub!

Derdriu on December 08, 2011:

Peggy W: No one knows the true homeland of the Aztecs. According to legend and oral history, they came from the north, possibly in the areas of modern Arizona and New Mexico. They left to carry out a prophecy that their civilization would fluorish where they found an eagle perched on a cactus, which they did in the area of their subsequent Tenochtitlán.

So the name may be due to a legend which is based on fact.

Thank you for sharing the informtion, the photos and the video.

Voted up, etc.,


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 07, 2011:

Hi Gene,

No doubt about the resourcefulness of the Sinagua Indians in making a homesite out of these limestone cliff overhangs at what is known as Montezuma's Castle. It is an amazing site to see! Just think of the work that it entailed! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 07, 2011:

Hi Charles,

I am not sure what part of Arizona you visited...but dull...never! There is much to do and see there and so much of history like this Montezuma's Castle site.

As to the are most welcome! Thanks for your comment on this hub and others. Appreciate it!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 07, 2011:

Hi Darlene,

Arizona is filled to the brim with natural and man-made wonders. Am sure you would enjoy seeing it someday. Thanks for your comment on this Montezuma Castle National Monument hub and thanks for the compliment on my writing. Appreciate it!

Gene Jasper on December 07, 2011:

One of my favorite trips was to see this place. It's a marvelous example of how clever and resourceful these ancient people were.


charles criner on December 07, 2011:

When I went to Arizona about a month ago I thought it was rather dull. However, after viewing the information that you have provided, I think I am going to schedule another trip. (Thanks for the Cookies, and happy Holidays).........Charles.

Darlene on December 07, 2011:

So very interesting. If I ever get to Arizona, I'll be sure and visit. Your photos and writings are superb!

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