Background: Montezuma Castle is the ancient dwelling of the prehistoric Sinagua Indians. This group inhabited the castle and the surrounding land by Beaver Creek over 600 years ago. The National Park Services (NPS) claims it is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.
Fun Fact:The structure, which is five stories high and consists of 20 rooms, was never actually a castle; it was used more like an apartment building. Also, Montezuma never set foot anywhere near the area.
Why you will want to go see it: This is a great side trip for families! Visiting the Montezuma Castle is a short half hour/hour stop. Visitors enter through the park museum, which displays a timeline of world events and an array of tools used by the Sinagua to build the Castle. World travelers will appreciate the timeline that covers concurrent world events; e.g., while the Sinagua were building this structure, the French were building Notre Dame. The Museum also hosts a small gift shop, where you can pick up postcards and get a stamp for your National Park Passport.
To visit the actual Castle you exit the other side of the small museum and follow a short paved trail. The trail has markers providing detail about the area and the Monument. Halfway down the trail you approach the Castle. It is quite imposing from below.
As you continue around the trail you walk along the Beaver Creek and come past a small Castle replica. The National Park service built a replica with an audio system that tells about the Sinagua who inhabited the structure so many years ago. This is a great stop for kids, as it talks about the Sinagua children and their pastimes.
Logistics:The park is open in the summer (May 30 - Labor Day) from 8am until 6pm and in the winter from 8am until 5pm, 7 days a week. A fee of $5 dollars is charged for admission (16 years and under are free). Before you go, be sure to check the NPS website: http://www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm. The NPS has brochures available that suggest day trips to the area and provide more information on the Castle.
Tip:If you arrive 30 minutes or less prior to closing, the fee is waived and you will have adequate time to see the Castle.
How to find it: Montezuma Castle is located 3 miles off Interstate 17. Use Exit 289 and simply follow the signs!