Come See the Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Want something that will serve you with history and entertainment at a go? Consider seeing where indigenous people lived, long before Europeans landed in America. Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument is like taking a step back in time.

From the desert vegetation to the spacious skies, explore one of Arizona’s largest and most spectacular national monuments. Stand next to 150-foot tall towers and walk under walls once used for ceremonies. Views like this make it easy to fall in love with this monument.

When you walk through the doorway into a dark, musty interior, wondering how people spent their days 700 years ago, you notice some items its occupants might have used: tables, chairs, looms, and more. Let’s have a short history lesson!

A picture of Emperor Montezuma before the Spaniards arrived.
Emperor Montezuma, painted by Daniel del Valle in 1895

Montezuma Castle National Monument History

Montezuma Castle, established on December 8, 1906, is the third National Monument dedicated to preserving Native American culture.

This 20-room high-rise apartment, nestled into a towering limestone cliff overlooking the ocean, is a testament to its owner’s ingenuity in overcoming harsh desert conditions.

Montezuma Castle National Monument is an archaeological site in central Arizona, U.S., lying between Camp Verde and Tuzigoot National Monument at the base of the Verde River Valley. Established in 1906 and encompassing 1.3 square miles (3.4 square km), this national park is well preserved, boasting one of the best-preserved pre-Columbian Pueblo Indian cliff dwellings in the United States.

The “castle” is a five-story, 20-room mud and stone structure built by the prehistoric Sinagua people into a cavity in the limestone cliff face around 80 feet (24 meters) above the valley floor, a nearly perfect example of construction techniques employed over 1000 years ago. It is named after an Aztec emperor, but its builders were Sinagua people who lived in the area before ancestral Puebloans arrived.

To the northeast, Montezuma Well is a large sinkhole rimmed with communal dwellings dating back to 1126 AD.

Each year, approximately 350,000 people visit the Castle and spend time in its museum and among the sycamore grove’s towering trees. These shady locals offer a welcome respite from Arizona’s harsh sun and host hundreds of native plants and animals that wouldn’t otherwise have a habitat to call their own.

Inside Montezuma Castle

A close-up view of the stone bricks by Montezuma Castle.

The castle is located in a wooded valley two miles from I-17, accessible only by a road that winds across flat scrubland. This area was once a residence of the Sinagua people. Water can be found here year-round and has always been a reliable source of water for them.

A visitor center with a tiny museum and bookstore is located at the national monument. A short paved nature trail leads past the ruins, which are not visible from the approach road; after following alongside the creek for some distance, it loops back to meet up with that same road.

Several rooms of Castle B, only slightly better preserved than the main ruin, are located about 50 feet west of it. The surrounding land is cultivated and contains a good variety of cacti and other local plants. A picnic area near the visitor center is shaded by large sycamore trees overlooking the creek.

Visitors have not been permitted to climb the ruins since 1951 due to their unstable condition, so there’s nothing much to do other than walk the loop trail and take a few photographs. However, it is definitely worth a visit! Exploration away from paths such as this will result in fines.

What To See at Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well is a natural limestone sinkhole continuously fed by an underground spring. Water falling from rain or snow on the nearby Mogollon Rim trickles down through rock until it reaches a spring. A vent drives this water up to the surface, where it takes 10,000 years for that journey.

A water scorpion that lives inside the Well at Montezuma Castle National Monument.

The water in this place was very beautiful, and it’s fun to learn how the water affected land, animal life, and even humans! The arsenic and high amounts of carbon dioxide may have driven locals away.

The absence of fish in this river has led to the evolution of five unique species that exist nowhere else on Earth. One is a water scorpion, pictured to the right.

Montezuma Well is a flooded limestone sinkhole 55 feet deep, seven miles northeast of Montezuma Castle National Monument. It the well-formed when the roof of a large underground cavern collapsed.

The entrance fee for the well is free, but a $10 per-adult admission charge applies to those who wish to enter Montezuma Castle National Monument.

From exit 293 on I-17, you travel through scattered residences before reaching the unpaved road leading to the monument.

The trail passes through a picnic area and the foundations of an ancient Hohokam pit house, now protected by an iron roof. It ends at a car park staffed by rangers who can answer questions about the ruins or surrounding terrain.

Montezuma Castle

A 1/3-mile trail leads you through a glade of white-barked Arizona sycamores to the base of what is arguably one of North America’s best-preserved cliff dwellings.

As you stroll down the ancient Sinagua sidewalk, take your time to appreciate its 900-year legacy. The towering trees provide shade during the hot summer and are vital habitats for native plants and animals. Rock squirrels, songbirds, and lizards are often seen on these trails, even in the hottest part of the day.

The Well and Castle at Montezuma Castle National Monument.
Montezuma Castle and Well

Montezuma Castle Hours

The Montezuma National Castle hours are as follows:

Montezuma Well:

  • Trail Hours: 8 am-5 pm The park is open seven days a week except for Christmas Day and New Year.

            The park is closed at 2:00 pm on Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving.

  • Picnic Area Hours: From 8 am-4 pm

Montezuma Castle Visitor Center & Trail:

  • Hours: Open daily, 8 am-5 pm (Last Vehicle Entry at 4:45). The park is open every day except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It closes at 2:00 pm on Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Best Time Of Year To Visit:

The park is open year-round, but the summer months can be sweltering (average temperatures in excess of 100°F) while winter temps average around 60°F. Plan your trip accordingly and check the weather before heading out!

Montezuma Castle National Monument FAQs

Are Pets Allowed At Montezuma Castle National Monument?

While we don’t recommend bringing pets, dogs are allowed at Montezuma Castle National Monument. Just be sure to keep them on a tight leash for safety.

The weather will be hot in Arizona most of the year. Plan accordingly. We recommend going earlier in the day rather than in the late afternoon.

Is it worth the trip?

Absolutely. The Montezuma Castle and Well offer a glimpse at some of the best preserved historical sites in the entire American Southwest. If you are near Arizona and enjoy history, caving, or exploring in general, this is a must-see spot.

Are there guides?

You may want to learn more while you’re hiking, and you will get several chances. Rangers along the trails can answer questions that you may have, and there are also signs throughout with information that may be interesting or useful to you.


Montezuma Castle National Monument is a beautiful place to explore. Whether hiking up the steep trail or driving through on a sunny day, you’ll enjoy the ancient history housed within these Arizona rock formations. It’s well worth the time and fairly easy to access, so come check it out! And don’t forget to leave with some Montezuma castle national monument photos for some beautiful memories.

In addition, while you’re in Arizona, you might want to see some more of the national monuments and caves that are publicly accessible. Check this list of the best Arizona caves for some more destinations to add to your trip.

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