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Living on the Edge—Montezuma’s Castle

- Nick

When you put the words travel and Montezuma together, this National Monument isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, if you are traveling just south of Flagstaff, Arizona, this is a must-see.

Montezuma’s Castle is a large cliff dwelling, hewn into the side of a huge canyon wall. Despite the name, the settlement had nothing to do with the Aztec ruler Montezuma: the ancient Sinagua Indians were the inhabitants. While it is no castle, the Sinagua built their home to last: the system is one of the best-kept cliff dwellings in North America.

The place itself is unreal. I got the impression of looking at a huge sandcastle. Surrounded by featureless cliff is a well-defined structure, although the castle isn’t falling down anytime soon.

Hiking around the monument is easy and family-friendly: the trail is a third of a mile and wheelchair/stroller accessible. Also available for your perusal is a museum within the park with artifacts and history of the Sinagua tribe.

If you’re interested in more cliff dwellings, Canyon de Chelly is a more expansive set of developments about three hours west of Flagstaff. It’s quite a bit off the beaten path, though, and the trails aren’t as easy.

If you’re looking for a place to stretch your legs a bit between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Montezuma’s Castle is an excellent place to do it. The sight is breathtaking, the trails are easy, and as a family destination it’s quite rewarding. This is definitely the Montezuma you’ll want on your travel checklist!

Click here to visit the Montezuma’s Castle website.

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