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The five-story, 20-room cliff dwelling at Montezuma Castle National Monument was named by explorers who believed it had been erected by the Aztecs. Southern Sinagua Native Americans actually built the roughly 600-year-old structure, which is one of the best-preserved prehistoric dwellings in North America—and one of the most accessible. An easy, paved trail (0.3 mile round-trip) leads to the dwelling and to the adjacent Castle A, a badly deteriorated six-story living space with about 45 rooms. No one is permitted to enter the site, but a viewing area is close by. Dogs on leash are also permitted. From Interstate 17, take Exit 289 and follow signs to Montezuma Castle Road.
Somewhat less accessible than Montezuma Castle—but equally striking—is Montezuma Well, a unit of the national park. Although there are some Sinagua and Hohokam sites here, the limestone sinkhole with a limpid blue-green pool lying in the middle of the desert is the main attraction. This cavity—55
feet deep and 365 feet across—is all that's left of an ancient subterranean cavern; the water remains at a constant 76°F year-round. It's a short hike, but the peace, quiet, and views of the Verde Valley reward the effort. To reach Montezuma Well from Montezuma Castle, return to Interstate 17 and go north to Exit 293; signs direct you to the well, which is 4 miles east of the freeway (11 miles from Montezuma Castle National Monument). 928/567–4521. Free. Daily 8–5.
Montezuma Castle Rd., 7 miles northeast of Camp Verde, Camp Verde, Arizona, 86322, USA