Castle in the Cliffs

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One of the first National Parks Service sites in Arizona, Montezuma’s Castle has become one of the state’s most identifiable features. (Legoland Discovery Center in Tempe even captured it in bricks!) The beautiful 800-year-old adobe pueblo built high up in the cliff shows the ingenuity of the ancient people who lived there. Even my young children were impressed (and only a little disappointed they couldn’t tour the “castle.”)

 
From the moment we arrived, the friendly rangers took interest in us, which really made it feel like our park. We started our tour in the museum.  The exhibits on the area’s human history were very interesting, but it was a copy of Theodore Roosevelt’s signature from 1906 preserving the site that thrilled my second-graders.
 
We then took a walk to view main attraction, the 5-story cliff dwellings built over hundreds of years. The upper ruins really are amazing! These ancient people must have had long ladders and no fear of heights.  A volunteer guide was generous with his time, answering dozens of questions from my kids, on topic and off. Then we walked toward the creek and got up close to additional niches in the rock where buildings once existed and black smoke stains from ancient fires still remain.
 
There was so much natural beauty to see. Even on the hot day we visited we saw a some wildlife, including birds, squirrels, a large lizard, and a snake that the boys spotted on the trail. Our family spent about two hours enjoying the site and completing activities. If we had had more time, we would have taken in the sister site, nearby Montezuma Well. That site features more ruins, a bountiful stream and lush growth that must have been an oasis for the ancestral puebloans.
 
This was our first site with cliff dwellings and we really enjoyed the experience. What ruins have you seen and recommend?
 

 

Jodee is a full-time mom to three playful boys. She was raised in the desert, educated in the Rocky Mountains, and the lived in Midwest before returning to the “dry heat.” She is passionate about learning, culture, and nature. When she isn’t shuttling her boys from school to activities, she is either planning out their next family adventure or playing Duolingo to avoid folding laundry. She dreams of visiting all of the National Parks with her family and to finding the cure for homework battles. You can peek into her life and family outings on Instagram @thatsmoxie.
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