When I first started planning this 3 week road trip I wasn’t expecting much from Arizona. In fact, it was the state I was probably looking forward to the least, aside from the Grand Canyon. I had a picture in my head of wild fires and deserts. After a little research though I was excited to find that there are a lot of Native American ruins located in Arizona. Most are only accessible by hiking, but we managed to find 2 sites that looked well preserved and were located less than an hour from Flagstaff.
You can see the route we took here:
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Our first stop was in “Red Rock Country.” I was still trying to get over some altitude sickness so I was relieved to be going down in elevation. Sedona is situated at 4,300 feet high and the population is approximately 10,000 (a lot smaller than I was anticipating). We were only in Sedona for a couple hours because we found it to be extremely expensive. I was hoping for some good Mexican food in Arizona but unfortunately the place we found was quite the letdown. At least we had a nice view while eating.
We meandered around downtown Sedona for about an hour; got some coffee and visited some cute boutique shops. We even picked up a couple paintings (of London & Paris- not even Sedona) for dirt cheap. Most of the shops were on the spendy side though, so we stuck mainly to window shopping. Downtown Sedona was cute, but felt really touristy. There did seem to be a lot of “adventure” activities you could do. There were Pink Jeep tour vehicles everywhere (but as Jake liked to point out- they are in fact not Jeeps but rather Dodge pickups). There were tours for everything: helicopter rides, canyoning, climbing, sky diving, mountain biking, etc. If we visit again, and with more money, it would be fun to get up into the mountains and do some exploring.
Our overall opinion of Sedona is that it was naturally really beautiful, but also hot, muggy, sprinkling at times, overcast, and overpriced. Go for the natural beauty, not for the town unless you got some spare money to spend.
Tuzigoot National Monument (Clarkdale, Arizona)
Our next stop was Tuzigoot National Monument, a pueblo built over 600 years ago! The pueblo was 2-3 stories deep and was created by the Sinagua Native American people. There were multiple families that would have lived in this pueblo. Parts of it are still being excavated and restored so were therefore roped off from foot traffic. The view on top of the peublo was incredible though.
We were at Tuzigoot for about 45 minutes and we only saw 1 other visitor who was leaving when we first got there. I couldn’t believe that something so incredible was so void of visitors! Perhaps it had to do with the fact that it was over an hour from Flagstaff, or not as accessible as the next site we visited, which was right off of Interstate 17. It is so worth the the drive though if you are in the area!
Montezuma Castle National Monument (Camp Verde, Arizona)
This site was also built by the Sinagua Native people around the years 1300-1400. It was named Montezuma’s Castle in the 1860’s by European settlers when they mistakenly assumed that it belonged to Aztecan emperor Montezuma. This cliff dwelling location housed approximately 50 people back in its day and is composed of 20 rooms.
Unfortunately no visitors are allowed inside the site due to the declining condition of it. Inside the visitor center there are artifacts that were found inside the ruins which was pretty interesting to see. This site gets more than 3x the visitors as Tuzigoot, and that was pretty clear as soon as we arrived. It is less than a mile off of the main Interstate. There were at least 50 people on the path while we were there, all trying to capture pictures in front of the beautiful site. It was oh, so hot too. We went in the middle of July when it was in the 90’s. Despite the heat and crowd I am happy that we were able to see this incredible site.
If You Go
If you have a disability card (VA disability or otherwise) you can get a lifetime card, allowing you to visit all National Parks and Monuments for FREE! Jake has a VA disability card so we were able to get into both these sites for free. Otherwise it would have been $8 per person total to visit both sites.
Check out Tuzigoot if you have the time, we liked it better than Montezuma’s Castle since you could actually explore it
Eat some fry bread! There were a few sites located on the road to Montezuma’s Castle and oh, was it incredible! For $1-$2 a piece they were a great deal as well.