The Montezuma Castle Hike

The Montezuma Castle Hike in Arizona

Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument is one of those special opportunities where natural beauty meshes with history to create a really memorable hiking experience.  The short Montezuma Castle hike not only weaves through towering walls, peaceful sycamore tree groves, and idyllic creeks, but it also allows you to witness early history in the form of rare cliffside dwellings carved straight out of the rock.  The Montezuma Castle hike will allow you to take in the beauty of Montezuma Castle National Monument, and also leave you with a sense of curiosity and awe of just how much our past history has shaped our future, and appreciate how different, but also the same, we are in comparison to cultures of the past.


The Montezuma Castle Hike

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Montezuma Castle Hike and National Monument


Montezuma Castle National Monument was established in 1906 to ensure the preservation of early Native American culture.  This national monument is one of the first and best preserved monuments of its kind, and functions to protect the remaining historical establishments of the Sinagua people, most notably the main building, Montezuma Castle, nestled high in the cliffs above.  The Montezuma Castle hike will take you past all the best views and sites at Montezuma Castle National Monument.


This glimpse into the past can’t help but evoke emotions of determination, grit, and survival.  If you consider the immediate surrounding area, you will realize that the Sinagua people stubbornly carved an existence out of a harsh desert surrounding, and ingeniously made it work for them!  And the evidence is all around Montezuma Castle.  You will learn how this exact spot was intentional: consider the nearby river source that was a lifeline, the sycamore trees that served as hardy and reliable floor and ceiling beams, and the cliff dwellings that were impenetrable and highly defendable.  Though much has changed between the cultures of the past and present, Montezuma Castle and the Sinagua people are a testament that certain things are valued throughout history.  Water, safety, survival, creativity, and persistence, just to name a few.  


Know Before You Go


Location: Montezuma Castle National Monument is located in Camp Verde, Arizona.  


Location of Montezuma Castle National Monument, the Montezuma Castle hike, and surrounding area


Cost: It costs $10 per person to enter Montezuma Castle National Monument. Children under 15 are free. You can purchase your pass at the Visitor’s Center upon arrival.  


Facilities: There is plenty of parking, and there are bathrooms and water refill stations at the Visitor’s Center.


Hours: Open 7 days a week from 8am – 4:45 pm (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day, and closed early at 1:45 pm on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve).


The Montezuma Castle Hike


The Montezuma Castle hike is brief, but packed full of intriguing history and sights.  It is perfect for families and visitors of all ages and abilities!


Length: 0.4 miles out and back roundtrip


Elevation: 3,191 feet


Elevation Gain: 36 feet

The Montezuma Castle Hike Elevation Chart
The Montezuma Castle Hike Elevation Chart


Rating: Easy


Estimated Time to Hike: 10 minutes


Terrain: Paved


Best Time of Year to Hike: You can visit Montezuma Castle year round, but the best time of year is Fall – Spring.


Location: Camp Verde, Arizona


Cost: $10 per person


Facilities: Bathrooms and water refill stations


Dog Friendly: Yes! You can check out the park’s full pet policy here.


The Montezuma Castle hike


Montezuma Castle Hike Full Trail Report


The Montezuma Castle hike begins just outside of the Visitor’s Center.  This paved path winds past a grove of stately sycamore trees on the right side.  It may seem that this is just a coincidental growth of trees, but the sycamore trees in this area played a vital role in the Sinagua people’s intentional choice of location for building Montezuma Castle.  The sycamore trees were utilized as floor and ceiling beams in the structures.  


Sycamore trees on the Montezuma Castle hike
Sycamore trees on the Montezuma Castle hike


Looming cliff walls dominate the right side of the trail, until they expose a small cove and the first glimpse of Montezuma Castle, suspended high up in the rock wall.  Although you are not allowed to go into Montezuma Castle anymore due to concerns of vandalism, even from this viewpoint you will be left with a sense of awe and wonder at how the Sinagua people established their existence here, and the ingenuity that is on display at Montezuma Castle.  There are lots of information signs as you stroll underneath Montezuma Castle, so take the time to read them as it will help you gain a full understanding of what life was like here a thousand years ago.


Montezuma Castle is bigger in real life than what I expected, which is part of what makes this sight so inspiring!  Montezuma Castle is about 5 stories high and contains an impressive 20 rooms!


The Montezuma Castle Hike
Montezuma Castle


Although this main cliffside establishment is the most iconic sight at Montezuma Castle National Monument, there is more to see if you continue along the rest of the path.  Just past the main cliff dwelling, there are more early remnants to be seen, though much that is left are just foundational walls.  Continuing on, the trail will lead to a small viewing area of Beaver Creek, which may look humble, but keep in mind its vital importance to the Sinagua people as a lifeline for their crops of corn, beans, and squash.  After Beaver Creek, the trail will curve back around and start meandering back through the sycamore trees towards the Visitor’s Center.  Even after passing the structural remains, there continue to be informational placards along the trail, which are full of very insightful information.  There is even a cutaway diorama depicting what life would have looked like inside Montezuma Castle. 


All in all, you can expect to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour here, depending on how long you stop to enjoy the sights and read all the information.  And don’t forget to stop by the Visitor’s Center either on the way in or out!


Frequently Asked Questions About the Montezuma Castle Hike


  • Can I use my National Parks Pass at Montezuma Castle National Monument?  Yes


  • Can you go inside Montezuma Castle?  No, visitors used to be able to decades ago, but are no longer allowed due to concerns of vandalism and damage.  The cliffside remains are beyond the accessibility of any visitors.    


  • When was Montezuma Castle occupied by the Sinagua People?  Around 1050 CE


  • Is the path paved?  Yes, the Montezuma Castle hike is entirely paved and accessible.  There are some small portions of the trail which have a slight grade to them, but it is very minor.  


  • Can I bring my dog? Yes, leashed dogs are allowed.  Please do not leave your pets in the car, especially in the summer when the Arizona heat can spike rapidly.


  • What else is there to see at Montezuma Castle National Monument?  Besides the remaining historical structures, there is also Beaver Creek and the surrounding sycamore tree groves.  There are plenty of informational placards that provide fascinating background information on Montezuma Castle.  And don’t forget to stop by the Visitor Center too!


  • Are there other trails to hike at Montezuma Castle National Monument?  Yes, there are two trails at nearby Montezuma Well, which are part of the National Monument.  Montezuma Well is a short drive from Montezuma Castle.  There is a 0.7 mile loop trail around ancient ruins, the well that holds fossil water, and more stately sycamore trees!  This well was a lifeline to the Sinagua People, and continues to be a lifeline today to native wildlife in the Arizona desert!


So What’s Next After the Montezuma Castle Hike?


Considering that the Montezuma Castle hike is a short trek, a visit here likely won’t take up an entire day or weekend.  So what else can you do in the area?  Within a few minutes drive from Montezuma Castle are Montezuma Well, Fort Verde State Park, and Out of Africa Wildlife Park.  Within an hour’s drive is Tuzigoot National Monument, Slide Rock State Park, and the hiking meccas of Sedona and Flagstaff!  Travel even a little further, and you can explore Grand Canyon National Park!



Less than an hour away are also two outdoor recreation meccas – Sedona and Flagstaff.  Both are idyllic mountain towns full of the best hiking!  



  • Which hike do I recommend in Sedona?  Find out why I refer to the Fay Canyon Trail as my Sedona trail “unicorn”!


  • Have time to travel a little further?  You can’t afford to miss a visit to Grand Canyon National Park!  Take on an epic Rim to Rim hike or the shorter but still just as awesome Rim to River hike, or visit the underrated North Rim and check out one of my favorite spots on the Widforss Trail!




The Montezuma Castle Hike


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