Cultural and Western Heritage

The human drama has been present in the Verde Valley for over 10,000 years. Prehistoric civilizations of nomadic people had little impact on the land but later cultures left more definitive footprints as technology improved and they became rooted. Two national monuments—Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot—are contained within the valley, both protecting ancient architecture.

Built into a limestone balcony above Beaver Creek, five-story Montezuma Castle is one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the United States. It was inhabited from approximately 1100 AD to 1425 AD by the Sinagua people who farmed the surrounding floodplain. Early settlers believed the “castle” was built by Aztec emperor Montezuma and the name stuck. Tuzigoot crowns a ridge overlooking the Verde River. The terraced pueblo consisted of 110 rooms, including second and third-story structures. The National Park Service restored one dwelling so visitors can experience what life was like for the Sinagua.

Outside Sedona, the remains of two other Sinaguan hamlets nestle against magenta cliffs. Palatki is built under south facing overhangs for shelter and the warmth of winter sun. There’s also a trail leading to alcoves where pictographs, or painted symbols, adorn the rocks. Nearby Honanki represents one of the largest population centers in the valley. The extensive cliff dwellings housed three separate cultures—the Sinagua, Yavapai and Apache—through the centuries.

Anglo settlers arrived in the second half of the 19th Century, farming along waterways and digging for ore in Jerome. Their story is told in detail at several local museums.

the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Roger Naylor