Located in Northern Arizona, off Highway 17 near Camp Verde, Montezuma Castle (www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm) is the site of one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. It was named by early settlers, who assumed it was of Aztec origin, so they gave the castle-like structure the moniker of the the Aztec ruler. At one time visitors were allowed to climb up to these Sinagua dwellings, but that practice was discontinued in order to preserve the site. Today, wheelchair-users and slow walkers can now marvel at the remains of these cliffside domiciles, as they are viewable from an accessible path through the small national monument.
There’s accessible parking in front, with level access over to the visitor center. Inside there’s barrier-free access to the interpretive exhibits, ranger information desk and gift shop. Accessible restrooms are located near the entrance.
Out back there’s a half-mile paved trail that offers visitors a good view of the cliff dwellings that are precariously perched on the hillside above the site. The trail has a few dips, but aside from one steep path out to a viewing platform, it’s still quite doable for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. There’s a good view of the 20-room dwelling above, which was is made of fieldstones held together with mud and clay, and constructed sometime between 1100 and 1300. And just a little to the west is Castle A, a five-story 45-room apartment-like building, which has unfortunately deteriorated over the years.
Interpretive plaques are located along the trail; and an intricately crafted diorama that’s located near the visitor center, offers folks a good interpretation of these ancient ruins. As an added bonus, the trail is partially shaded by the bordering forest, so it’s a pleasant stop on a warm day. And although sunrise or sunset would be impressive at this site, Montezuma Castle is only open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., so plan accordingly.