Places from the Past near Grand Canyon

Visit these parks on your way to Grand Canyon.

Pottery. Photo by Dawn Kish

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona
Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona

Located in the Verde Valley southeast of Sedona, Montezuma Castle is a well-preserved five-story pueblo that was inhabited by the Sinagua people between 900 and 1400 A.D. Interpretive displays accompany the site. Also near here is Montezuma Well, a prehistroic watering hole that was formed when the ceiling of a cave collapsed to form a depression. A short path leads to the well and the numerous petroglyphs that line its walls. From I-17 in Camp Verde, take the Montezuma Castle exit. Admission is $5 for adults, children ages 15 and younger are free. Open daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information: (928) 567-3322; npa.gov/moca.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Located along I-40 about 50 miles east of the Arizona/New Mexico border, Petrified Forest National Park preserves the ancient Puerco Pueblo archaeological site. The one-story pueblo was occupied between 1100-1400 A.D. and has 76 rooms and two kivas. Residents were drawn here by year-round water available in the Puerco River. After visiting the pueblo, take the 28.6 mile scenic drive that overlooks multi-colored hills, petrified wood, cacti and ancient archaeological sites. From I-40, exit Holbrook and drive south on US 180 to the park entrance. Admission is $10 per vehicle. Open daily; hours change seasonally. For more information: (928) 524-6228; npa.gov/pefo.

Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki National Monument

A convenient stop on the way to Grand Canyon, Wupatki encompasses numerous dwelling sites occupied by the Sinagua people during the 12th and 13th centuries. At its peak, an estimated 100 people lived at Wupatki, making it the largest single community in the region. Wupatki ruins also include a reconstructed ball court, which archaeologists believe had religious significance. Ranger-led hikes lead to remote sites. A 36-mile scenic loop leads through Wupatki and Sunset Crater national monuments. From Flagstaff, drive north on US 89 for 14 miles to the Wupatki exit. Admission is $5 per person. Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information: (928) 679-2365; nps.gov/wupa.