Arizona Vacations: Montezuma's Well and Verde Valley Petroglyph Site
Montezuma Well Links
- Exploring Montezuma Well - Montezuma Castle National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)
The official national park service web page for the Montezuma's Well, the lesser known sister site to Monezuma Castle National Monument.
- Montezuma Castle National Monument - Directions (U.S. National Park Service)
Directions and maps to Montezuma's Well
- Montezuma Castle National Monument - Springs and Seeps (U.S. National Park Service)
This interesting feature describes a scientific explanation of Montezuma's Well. It is written in an easy-to-understand style.
Montezuma's Well, Verde Valley Arizona
Verde Valley is a Great Arizona Vacation Stop
Montezuma’s Well is another stop on your vacation through the beautiful Verde Valley area of Arizona. Montezuma’s well is a natural sink hole where the Sinagua Indians (also known as the Western Anasazi people) who lived at the pueblos of Montezuma’s castle got their water supply. Montezuma's well is sited on what is now called Wet Beaver Creek, which is a tributary of the Verde River. Montezuma's Well is a beautiful natural source of clean, potable water, but that isn’t the only attraction of this site. A short walk to the view area will show you additional cliff dwellings that are right over the water. Take care at the view area, because parts of the view area are not gated, and the drop to the water below is about 3 stories. I am afraid of heights and open spaces really bother me, but I managed okay at this site by steering clear of the edges.
You can walk or climb down a path to the water, which requires climbing down a stone staircase. At the water’s edge you have a new vantage point from which to photograph the cliff dwellings, and if you are lucky, you might see some brightly colored yellow finches that live in the riparian habitat near the water. If you are able, do make this easy short climb down to the water’s edge. There you will find a small system of natural caves that have been used by the Anasazi and others, and a cool and soothing riparian habitat with cool running water.
The riparian area at the water’s edge is a great area for bird watching. The birds and other wildlife are attracted to the clean and clear water. The shore area at water's edge is a rare riparian habitat and is very well protected from predators by shade trees that grow there.
Follow the short hiking loop and interpretive trail that takes you behind Montezuma’s Well. The walk along the river is pleasant and the view of the rock next to the river’s edge offers a final photo opportunity. The cool trickle of the water and the trees that line the water’s edge are an inviting oasis that you won’t want to leave.
Montezuma's Well Trails
Down by the Water's Edge
V Bar V Petroglyph Site
Every fifth grader in the Arizona public school system is encouraged to make a model of a Native American dwelling. A visit to these historical sites is an excellent way to make history come to life for these young students.
The name V-V Petroglyph Site, as it is named on the forest service map and few signs that show the way, do not stand for Verde Valley petroglyph site as I originally thought, but for the V Bar V Ranch. (The dash is read "bar" in the language of brands and branding irons.) The ranch owners sold the site to the U.S. Forest Service, who kept the name of the ranch.
This site has one of the most, if not the most, extensive collections of known rock art symbols known in Arizona. Petroglyphs are carved into the black patina of the stone cliff face. You will see hundreds of petroglyphs, which archeologists now believe to be some sort of calendar kept by the ancient Sinagua people who inhabited the area until the late 14th century. We stood here wondering at this remarkable site. Were the symbols some part of a Sinaguan rite of passage? A vision quest? Or a calendar system?
The V bar V site is in a remote area about 5 miles down dirt roads. On the way in we passed the enticing Beaver Creek campgrounds, where we finished our road trip with a few fun hours of water play. The petroglyph site is very fragile and roped off. You can take photos but are strongly discouraged from touching the petroglyphs.
At the parking lot a smooth flat path takes you to the petroglyphs. The walk is perhaps 1/4 or 1/2 a mile. A Forest Service volunteer who was there was eager to share information about the site, and volunteered that additional cliff dwellings well known to Verde Valley locals could be found in the Beaver Creek Wilderness, but we weren't prepared with a map and didn't trust ourselves to follow his directions. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon and we had struggled to find our way into the petroglyph site. Other petroglyph sites near Sedona are a little less than an hour's drive away. I strongly encourage you to check at the visitor's center or call the Forest Service phone number if you are going to visit this site to make sure that it will be open during your visit.
- V Bar V Ranch Rock Art Site Page
This is the official web page of the V bar V Rock Art site north of Montezuma's Well, hosted by the U.S. Forest Service. Bookmark this site if you plan to visit V bar V ranch as it is in a remote area and a bit hard to find.
Nearby State Parks and Forest Service Campgrounds
- Arizona State Parks: Dead Horse Ranch
Official site for Dead Horse Ranch State Park, an Arizona State Park. Includes fee information and maps. RV and tent camping available.
- Red Rock Country - Camping
- Coconino National Forest -Beaver Creek Campground
This is the official site of the Beaver Creek Campground maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. This campground requires a daily use fee, and cannot be reserved. Only 13 spots at this site, but look at the photos!
- Map of Camping Restrictions in Red Rock Country
This map shows areas that are closed to primitive camping. Unfortunately the area near V bar V is protected and in this non-camping area of the Coconino National Forest.
Planning Your Day Trip to Verde Valley Arizona
Montezuma's Well is minimally developed, and does not have a welcome center or a gift shop, because the site is considered a part of the Montezuma's Castle Monument. It is about 10 miles north of Montezuma's Castle. You can easily see both sites in one day, and still go to see the V Bar V petroglyph site for a one-day visit. There's plenty to see in two or even three days, with many other sites nearby to explore. Montezuma's Castle is farthest south, so if you are planning to do your trip in one day, I recommend starting there. The rangers at the Montezuma's Castle welcome and information center can answer your questions and provide you with a map to the other sites I mention in this article. Most of the Forest Service's maps and literature are online at their official web sites for Montezuma's Castle, Montezuma's Well, and the V-Bar-V site.
Montezuma's Well is close enough to the town of Camp Verde Arizona to return to town for a lunch at one of the restaurants there. However, if you are planning to head up to the V-Bar-V Petroglyph site after your visit to Montezuma's Well you will want to pack food for the day. Montezuma's Well has primitive toilets and outdoor tables for a picnic. Food and drink is not available for purchase on site. The areas near the ruin are not really suitable for a family picnic, but you can stop at the developed park at the entrance to the site, which stands in a grove of shaded trees and has developed restroom facilities and grass.
When we visited Montezuma's Well in April, the site wasn't exceptionally busy. However, the area near the water's edge is in a fairly small, enclosed space, maybe 25 feet or so. Try to visit early in the day so you can enjoy the cool quiet of this oasis without feeling pressured to "move on."
Pets are not allowed at the V bar V site. Arizona gets hot much earlier than just about everywhere else in the U.S. (with a few exceptions), so please don't bring your small pets to this site.
Lodging and Camping Near Montezuma's Well
If you are planning a hotel stay for your road trip, Camp Verde has several hotels right near the Montezuma's Castle monument. While you are in town you can visit the State Historic Park in town, and enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Camp Verde has several RV camp sites in town with electricity and water hookups. If you are planning to head west toward Jerome and Tuzigoot Monument, consider a stop in at Dead Horse Ranch state park about 20 miles to the west in Cottonwood Arizona, which has camp sites right next to the Verde river. Verde Valley rests at an elevation of 3100 feet, which is higher than Phoenix, so the air is milder and cooler in the late spring and summer, but the weather still has the potential to get pretty warm. The camp sites at this park offer shade, swimming, additional bird watching opportunities, particularly of raptors like red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons.
For tent campers, the nearest campground to Montezuma's Well and the V-Bar-V petroglyph site is Beaver Creek campground. This campground is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Coconino National Forest. This campground has only 13 camp sites which are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and you cannot reserve camp sites here. This is a highly desirable and popular camping area, despite its lack of amenities (see the forest service link for more specific details), so if you plan to camp here, try to do so on a weekday or come prepared with a backup plan. Please note that camping is not allowed in the Beaver Creek Wilderness area outside of the Beaver Creek campground. The U.S. Forest Service has restricted camping in red rock country due land overuse.
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