Tag Archives: ruins

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Overview

Central Arizona’s Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  Conveniently accessible just off Interstate 17 on the way to Sedona or the Grand Canyon, it is a great place to stretch your legs after the 90-minute car ride from Phoenix.  Located in the scenic Verde River Valley, it is one of several sites related to the Sinagua people managed by the National Park Service (also see Walnut Canyon, Tuzigoot, and Wupatki).

Highlights

Cliff dwelling, Montezuma Well

Must-Do Activity

Protected in a cliff recess above Beaver Creek, the five-story tall ruin is not accessible to tourists and can only be viewed from below.  Its name “Montezuma” refers to the mistaken belief that it was somehow connected to the Aztec Empire of Mexico, but its inhabitants had more in common with the Sinagua people living in around Arizona in the 1400s.  Continue on the paved walkway to the ground-level ruins of Castle A and views of Beaver Creek.

Best Trail

To investigate a separate unit of Montezuma Castle National Monument, drive 11 miles north to Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole filled by a natural spring that produces 1.5-millions gallons of 74°F water daily.  The trail is only a half-mile long loop, but it is worth the trip to see the historic irrigation ditches and the 55-foot deep sinkhole.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It is unclear why the Sinagua people abandoned the cliff dwelling around 1425, but it may have been due to disease, drought, or climate change.  There were 35 to 50 inhabitants of Montezuma Castle and even more at Castle A, which had approximately 50 rooms.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/moca/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass; Montezuma Well is free

Road Conditions

Access roads are paved.

Camping

There is no campground at the National Monument, but many located within massive Coconino National Forest, which also allows dispersed camping.

Related Sites

Tuzigoot National Monument (Arizona)

Tonto National Monument (Arizona)

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (Arizona)

Explore More – In what year did the National Park Service stop allowing visitors to climb ladders to walk inside Montezuma Castle?

Yucca House National Monument

Overview

Yucca House National Monument was established in 1919 outside Cortez, Colorado.  It is not far from Mesa Verde National Park, which has information about the National Monument at its visitor center on Highway 160.  The 34-acre site protects an unexcavated pueblo abandoned around 1300, so there is very little to see above ground.  The fact that there is public access at all is thanks to the ranching family that allows visitors to park in what is basically their driveway.

Highlights

Unexcavated pueblo, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument visitor center

Must-Do Activity

Unless you aim to visit every unit in the National Park Service (NPS) system, you are better off spending your time taking an extra tour or hike at Mesa Verde National Park.  There are no facilities and there is not much to see at Yucca House, but there are many interesting Ancestral Puebloan ruins within nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  They have a large visitor center in Dolores, Colorado where you can get directions to archaeological sites, such as Painted Hand Pueblo.

Best Trail

Sand Canyon Trail lies within Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and its southern trailhead is located just off paved County Road G.  The trail provides access to numerous archaeological sites; just remember to leave everything where you found it.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The most interesting unexcavated pueblo we have visited is Posi-Ouinge, which is accessible by a short trail from Ojo Caliente Hot Springs Resort in New Mexico.  The ground there is littered with thousands of pot shards, many with painted designs still visible.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/yuho/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The access road is well-maintained dirt.

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in parts of nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which is run by the BLM.

Related Sites

Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)

Hovenweap National Monument (Utah-Colorado)

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Explore More – Why did the Bureau of Land Management change the name of their visitor center in Dolores, Colorado from Anasazi Heritage Center?

Virgin Islands National Park

Overview

More than half the island of St. John is part of Virgin Islands National Park, a Caribbean paradise known for its white sand beaches and crystal waters.  The National Park also includes 95% of Hassel Island, which was once a peninsula connected to St. Thomas.  The region is still recovering after Hurricanes Irma and Maria did extensive damage in 2017, but did not seem to affect the sugar mill ruins that have been standing since the 1720s.

Highlights

Trunk Bay, Maho Bay, Annaberg Sugar Mill, Petroglyph Trail, Saltpond Bay

Must-Do Activity

Snorkeling is the number one reason to visit St. John, which is surrounded by coral reefs.  The Underwater Trail in popular Trunk Bay is a good place to start, but our favorite spot to snorkel was from the beautiful beach at Saltpond Bay where we saw sea turtles, reef squids, and countless other species.  From the beach a trail leads 1.8 miles roundtrip to the 200-foot high cliffs at Ram Head.

Best Trail

Reef Bay Trail starts near the island’s high point at 900 feet in elevation, then descends 1.5 miles to the split for Petroglyph Trail where the rocks around a seasonal waterfall have several Taino carvings.  Reef Bay Trail continues another mile to the ruins of a sugar mill where ranger-led hikes (fee) are met by a boat.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A small, paved pulloff at the top of a hill on North Shore Road looks east towards the white sand beaches of Trunk Bay, an image used in almost every promotional publication for St. John. 

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/viis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except when lifeguards are on duty at Trunk Bay.

Road Conditions

Two narrow, winding, paved routes (North Shore and Centerline Roads) leave from Cruz Bay where the ferries arrive.  Several dirt roads require four-wheel-drive, including Catherineberg Road.  Note: you drive on the left side of the road in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but in standard American left-side driver seat vehicles.

Camping

None on the island of St. John until the NPS reopens Cinnamon Bay Campground, which closed following the 2017 hurricanes.

We created this design to celebrate Virgin Islands National Park and it is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How long did the violent slave revolt in 1733 last before French troops arrived on St. John to return slaves to the sugarcane plantations?

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Tuzigoot National Monument

Overview

The Verde River Valley was first permanently settled by the agrarian Hohokam culture around AD700.  The ruins seen here today were built between AD1000 and 1400 by the Sinagua, who left many behind many structures in this region.

Highlights

Ruins, museum, scenic views

Must-Do Activity

The Sinagua pueblo at Tuzigoot had about 110 rooms and is estimated to have housed 200 to 300 people.  You can walk inside portions of the ruin, including a section with a reconstructed roof.

Best Trail

A trail leads to an overlook of Tavasci Marsh, a wetland important to wildlife.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Tuzigoot pueblo was strategically placed atop a 120-foot high limestone outcrop with commanding views in all directions, but was not a cliff dwelling like those built later at nearby Montezuma Castle and Walnut Canyon National Monuments.

Peak Season

Summer, though it can get hot in the afternoons

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/tuzi/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$15 per person or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Outside the town of Cottonwood, Dead Horse State Park offers campsites with RV hookups and showers.

Explore More – What is the English translation of the Apache word Tuzigoot?

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Overview

On the dry western side of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, south of bustling port city Kailua-Kona, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic Park is home to a reconstructed village that provides a glimpse into the daily life of the indigenous people hundreds of years ago.  The National Park Service (NPS) offers a visitor center, picnic area, and a festival held annually in July.

Highlights

Hale o Keawe temple, kōnane game table, fish ponds, Ki‘ilae village

Must-Do Activity

Adjacent to the popular snorkeling area dubbed “Two-Step,” this park sees its share of sea turtles.  Though these green sea turtles nest 800 miles to the northwest in the French Frigate Shoals, the well-known hula dance actually imitates the digging motions of a female turtle laying her eggs.  In the winter, watch for migrating humpback whales that spout and jump just offshore. 

Best Trail

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau was a “place of refuge” for vanquished warriors, noncombatants, and kapu (taboo) breakers to be absolved by a kahuna pule (priest) so they could return home in peace.  It was separated from the Royal Grounds by a 10-foot wall built in AD1550, which can be seen along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail that runs through the park to access Ki‘ilae village.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Carved wooden ki‘i are guardians of this place of refuge and stand next to this reconstruction of a temple and mausoleum that held the bones of 23 ali‘i (noble chiefs).  Ho‘okupu (offerings) were placed on the lele (tower) next to them.

Peak Season

The beach makes this spot popular year round

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/puho/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$15 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

County and state parks on the leeward west coast of this island are great places to camp and relax under palm trees listening to the waves break.

Explore More – What was the most severe punishment for breaking a kapu, such as letting your shadow fall on Royal Grounds?