A lot of times when Andy and I plan out trips, we cram a lot of activities in a day or two. While this speed isn’t for everyone, it works for us since we’re able to see a lot in a short amount of time. We didn’t fall in love with Sedona as many people who visit do, but we had a really good time and saw a lot of cool things. We’re starting to learn that cities that people seem to love are usually lower on our list and vice versa.
To increase our efficiency of seeing everything in a condensed timeline, we stayed at the Beaver Creek Inn in Lake Montezuma, about 30 minutes south of Sedona. This allowed us to hit a few of the landmarks which were south of Sedona first without having to backtrack.
Our first stop was to Montezuma Well. We figured that it probably wouldn’t be too interesting, but since it was free and on the way to other attractions that we should stop.
Once we arrived, we realized just how interesting it actually was. This large water source was one of the reasons that the natives were able to thrive. Not only did they have drinking water, but they were able to route this water to the valley below which watered all of their crops.
It gets weird though, since even in times of drought there is a steady stream of 1.5 million gallons of water daily coming up from the underground spring. Everything that the scientists have tried to put into the spring to gather information about the water source has been pushed back up. The water itself is not drinkable if it is taken directly from the source as there are high levels of arsenic. Additionally, due to the strange chemical makeup of the water, there are 5 species found exclusively in the well – a diatom, a springtail, a water scorpion, an amphipod, and a leech.
We took the trail down and saw several ruins along the trail. These were less preserved and much closer than the ones you see at Montezuma Castle which we actually preferred. If you hike all the way down to the end of the trail, you can see where the water is routed from the well to the valley.
One of the biggest attractions in the area is Montezuma Castle. When we arrived there were a number of tour busses and quite a few people around. We paid our entry fee and walked down the path to view the castle.
The castle was built in 1100. Andy and I found it almost comical that this structure was what the native Americans were building when the Cambodians built Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in 113 BC, over 1200 years earlier.
The castle itself was a little anticlimactic. The castle is quite far away and there is really no way to see the detail of the ruins. According to the park website, Montezuma Castle is actually 90% original. Prior to 1951 visitors were actually able to climb up a series of ladders to explore the castle. Concerns for safety and preservation of the structure led to the removal of the ladders. Unfortunately, now it’s just a ruin that is far away and not overly interesting from a distance. Once we saw the castle, we took a few pictures and left 15 minutes after we arrived.
According to the park website, it appears that they raised the entry fee to $10 per person. The admission allows entrance to both Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monument.
Tuzigoot National Monument
The first thing that we noticed was how there were a lot fewer people at Tuzigoot National Monument than there were at Montezuma’s castle which made us both happy. Neither of us is great at dealing with large crowds that aren’t used to being in crowded areas, plus it makes it harder to get good photos.
We spent a little bit of time in the museum before we went out to the ruins and were very impressed. There were a lot of artifacts and a video which showed just how long it takes to create the tools needed for the civilization. Personally I think that this museum is many times better than the Montezuma Castle museum.
We then we out to explore the Tuzigoot ruins. I liked the rawness of the ruins and that it was possible to walk around and see the ruins up close, unlike Montezuma Castle. It was quite spread out so there were not too many people near us at all. We explored and took a few shots of the ruins.
There were also tons of lizards running around all over the place. It seemed like every time we took a step you could see lizards scurrying away. Andy had a good time trying to get pictures of all the different lizards.
I had high hopes for Jerome, a former copper mining town turned ghost town. I was looking forward to seeing this town trapped in time, maybe a little haunted looking. At the peak in the 1920’s there were 10,000 residents but with the Great Depression and the drop in copper prices the mine shut down in 1953. After that only about 50 residents remained in the town. Today that number is around 500 residents.
As we searched for parking, I started to realize it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. It reminded me of a port town on a cruise ship with restaurants and shops all over. Obviously they were catering to tourists and since we aren’t big shoppers, this was a huge turn off to us.
I decided to give it a shot – we parked the car and walked around for a bit. While there were some abandoned buildings, there was not a whole strip of buildings unpreserved or anything that would make a great photo op. We left very quickly after we arrived, sad that we wasted the time to get to Jerome.
Devil’s Bridge Hike
While most people that visit Sedona likely go on several hikes, due to our timing constraints we only really had time for one. We decided to go to Devil’s Bridge as it looked really cool and had the opportunity for great photo ops.
As we drove, trying to find the parking lot, we were surprised for it being one of the most popular hiking trails that the parking lot was not marked really at all. The only way that we knew we were in the right place was all of the cars that we saw as well as the map pulled up on my iPhone. Since we were in Sedona over Memorial Day weekend, it was quite busy and finding a parking spot was a bit of a challenge. Luckily we found a parking spot and made a stop at the toilets before our hike.
The most deceiving thing about the hike is that you have a mile or so walk from the parking lot to get to the start of the trail. If you have an off road vehicle, you can bypass this walk but the roads are REALLY rough. Unless you have a huge pickup truck, I wouldn’t even attempt to drive it. As we hiked in, we saw many vehicles left on the road, especially by particularly rough sections.
Once we got to the trail, we began our hike to Devil’s Bridge, which is about .8 miles from the start of the trail. The elevation is quite high in this area, especially for us coming from Chicago where we are so close to sea level, so we were getting winded more easily than we normally would. The hike wasn’t too bad although there were a few points where you had to do some relatively challenging climbing. If you are a reasonably fit person, expect that you should do OK.
After about 30 minutes of hiking, we reached the bridge. It looked really narrow and we were both a little nervous to get out on it since there was quite a drop that would surely kill us if we lost our footing.
Since we wanted great pictures of us on the bridge, I chatted with another couple that was standing there looking at the bridge. I proposed that we would take their picture if they took ours. We headed out to get our pictures taken and were surprised just how wide the bridge is. From afar it looks like it is a foot wide, but in real life it is around 3.5 feet wide.
After we got our shots and took shots of the other couple, we headed back down to the car. The hike down was much easier than our uphill journey. We made sure to go at a good clip as there were storms brewing, with the rain starting a few minutes before we reached the parking lot.
Sedona is a great place to spend a long weekend and you can totally see everything that you would need to see over the course of 2-3 days. I recommend driving around to see the different red rock formations and making time to go on several different hikes.
If I were to do it again, I would eliminate our stop in Jerome and make more time for hiking.
Just beware of the horrible traffic if you visit. There are a lot of 2 lane roads and traffic circles – as you can imagine, this isn’t the best traffic pattern for alleviating traffic jams. On our way out of town we saw over 5 miles straight of backed up traffic on a 1 lane road. There was nowhere for the cars to turn around and I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken them to get where they needed to go.