Pros: a nice inclusion if in the area, reasonable entrance fee
Cons: not really a destination, lacks variety
As a history teacher, I appreciate the value of places like Tuzigoot. I think it's federal tax money well spent to preserve them and offer them as educational venues to the public. Any national park is worth a stop - and then why not, we pay for them!
We found this little historical treasure after making reservations on the Verde Canyon Railroad which runs out of Clarkdale close by.
We drove up I-17 from Phoenix ( a little over an hour) and hacked off at Exit 287 (the Verde Valley). At this exit you will find lots of motels, fast food places, gas stations, and gift shops. Travel west on Highway 260 a dozen or so miles toward Cottonwood and you will come upon the sign for the Tuzigoot National Monument to the right.
A short drive off the highway will take you to the visitor's center which is air conditioned and staffed by a friendly park ranger (she gave us some great recipes while we were there - had nothing to do with the history of the place, she was just friendly!).
Admission was $3.00 per person. You could also get cold drinks, souvenirs,and books in the gift shop. There were three aisles of archaeological finds - pottery, weapons, implements, etc... A life-sized diarama also depicted a scene from pueblo life to give you an idea of how it might have looked. There are restrooms in the center, and in a small building at the beginning of the trail.
History and the Ruins
The Sinagua lived here from about 1000 to around 1400 and then the place mysteriously became uninhabited. As I walked around the ruins I could not help but chuckle thinking about how many teachers have returned from field trips with classes and asked their students to write an essay telling what might have happened to them.
The main trail around the ruins on the hilltop is well-constructed and mostly paved. It is a bit steep in places, and there are steps if you want to crawl around in and on the ruins. Only one habitat has a reconstructed roof- the rest are just walls. Because there is not much left, it is fairly monotonous viewing. A few of the pueblos have some mortars and pestals in them and that's about it.
At the bottom of the hill appear to be additional ruins that just lie among plant life untouched. That was curiuous.
Standing on the hill and looking down at the river valley below, it was interesting to think about living here. It was a beautiful place and had everything one would need for survival. Although I couldn't imagine having to carry water up the hill each day from the river.
The pueblos were actually the condominiums of their day.Makes one wonder about the sociology of the community. You'd have to have some organization in your society to live together so closely without killing each other.
The main trail is about a quarter mile around and not very difficult. The other trail that descends the hill is a little more rough and you would need to be in good shape to tackle that one.
We spent a little more than hour at the monument - including the visitor's center. It made a great stop on the way to Clarkdale to board the train - our primary destination. The monument is good to include in a visit to Jerome, the Verde Canyon/Cottonwood area, or to hop off the interstate in route to Flagstaff from Phoenix.