About one and a half hours north of Phoenix are two National Monuments that are well worth a day trip from the Phoenix area. Arizona's National Parks map.
Montezuma Castle National Monument stands in a cliff recess a hundred feet above the Verde Valley. It was five-story a 20-room dwelling built by the peaceful Sinagua farmers in the 12th century. This area overlooked fertile fields where they grew corn, beans squash and cotton.
Nearby, a creek provided them with a reliable source of water. This location also provided some safety from potentially dangerous visitors.
Montezuma Castle was so securely built that it is now one of the best preserved prehistoric structures in the Southwest. Nearby one can also see some of the remaining ruins from an additional six-story 45-room dwelling which was built at the base of the cliff.
Tuzigoot is an Apache word meaning "crooked water." Tuzigoot National Monument is a remnant of a Sinaguan village built above the Verde Valley before 1400. It is thought that the population here, and the building of additional rooms as a consequence, was comprised of farmers leaving the drought in outlying areas. Visitors are invited to walk in and around Tuzigoot to try to imagine the daily life of the Sinagua who farmed, hunted and created pottery and artwork in this area hundreds of years ago.
Montezuma Well is also open to the public for visits. The well is a limestone sink formed hundreds of years ago. The local inhabitants of the era used the waters from the well to irrigate their crops. Remains of a pithouse can be seen here, as well as cliff dwellings, all visible from the visitor paths.
It's about a 20 minute drive from the Montezuma Castle National Monument.
Both Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot are managed by the National Park Service. The museum at Montezuma Castle provides good information, but needs a bit of refurbishment. The Visitor Center at Tuzigoot, however, is very well done. Both monuments are very interesting, but for the younger crowd Tuzigoot will be the more popular of the two since you can actually walk up, in and around the structure. No food is available at any of these locations, so bring some sandwiches and fruit and drinks. There is a picnic area at Montezuma Castle. If visiting in the spring and summer, make sure to bring a hat and suncreeen, since there is little protection from the sun.
There is an entrance fee for both Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National monuments. Check online for discount opportunities for military and seniors. On certain days of the year, everyone is admitted free to many of Arizona's National Parks and Monuments, including these.
Directions from Phoenix to Montezuma Castle: take I-17 north to exit 289 Exit 289 and follow the signs 3 miles to the Visitor Center parking lot. From there, to get to Tuzigoot, go back to I-17 to the 260 cutoff toward Cottonwood.
Take 279, the old road through Cottonwood, to Clarkdale and follow the signs to Tuzigoot.