Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Tuzigoot National Monument – Clarkdale, Arizona

in Arizona

While on a day trip up to Jerome, AZ to explore the hillside town – we opted to stop and check out the Tuzigoot National Monument which is located in Clarkdale (a short drive from Jerome.) The monument is surrounded by a very short 1/3 mile trail which loops around the monument itself. Also located at the park is a visitor’s center with additional information about this fascinating historical monument.

The Tuzigoot National Monument is the remains of a 110-room pueblo. The oldest rooms in the structure date back 900 years ago. However, not all the rooms were built at the same time – the structure was created over hundreds of years room by room. There are displays at the monument to help you visualize what sections were built when.

Until 1933, the monument looked like a hill strewn with rubble. An excavation was led by Louis R. Caywood and Edward H. Spicer to uncover some of the story of Tuzigoot. This excavation and the partial rebuild of some of the pueblo structure provided jobs for local families during the Great Depression.

Tuzigoot National Monument

The park is open from 9am to 5pm everyday except Christmas Day. You must check in at the visitor’s center and pay the fee ($10.00 per person over 16, children 16 and under are free) by 4pm to gain entrance to the monument. The $10.00 per person fee allows you access to both Tuzigoot and the nearby Montezuma Castle. If you want to avoid paying the fee, there are fee-free days (check the website at Tuzigoot Fees – National Park Service for more details.)

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There are restrooms and running water available at the visitor’s center. In addition, there is a fairly large display of artifacts and a small gift shop. My kids had a good time checking out all the exhibits.

We went inside to pay the entrance fee and decided to hike the short trail before exploring the visitor’s center. At the beginning of the trail – here’s a shot looking back at the visitor’s center. The center itself (built in 1935 after the excavation of the ruins) was built to blend in by matching the same pueblo style as the ruins including the use of some of the original stones from the excavation.

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And if you turn to look up the trail – this is what you’ll see.

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If you turn to the right as you walk up the trail – you’ll see the town of Clarkdale in the valley and Jerome high up on the hillside (it’s a bit hard to see, but there is a ‘J’ on the hillside directly above the town.) The area (the Verde Valley) has a rich history of copper mining dating back to the 1880’s.

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The land near the park was actually polluted for years with approximately 5 million tons of mining waste (or tailings) spread out over about 116 acres. In the past, the winds would create spectacular orange copper dust storms in the region. To help with this problem, in 2006 the tailings were covered (or capped) and planted with local vegetation. You can see the area in the shot below. The scrubby looking flat area was bare copper mining waste as little as 10 years ago.

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No one is exactly sure who the inhabitants of Tuzigoot were. The word “Tuzigoot” was selected by the workers who rebuilt it (from the Western Apache word Tú zighoot.) The Yavapai call it Ah-hah dtahlahkvah. Both words mean “crooked water” which refers to the sizeable bend in the Verde River located nearby.

The shot below is looking backwards from the paved trail towards the visitor’s center.

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Once you walk a short distance uphill – you’ll see the first of the rebuilt pueblo structures. They’re little more than shallow rooms with stone walls. A few had doorways, but the thing we couldn’t get over was that more often than not – they had no visible doorways. We suspected that this was due to covering up the doorways to keep park visitors out, but we discovered that actually the original structures didn’t have doorways. The rooms were accessed from an opening in the thatched roof via a ladder in order to keep out animals and other unwanted guests.

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The pueblo rooms form a sort of honeycomb as you climb up the hill. And at the very top, there is a two story building with a deck of sorts with an amazing view of the surrounding valley and hillsides (called the tower room.) Here’s a shot of the stairs you climb to get to the top building.

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Perhaps the coolest view of all – here’s a shot from the roofdeck of the tower room as you look down the hill.

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Here’s the view from the other side looking towards the visitor’s center.

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Inside the two story building – there is a very dark, almost cavernous room that includes the stairs to the roofdeck.

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Here’s a shot of the tower room from the outside.

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Once you leave the tower room and continue on the loop trail – you’ll see even more honeycomb rooms cascading down the other side of the hill.

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Inside one of the rooms, we saw this very interesting display of a grinding stone.

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The loop trail takes you back to the visitor’s center and the parking lot. After we hiked the trail – we headed into the visitor’s center to check out the displays.

This is one amazing piece of history – and it doesn’t take long to check it out! We spent about an hour here and saw just about everything you can see. It’s definitely worth checking out when you’re in or around Clarkdale.

For more information, please visit the Tuzigoot National Monument at the National Park Service website.

Other Nearby Parks and Trails:

RobinGuest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.

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