easy (kid friendly)
Overview: The Tuzigoot National Monument is another Arizona icon prominently featured in many travel brochures and guidebooks on the American South West. I recently visited the "sister" National Monuments in the Verde Valley, Montezuma Well and Castle, and missed out on Tuzigoot to complete the ruins "hat-trick". A recent trip to the area allowed me to make amends.
Pull into the Visitor Center parking lot and you will soon discover that there are 2 trails to be explored. The Ruins Loop trail is 0.70 miles (per my GPS) or 1/4 mile (per NPS) long. The Tavasci Marsh Overlook trail is 0.76 miles (per my GPS) or 1/4 mile (per NPS) long. Both trails are paved in concrete, so don't expect a wilderness experience. Suspect the distance discrepancy is a function of curiosity! There's plenty of park benches strategically located about every 100 feet allowing one to rest and ponder the history.
Start your hike at the visitor's center by paying the entrance fee. Inside there's an interpretive display of various artifacts unearthed primarily during the 1933 to 1939 archeological dig and restoration of the ruins. Local and federal government financial support helped Louis Caywood and Edward Spicer unearth an estimated 110 rooms at the Tuzigoot site. They also encountered several hundred burials near the main building. In 1935 construction of a small, old style museum began to house many of the finds. The entire site ridge, the museum and its complete collection were donated to the federal government in 1939 prompting President Franklin Roosevelt to proclaim it Tuzigoot National Monument. That small, old style museum still stands and is now the visitor's center.
Ruins Loop Trail
From the visitor's center, follow the sidewalk signage due south. There are many plaques along the walk way containing factoids about the Tuzigoot pueblo and life of the Sinagua inhabitants. Taking a counter-clockwise loop around the pueblo ruins you'll encounter several outer rooms on the north-west side with mano and metate (grinding stone and basin) intact.
Walking along the west side you'll notice the alignment of the rooms follows the contour of the ridge. I was pleasantly surprised to see people taking in the view from the highest vantage point of the pueblo ruins.
Continue along the walk to the south side and you'll see stairs that climb to an entrance into an upper floor pueblo. Enter the room and take note of the construction. Notice the use of wooden beams and floorboards.
From inside this room, stairs lead up onto the roof. The roof-top vista allows you to absorb the shear size of the ancient pueblo. Here is a roof top view looking north. Here is a roof top view looking south. The view to the west has prominent orange-colored collecting pools. A nearby plaque reveals the mystery and the continuing mineral heritage of the Verde Valley.
Exit the roof top vista and continue walking along the loop trail to the south. Head along the east side and head back to the visitor's center.
The best photo location of the pueblo ruins appears to be from the East. Unfortunately I couldn't locate a path to this vantage point! Consulting a map afterwards, looks like Dead Horse State Park may be the primo pueblo ruins photo location...
Tavasci Marsh Overlook Trail
From the visitor's center, follow the sidewalk signage due north. Again there are many plaques along the walk way describing the marsh geological history and importance today for migratory birds. Sit a while at the observation deck listening to the birds, frogs and other marsh inhabitants.
I'm often asked to recommend "family-friendly" hikes. This easy trail is an excellent introduction to the archeological wonders of the American southwest, particularly for kids. If you have out of state visitors with varied physical capabilities or interests, this is a highly recommended destination. Think of it as 2 mini-hikes in 1, a pueblo ruin loop-trail plus a unique riparian wetlands trail. It's an interesting side-trip while in the Sedona area. Enjoy!
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.