Imagine the red rock landscape of Sedona populated by saber-toothed tigers, giant sloths, mammoths, camels and bison.
Thousands of years ago, this landscape would have been quite a scene to behold. Early human inhabitants, too, once roamed the land in search of sustenance. These cultures left behind remnants that hint at their way of life. Their artifacts and etchings are now on display across a variety of museums and natural sites.
With a little imagination — or a helpful tour guide — you can delve below the surface of Sedona’s red rock beauty to discover ancient cultures that once called these lush valleys and canyons home.
Living Off the Land
Mostly nomadic early inhabitants lived light on the land, hunting large fauna and gathering berries, wild grapes and other foraged edibles. While artifacts have been found on ledges in the red rock areas of Sedona, the best place to dig into this early culture is at Wupatki National Monument, an hour’s drive by interstate from Bell Rock Inn.
Discover the bounty available to this ancient culture — more than 240 plant species grow in the area. Early people ate some of these plants, while fibers from others were used to make clothing, baskets, paints and other useful items. Visit the museum to see artifacts up close, walk to centuries-old pueblos that housed thousands and see what was for dinner way back when.
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Where Life Began
Journey a few miles east of Interstate 17, south of Sedona, and explore ancient ways at Montezuma Well. Some legends say this sinkhole is where humans first entered the world. The drive through the surrounding desert offers a few hints to the bounty of the site.
The destination is home to a number of ruins, from relics of a dwelling perched along the ledge overlooking the well, to a pit house, hilltop pueblo and a cool, shady cave along the well’s shoreline. With high carbon dioxide and arsenic levels, the well is inhospitable to fish, but five species of water creatures are found here and nowhere else in the world.
The always-free site offers prime bird-watching opportunities and interpretive signage along the loop trail to identify plants.
Step Into the Past
The Citadel Room’s majestic viga rafters form its ceiling and a stairway to the roof, where you can get a panoramic view of the Verde Valley. Snap some Insta-worthy photos of your friends and family from below as they wave to you from its towering height.
When you descend, set aside 20 to 30 minutes to meander through the park’s museum. Giant water pots, spear points and arrowheads are just some of the many items on display. Check out the centuries-old fabrics and jewelry, where intricate designs bear witness to ancient fashions.
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Tucked along the shores of Beaver Creek, Montezuma Castle National Monument offers a similar creekside ambiance to that found at Los Abrigados Resort & Spa — with one noticeable difference. Montezuma Castle nestles into a sheer cliff face, a seemingly miraculous feat considering that it is several stories high.
The stunning 20-room high-rise was the third national monument dedicated in the U.S. back in 1906. Wander along the paved, accessible trail to view the pueblo from several angles.
See the Wonder
What would any trip to Arizona be without a visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Although it seems desolate, the Grand Canyon has been continuously occupied by a variety of cultures for 12,000 years. At least 11 local cultures have ancestral roots stemming from the vast canyon.
A survey of just 5% of the canyon yielded 4,300 archaeological resources. Many of the ancient items are carefully preserved in the Grand Canyon Museum collection, which is open only to researchers. However, you can tap into the canyon’s cultural history at venues along the 13-mile Rim Trail. When your feet get tired, ride a free shuttle bus to your next stop or back to your car.
If you don’t want to drive, consider taking a tour. Meet your Pink® Adventure Tour certified interpretive guide in the lobby of your hotel, and set out on a 10-hour adventure that includes lunch along the way.
Pro tip: Getting an America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass can be a low-cost way to see the sights when you travel, but it also gives you a deeper look into the local area. If you’ll be touring America’s National Parks this year, consider calling one of Diamond’s convenient, spacious suites your home base for adventure.
Diamond Resorts International Marketing, Inc., its parents, sister companies, and subsidiaries, make no warranty, express or implied, as to the condition, capacity, performance or any other aspect of the activities, events, or service providers listed herein. No inquiry has been made into the activities or events, or the qualifications or the quality of services offered by the providers. Do not consider this an endorsement of or recommendation for any of the activities, events, or providers.
Jodi O’Connell has a contractual relationship with Diamond Resorts.