15 Things to Do in Camp Verde (AZ)

Written by Sofia Jones
Updated on
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Nestled between the breathtaking Sonora Desert and the majestic Colorado Plateau, Camp Verde is my haven in the enchanting state of Arizona. Situated at the southern end of the Verde Valley, this picturesque town is surrounded by soaring highlands, some reaching heights of up to 7,000 feet. At an altitude of just over 3,000 feet, Camp Verde enjoys a mild and pleasant climate throughout the year, particularly outside the peak of summer.

What makes Camp Verde truly special is its unique blend of outdoor adventures and a rich cultural heritage. As you explore the area, you’ll have the opportunity to partake in a myriad of outdoor activities while delving into the captivating history of the ancient civilizations that once thrived in this region.

Despite its proximity to major cities like Phoenix and Flagstaff, Camp Verde proudly stands as a sought-after destination in its own right. Whether you’re seeking exhilarating hikes through breathtaking landscapes, thrilling bike rides along scenic trails, or tranquil boat rides on serene waters, Camp Verde offers an abundance of outdoor wonders to satisfy your adventurous spirit.

Immerse yourself in the local culture by sampling the delightful wines produced in the region, each sip capturing the essence of the land. Uncover the stories of the diverse cultures that flourished in Camp Verde long before the arrival of Native Americans and subsequent white settlers. It’s a journey through time that will leave you in awe of the enduring legacy they have left behind.

So, if you find yourself traversing the beautiful landscapes of Arizona, I invite you to discover the 15 unforgettable things to do in Camp Verde. Prepare to be captivated by the wonders that await you in this extraordinary destination.

1. Fort Verde State Historic Park

Fort Verde State Historic ParkSource: docentjoyce / Flickr
Fort Verde State Historic Park

During the late 19th century, the Verde Valley was a significant location for the US Army and their families. It was a time when the American Indian Wars were raging, and General Crook played a pivotal role in the region.

Today, three remarkable museums offer a glimpse into the lives of those who resided in the forts during that turbulent era. Step back in time as you enter the administration building, which has been transformed into a captivating center adorned with authentic artifacts, engaging exhibits, and a comprehensive history of the Wars. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich past and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs of that time.

The park itself stands as a testament to the preservation of history. It is undoubtedly one of Arizona’s best-preserved sites, providing a captivating experience for visitors. To enhance your visit, the park occasionally hosts living history performances, where talented actors breathe life into the stories of the past, transporting you back to that era. As you explore, you’ll find convenient picnic facilities, well-maintained restrooms, and ample parking, ensuring your comfort and enjoyment throughout your visit.

Beyond being an educational journey, the park offers a serene and picturesque setting for relaxation and contemplation. Take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you, allowing the weight of history to settle upon your shoulders.

2. Camp Verde Historical Society Museum

Camp Verde Historical Society MuseumSource: Visitcampverde
Camp Verde Historical Society Museum

Nestled on Main Street, the museum resides within the charming walls of the Schoolhouse—a true treasure in itself. Built with sturdy stone in 1914, this historic building now serves a dual purpose as both a museum and the headquarters of the Society, which also operates as the Visitor Center. As you explore the town’s Historic Building Walking Tour, be sure to make a stop at this remarkable schoolhouse to experience a piece of Camp Verde’s past.

The Society takes great pride in preserving the town’s heritage, including the meticulous upkeep of the Old Jail and the stewardship of other significant historical buildings in the area. Their dedication to safeguarding these sites ensures that future generations can appreciate the rich tapestry of Camp Verde’s past.

Step inside the museum, and you’ll be greeted by a captivating collection of documents, artifacts, and photographs that span an impressive 1,000 years of local history. It’s a journey through time, offering valuable insights into the lives and experiences of the region’s first pioneers, Native Indians, miners, and traders who have shaped its vibrant past. Whether you’re seeking to delve into the stories of early settlers or unravel the intricacies of trade and mining, this museum is the ideal destination.

3. Verde Valley Railroad

Verde Valley RailroadSource: Pamela Au / shutterstock
Verde Valley Railroad

Settle into your seat, lean back, and let the breathtaking scenery unfold before your eyes as you embark on a captivating train journey from the historic town of Clarkdale to Perkinsville and back. This enchanting route winds through a stunning canyon, offering a glimpse into the remarkable landscapes that may not rival the grandeur of the Grand Canyon but are no less awe-inspiring.

As the train gently chugs along, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the region’s diverse flora and fauna, as well as rugged vistas that are exclusive to this scenic railway. The four hours you spend aboard will seemingly fly by, as every moment is filled with captivating sights and intriguing discoveries.

Keep your eyes peeled for remnants of the past, as you catch glimpses of ancient ruins that once housed Native American communities. One notable highlight is a manmade tunnel, a remarkable engineering feat that stretches nearly 700 feet. This tunnel was painstakingly carved out to forge the path that the train now traverses, a testament to human ingenuity and determination.

Throughout the journey, an engaging audio narration accompanies the scenic ride, offering fascinating insights into the history and archaeology that envelop the railway. The knowledgeable train attendants are also at hand, eager to share their expertise and enlighten passengers about the rich heritage that surrounds the rail track.

4. Verde Valley Archaeological Center

Verde Valley Archaeological CenterSource: Verde Valley Archaeology Center / Facebook
Verde Valley Archaeological Center

Nearly a decade has passed since the establishment of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, nestled in the heart of Camp Verde. Its primary mission is to safeguard the rich history of the ancient peoples who once inhabited the verdant valley long before recorded history.

To prevent the dispersion of precious artifacts, the center has painstakingly curated a remarkable collection sourced from both private and public collections. This dedicated effort ensures that these significant pieces remain within the local community. Furthermore, the center actively engages in ongoing research and extensive cataloging to deepen our understanding of the region’s captivating past.

Dedicated to sharing knowledge and fostering appreciation, the center hosts regular programs and educational initiatives tailored for both residents and visitors alike. Through these enlightening activities, individuals have the opportunity to delve into the enthralling history that unfolds within the valley’s embrace.

Among the center’s notable treasures is the esteemed Dyck Collection, a magnificent assemblage of 25,000 artifacts generously entrusted to the center for safekeeping. This extraordinary collection not only provides a glimpse into the ancient world but also serves as a testament to the center’s commitment to preserving and celebrating the cultural heritage of the region.

While exploring the center, be sure not to miss the captivating exhibits showcasing ancient textile weavings. These remarkable artifacts offer a fascinating insight into the creative and technical skills of the valley’s past inhabitants, providing a vivid tapestry of their lives and cultural practices.

5. Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle, ArizonaSource: Pamela Au / shutterstock
Montezuma Castle

I had the privilege of visiting the Montezuma Castle National Monument, a remarkable site that transports you back in time to the 8th century. The cliff dwellings, built by the Sinagua people, offer a fascinating glimpse into the ancient civilizations that once thrived in this region.

As I explored the magnificent structures, I couldn’t help but feel a profound connection to the past. These cliff houses, inhabited by the Sinagua people around 700 AD, served as a home to subsequent generations. In fact, several Hopi clans have recognized their ancestors among the inhabitants of these dwellings, leading to occasional visits by Hopis for ceremonial purposes. These visits hold great significance and can be likened to pilgrimages, reinforcing the spiritual and cultural ties between the Hopi people and this sacred site.

It’s worth noting that the name “Montezuma” was given to these dwellings by European Americans when they encountered them in the 1860s. They attributed the construction to Montezuma, the renowned Aztec Emperor of Mexico. However, it is important to clarify that these cliff dwellings had been abandoned long before Montezuma’s birth. The name persists to this day, serving as a reminder of the complex history and the interactions between different cultures in this region.

I left the monument with a deeper understanding of the intricate stories that shape our past. The experience reminded me of the immense cultural diversity and the significance of preserving and appreciating the heritage of those who came before us. The Montezuma Castle National Monument serves as a beacon, inviting visitors like myself to embark on a journey of discovery, honoring the legacy of the ancient civilizations that once flourished in this captivating landscape.

6. Montezuma Well

Montezuma WellSource: Alexey Stiop / shutterstock
Montezuma Well

I had the opportunity to visit a remarkable natural wonder near Rimrock known as the Montezuma Well. This unique sinkhole, formed by nature itself, showcases the awe-inspiring power of water. With an astonishing daily flow of 1.4 million US gallons, it’s a sight to behold.

As I gazed into the well, I couldn’t help but be captivated by its immense dimensions. The Montezuma Well spans an impressive 368 feet across and plunges to a depth of 55 feet. The water that fills this mesmerizing sinkhole is carbonated and carries significant levels of arsenic, adding to its mystique.

What struck me the most about this natural wonder is its role as a sanctuary for unique species. Five fascinating species call this well home and can be found nowhere else in the United States. From the elusive water scorpion to the diatom, a remarkable form of algae, and the peculiar leech, every resident of the Montezuma Well contributes to the vibrant biodiversity within its depths. The amphipod and the springtail complete this extraordinary cast of characters, showcasing the wonders of nature’s ingenuity.

It was intriguing to learn that the Montezuma Well has been utilized for irrigation purposes since ancient times, dating back to the 8th century. Near the picnic area, evidence of a prehistoric canal can still be seen, serving as a testament to the early human presence in this area. Remarkably, even today, an ancient Sinagua Canal continues to serve its purpose, reminding us of the enduring legacy of those who came before us.

7. Tuzigoot

Tuzigoot National MonumentSource: Zack Frank / shutterstock
Tuzigoot National Monument

During my exploration of the Verde Valley, I had the opportunity to visit Tuzigoot National Monument, a fascinating site that offers a glimpse into the lives of the Sinagua people. Unlike the cliff dwellings they are renowned for, Tuzigoot showcases a different architectural marvel from the 12th century.

As I approached the sandstone ridge, I marveled at the cluster of homes perched atop the hill. It is estimated that up to 250 individuals once called this place home, until it was eventually abandoned in the 15th century. The remnants of their dwellings provide a tangible connection to the past, offering a glimpse into the daily lives and traditions of the Sinagua people.

To reach Tuzigoot, I followed a trail that not only led me to the site but also treated me to stunning views of the surrounding Verde Valley. Along the way, I was delighted to find that the trail is accessible for wheelchair users, allowing everyone to experience the wonder of Tuzigoot. As I walked the loop, I couldn’t help but appreciate the diverse flora that flourished in this arid landscape. From unique cacti to resilient shrubs, the local fauna added to the enchanting atmosphere.

Upon arrival at the Visitor Center, I was greeted by a building that beautifully mirrors the architectural style of the ruins themselves. Inside, a small yet intriguing display showcased artifacts recovered from the site over time. It was a fascinating opportunity to observe and learn about the material remnants of the Sinagua people’s daily lives.

One of the highlights of my visit was the best-preserved dwelling within Tuzigoot. This pueblo structure beckoned me to climb a ladder and ascend to the rooftop. From this vantage point, I enjoyed a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, imagining what life must have been like for the Sinagua people as they gazed upon the same vistas centuries ago.

8. Palatki Heritage Site

Palatki Heritage SiteSource: Kenneth Keifer / shutterstock
Palatki Heritage Site

As I ventured into the Coconino Forest, I discovered a hidden gem known as Palatki, which translates to “Red House” in the Hopi language.

The historical significance of Palatki dates back to 1895 when the Smithsonian Institute documented its existence. These remarkable cliff dwellings were once home to the Sinagua people, who inhabited the area for several centuries starting from the 12th century.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by two buildings that stood as testaments to the past. Unfortunately, one of the structures has been closed to the public for some time due to its deteriorating condition. Nevertheless, the remaining building is a sight to behold, well worth the effort of exploring. With its sturdy foundation, it showcases five rooms on the ground floor and an additional three rooms above, providing a glimpse into the living spaces of the Sinagua people.

As I stood before the ancient dwelling, I marveled at the architectural prowess displayed by the Sinagua. The red hue of the sandstone cliffs surrounding Palatki added to the allure of the site, creating a striking contrast against the blue sky. I couldn’t help but imagine the lives of those who once called this place home, their daily activities and stories woven into the very fabric of these walls.

While exploring the rooms, I felt a sense of reverence for the history that unfolded within these walls. The natural light filtering through the openings painted a mesmerizing picture, casting intriguing shadows that danced across the surfaces. It was a humbling experience to stand in the footsteps of the Sinagua, connecting with their legacy and the cultural significance of Palatki.

As I wandered through the dwelling, I found myself immersed in the intricate details and remnants of a bygone era. Each room held its own story, inviting me to imagine the activities and rituals that once took place within these walls. The skillful craftsmanship of the Sinagua people was evident in every nook and cranny, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape.

My visit to Palatki left me with a deep appreciation for the rich history and cultural heritage of the Sinagua people. It was a profound encounter with the past, reminding me of the resilience and ingenuity of those who came before us. As I departed from this sacred site, I carried with me a renewed sense of connection to the land and a greater understanding of the diverse cultures that have shaped this remarkable region.

Palatki is a testament to the enduring legacy of the Sinagua people and a captivating destination for those seeking a profound encounter with ancient history. Its awe-inspiring cliff dwellings and intriguing stories etched into the walls offer a glimpse into the vibrant past of this remarkable site.

9. Honanki Ruins

Honanki RuinsSource: William Hager / shutterstock
Honanki Ruins

Honanki offered a captivating glimpse into the lives of the ancient Sinagua people. With over 60 ground floor rooms, the magnitude of this dwelling left me in awe. As I explored the site, I couldn’t help but imagine the bustling activity that once filled these rooms, envisioning the community that thrived within these ancient walls. Remarkably, an additional row of rooms at the front added to the grandeur of Honanki, totaling a remarkable 72 rooms in total.

What struck me the most about Honanki was the convergence of three distinct cultures within its history. While the Sinagua people occupied this site until approximately 1300, the presence of the Yavapai and Apache peoples in more recent centuries added layers of richness to its narrative. It was fascinating to witness the evolution of this site and the diverse cultural influences that shaped its legacy.

I found myself immersed in the remnants of a vibrant past. The weathered sandstone walls stood as silent witnesses to the stories and traditions that unfolded within these rooms. Each step I took brought me closer to understanding the interconnectedness of these cultures and the significance of Honanki as a meeting point of diverse peoples.

Unlike some sites, Honanki did not have guides to lead the way. Instead, it invited visitors to embark on a personal exploration, allowing us to forge our own connection with the site and its multifaceted history. This freedom provided a unique opportunity to engage with the past on a more intimate level, piecing together the narratives of the Sinagua, Yavapai, and Apache peoples through the tangible remnants they left behind.

10. Clear Creek Church & Cemetery

Clear Creek Church & CemeterySource: Tony the Marine (talk) / Wikimedia
Clear Creek Church & Cemetery

As I ventured through the picturesque town, I stumbled upon a charming church crafted from limestone sourced from the White Hills. The construction of this magnificent structure commenced in 1898 and spanned an impressive five years.

Initially serving as the community’s Methodist Church, this sacred place of worship held the hearts of the local residents until 1913, when a new church closer to town assumed its role. In the tumultuous years of the Second World War, the church found itself transformed into a cannery, repurposed to support the war effort. Unfortunately, this period of industrial use left the church in a dilapidated state.

Fortunately, the Camp Verde Historical Society stepped in to rescue this historical gem from further decay. In the late 1970s, they dedicated themselves to meticulously restoring the church to its former glory. Today, this cherished landmark stands as a testament to their unwavering commitment to preserving the town’s rich heritage.

The restored church now holds a special place not only in history but also in the hearts of the community. It has become a sought-after venue for joyous occasions, such as weddings, where couples can exchange vows in the embrace of its hallowed walls. Additionally, the doors of the church remain open to the public, inviting visitors to experience the serenity and beauty that radiate within its sacred confines.

Adjacent to the church lies a cemetery, serving as the final resting place for many pioneers who played pivotal roles in shaping the town’s early years. Among the notable figures interred there is Wales Arnold, an esteemed early settler whose contributions to the community are forever remembered. Tragically, the cemetery also holds the graves of a couple whose lives were cut short in a tragic robbery-gone-wrong in 1899, a somber reminder of the challenges faced by those who ventured to this frontier town.

11. Out of Africa Wild Animal Park

Out of Africa Wild Animal ParkSource: Donald Tibbits / shutterstock
Out Of Africa Wild Animal Park

I absolutely love this Theme Park because it goes above and beyond being just a zoo. Its main focus is on educating, conserving, and entertaining visitors, all while ensuring utmost respect for the animals that call this place home.

One of the things that sets this park apart is the incredible opportunity for visitors to truly connect with the animals. Whether it’s through guided walks or engaging tours, you can get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures without ever being in harm’s way. It’s a truly unique experience that the whole family can enjoy, and the shows they put on are undoubtedly one of the highlights of any visit.

What I find particularly impressive is the diverse range of species that call this park their home. While it’s not limited to just African animals, you can still find three out of the famous “Big Five” here, including lions, rhinos, and buffalos. On top of that, they also have three different species of tigers, as well as an impressive collection of birds and snakes. The variety is simply astounding!

12. Cliff Castle Casino (Yavapai-Apache Nation)

Cliff Castle CasinoSource: EQRoy / shutterstock
Cliff Castle Casino

Camp Verde offers an array of activities that go beyond the usual daytime options. To cap off an eventful day, the Cliff Castle Casino presents an exciting opportunity for some evening entertainment. Whether I want to try my luck at gambling or simply indulge in a delicious steak at one of the restaurants, the casino is the perfect way to conclude my day. For a lighter dining experience, I can also opt for the delightful buffet.

What’s remarkable about Camp Verde is that it caters to the entire family. While the kids can enjoy themselves with bowling and video games, there are also cocktail lounges available for the adults to unwind and relax. The hotel truly offers something for everyone, ensuring that everyone’s interests are met.

The owners of this extraordinary establishment are the Yavapai-Apache Nation, the indigenous peoples who have inhabited this land long before the arrival of white settlers. After years of exile, the people of the Nation returned to this place and have become the primary employers in Camp Verde. They own substantial portions of land, including the impressive Cliff Castle Casino, contributing significantly to the local economy.

It’s inspiring to see how the Yavapai-Apache Nation has revitalized their presence in Camp Verde, creating a thriving business that benefits both the community and visitors like me. The rich cultural heritage and their stewardship of the land make the experience at Cliff Castle Casino even more meaningful.

13. Traveling the Verde River Greenway

Verde RiverSource: Jon Manjeot / shutterstock
Verde River

Anyone who enjoys walking is certain to love spending time outdoors in Arizona. A number of trails are found in the immediate vicinity of Camp Verde, and there is plenty of advice and assistance for those who need it.

One trail that offers significant history as well is the General Crook Trail, which the US Army took to move between Fort Whipple via Fort Verde to Fort Apache.

25 miles long, the US Forest Service maintains it. Access can be found at a number of places on the trail. Just take plenty of water on a hot day.

14. Clear Creek Vineyard and Winery

Clear Creek Vineyard And WinerySource: Clear Creek Vineyard & Winery, Home of the Rio Claro Wines / Facebook
Clear Creek Vineyard And Winery

I stumbled upon this charming winery, which feels like it belongs in Europe rather than Arizona. Operated under the brand of Rio Claro, it offers a delightful experience for wine enthusiasts like myself.

One of the highlights of visiting this winery is the opportunity to sample their exquisite wines. Picture yourself sitting on a veranda, savoring a glass of wine while taking in the breathtaking view of the vineyard, the distant mountains, and a serene pond. It’s truly a picturesque setting that enhances the overall tasting experience. The host, who is a wealth of knowledge about wine and its production, is more than happy to engage in conversation and share insights.

What sets this winery apart is its versatility. Not only can you drop in during daylight hours from Wednesday to Sunday to enjoy the wines and the surroundings, but you can also book the venue for small parties and celebrations. Whether it’s a special occasion or a spontaneous gathering, this winery offers a warm and inviting space to create lasting memories.

No advance booking is required, making it convenient for those seeking a spontaneous visit. Just swing by during operating hours, and you’ll be warmly welcomed into this European-like oasis in the heart of Arizona.

15. General Crook Trail

General Crook TrailSource: Visitcampverde
General Crook Trail

As someone who appreciates the joys of walking, Arizona has become a true haven for outdoor enthusiasts like myself. The vicinity of Camp Verde is blessed with a variety of trails, and there is ample guidance and support available for those in need.

Among the many trails in the area, the General Crook Trail stands out not only for its scenic beauty but also for its historical significance. This trail was once used by the US Army as a vital route connecting Fort Whipple, Fort Verde, and Fort Apache.

Stretching across 25 miles, the General Crook Trail is meticulously maintained by the US Forest Service. Access points can be found at various locations along the trail, providing flexibility for hikers to choose their starting point. However, it’s important to note that when embarking on this adventure, especially on hot days, it is crucial to bring an ample supply of water to stay hydrated.

Exploring the General Crook Trail offers a unique opportunity to not only immerse oneself in nature but also to retrace the footsteps of history. As you traverse its picturesque landscapes, you can imagine the US Army troops marching along this very path, connecting the forts in a bygone era.

15 Things to Do in Camp Verde (AZ):

  • Fort Verde State Historic Park
  • Camp Verde Historical Society Museum
  • Verde Valley Railroad
  • Verde Valley Archaeological Center
  • Montezuma Castle
  • Montezuma Well
  • Tuzigoot
  • Palatki Heritage Site
  • Honanki Ruins
  • Clear Creek Church & Cemetery
  • Out of Africa Wild Animal Park
  • Cliff Castle Casino (Yavapai-Apache Nation)
  • Traveling the Verde River Greenway
  • Clear Creek Vineyard and Winery
  • General Crook Trail