Things To See Between Phoenix & Sedona, Arizona: Montezuma Castle National Monument, A Winery, & More

August 22, 2021

As I was gearing up for my trip to Sedona, my research stumbled on a few things to see between Phoenix and Sedona that sounded really interesting.  Because my flight arrived late morning and I couldn’t check into my hotel until late afternoon, I decided to stretch out the drive a bit and explore.

One was historical (Montezuma Castle National Monument) and one indulgent (a winery), so it felt like a good blend.  And then I happened upon a little surprise roadside stand that rounded out the roadtrip experience perfectly.

Things to See Between Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona (USA) | Road trip stops if you're driving from the Phoenix airport to Sedona, including historical Montezuma Castle National Monument (cliff dwellings), a winery, and a roadside frybread stand that is amazing. Sedona itinerary ideas, things to do in Sedona, where to stop between Phoenix & Sedona. #roadtrip #arizona #sedona #winery

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A few logistics notes for your drive from Phoenix to Sedona

The drive between the Phoenix airport and Sedona is about 2.5 hours, though obviously if you’re making these stops it will take longer.

If you’re traveling from PHX airport to Sedona, you’d actually hit the exit for Alcantara Vineyard *before* Montezuma Castle National Monument, BUT I’d suggest doing the monument (and frybread stop) first, then backtracking a few minutes to the Alcantara Vineyard exit.

That allows you to then take a back way up to Sedona from there without going way backwards to the interstate.

Alcantara Vineyards & Montezuma Castle are perfect stops if you're looking for things to see between Phoenix and Sedona

A couple things to remember on your drive…there are long dead cell spots, so I recommend having your Google Maps available offline, or just make sure you keep the map running (if you lose signal it will keep going).

Also, there are long stretches without gas stations, so make sure you don’t run your tank too low.

See my other posts about planning a trip to Sedona!

15+ Sedona Travel Tips For An Amazing Trip

A Breathtaking Sunrise Hike Up Sedona’s Cathedral Rock

Airport Mesa & Vortex…My Favorite Sedona Sunset Hike

A Guide to Sedona Wineries, The Perfect Day Trip

Hiking Sugarloaf Loop Trail (would also be amazing at sunset)

Kachina Woman At Sunrise: Hiking In Sedona’s Boynton Canyon

Visiting Sedona’s Unique Chapel Of The Holy Cross

Where To Eat & Drink In Sedona

An Honest Review of Sedona’s “Luxury” Enchantment Resort

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle was the third National Monument dedicated to preserving Native American culture, established in 1906.  It’s a five-story, 20-room high-rise apartment built high up into the towering limestone cliff, and is a wonderful example of ancient cliff dwellings.  You can plan your trip at the NPS website.

If you have an annual America the Beautiful national park pass, it will gain you entry into the national monument.  Otherwise there is a fee to enter, though there are a handful of fee-free days throughout the year.

Alcantara Vineyards & Montezuma Castle are perfect stops if you're looking for things to see between Phoenix and Sedona

Montezuma Castle National Monument is a must-do...things to see between Phoenix and Sedona

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The cliff houses tell an amazing story of survival and even prosperity despite the harsh desert landscape.  The name is a misdirect, given by early white settlers who thought it was the former home of the Aztec emperor, Montezuma.  However, it’s likely he never came to this area, and in fact these were built by the cliff-dwelling Sinagua people.

They were a hunter-gatherer pre-Colombian Native American tribe who—from the archeological finds—were gifted craftsmen who traded far and wide with other tribes.  It’s believed they built Montezuma Castle between the 12th and 14th centuries, and it seems the Sinagua were gone from this area by the mid-15th century.

Montezuma Castle National Monument can be a quick stop (which I did) or you can really take the time to immerse yourself in the site as well as nearby Montezuma Well.

Montezuma Castle is a perfect stop if you're looking for things to see between Phoenix and Sedona - interesting history & architecture

Alcantara Vineyards & Montezuma Castle are perfect stops if you're looking for things to see between Phoenix and Sedona

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Stop for some Navajo frybread

I was STARVING at this point, having been traveling for about 12 hours and not eaten all day.  As I turned onto the smaller road that led out to Montezuma Castle, I spied a little roadside stand boasting Navajo frybread.  YESSSSS.

I stopped on the way there, but he had just started a new batch of dough so I swung by on my way back toward the highway.  Mmmmmm hot fried soft dough with honey and cinnamon-sugar!  This hit the spot perfectly and I always love getting a taste of local culture.  And the guy’s got jokes (see the paper plates) 🙂

This hadn’t shown up in any of my research of things to see between Phoenix and Sedona, but I highly suggest you keep a eye out for this!

This local Navajo frybread stand near Montezuma Castle National Monument is a perfect snack

I stopped at a Navajo frybread stand on the road to Montezuma Castle, the perfect snack!

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Stop at a winery (or brewery)

In my pre-trip research, I’d seen a few people mention that Alcantara Vineyards was a great option for things to do between Phoenix and Sedona, so I decided to make it a stop on my drive.

As I pulled off the interstate to head toward the vineyard, I also saw a sign for local breweries, so if that’s more up your alley then check out Verde Brewing Company (right off the highway).  Or heck, do both!

For me, Alcantara was my goal, and what I didn’t realize was that it was about 15 minutes off the interstate, but it does connect up to Sedona a “back” way (that actually was closer for where I was staying at Enchantment Resort).  I didn’t stay for too long since I did want to get to Sedona, but the winery’s grounds are lovely and there’s a great back patio and lawn area.

See some of the other great wineries near Sedona here!

Alcantara Vineyards & Montezuma Castle are perfect stops if you're looking for things to see between Phoenix and Sedona

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I chose to do a “VIP flight” of wine, which included five of their nicest wines for $20.  I liked that it was a mixture of reds and whites as well.  I just sat and sipped my wine and read my Kindle, enjoying a beautiful day.  The winery often does live music, as well as special activities like stand-up paddleboarding and yoga, so check out their schedule.

I hadn’t eaten all day besides the frybread, so I got a cheese plate.  It was super basic (for $20 I would have expected something a little nicer), but it still hit the spot and they have hot food that sounded good too.  I’d definitely go for a burger next time.

Weird fun fact…that couple there behind my glass in this first pic was actually people I knew from when I was young (and who live in a different part of the country).  I kept thinking they looked familiar but didn’t actually realize it was them until a few days later when they posted their pics on social—what a small world!

Alcantara Vineyards is a perfect stop if you're looking for things to see between Phoenix and Sedona

Alcantara Vineyards & Montezuma Castle are perfect stops if you're looking for things to see between Phoenix and Sedona

So whether you do them on your way to or from the airport, these are some of the things to see between Phoenix and Sedona that I’d highly recommend!

Other unstructured U.S. roadtrip stops you’ll enjoy:

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Things to See Between Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona | Road trip stops if you're driving from the Phoenix airport to Sedona, including historical Montezuma Castle National Monument (cliff dwellings), a winery, and a roadside frybread stand that is amazing. Sedona itinerary ideas, things to do in Sedona, where to stop between Phoenix & Sedona. #roadtrip #arizona #sedona #winery

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