Badass Arizona History: Unreal Dwellings in the Red Rock

North in Sedona are two fantastically preserved heritage sites that showcase some of the largest cliff dwellings in Red Rock Country along with pictographs. I had not heard of this site previously but saw the entrance in after hiking Fay’s Canyon. I’m glad I stopped! After driving several miles down an unpaved road – my Ford Fiesta thanked me – I began my adventure at the visitors center. There are two sites Palatki (meaning Red House) and Honanki (meaning Badger House) both inhabited first by the Sinagua tribes in 1200CE followed by a plethora of other groups like the Yavapai and Apache up until 1875. A Red Rock Pass is required for both sites, but not to worry, you can purchase them at the visitors center in a pinch for $5.


The Palatki site features a cliff dwelling to the east and one to the west of the visitors center. There is some uphill climbing involved but, not to worry it’s tame.

The Kiva Travel Scout

The last switchback approaching the site reveals the first glimpse of the sandstone structures. The long-standing dwellings are situated at the base of the sheer red rock cliff. A southern facing home offers protection from the brutal summer sun and warmth in the winter months. Above the first pueblo is a carving which archaeologists believe to more or less act as a sigil or a clan symbol.

Cliff Walls Travel Scout
The clan symbol is the round symbol carved into the rock face above the pueblo.
Pottery Travel Scout
Pottery example found on site.

On the other side of the site is a grotto that shows off incredible examples of pictographs and petroglyphs. Archaeologists suspect that some of the images tell stories and legends while others act as celestial calendars to keep track of planting seasons.

Moon over the Mountain Travel Scout

Ancient Art Travel Scout

Rabbit Travel Scout
Bunny? or Deer?


Sister site to Palaki and another several miles down the road is a larger complex but lesser pictographs. Be sure to show your Red Rock Pass!

Hokani Arizon

Honanki complex is situated under a shallow cut out of a cliff. The monster complex in it’s hay day had over 70 rooms. After a fire destroyed most of the complex the site came under the care of the National Parks Service.

Ancient Art Travel Scout (2)

Man in the Moon Travel Scout
One of my favorite series of pictograms, man on the moon. Ancient aliens anyone?

Allow for at least three to four hours if you really want to get to know the place. Two to three hours if you just want to check it out. I recommend this place if you are into history and have an affection for rocks. Personally, I find rock art fascinating so I had to be drug out by my hiking boots.

Quick Note:

  • You will be required to go with a guide.
  • Do be prepared for a walk – not much but, about two miles total for both sites.
  • Do bring water – Sedona is still a desert.
  • In high season you may need to make reservations – if not they run tours seven days a week – times are subject to change.
  • Do respect your surroundings- or may the fleas of a thousand bison infest your nether region. Check out Archaeology Etiquette. 


What cool ancient site have you been to?

I have some more inspiration for you:

5 Northern Arizona Outdoor Day Trips 


Explore All Arizona Ruins (1).png

20 thoughts on “Badass Arizona History: Unreal Dwellings in the Red Rock

Add yours

  1. I love cliff dwellings and had no idea there are some in Sedona! Good thing I also love Sedona and could easily return to check them out!


  2. It sounds truly fascinating, especially finding little artefacts and clan symbols of long past societies. One very cool ancient site I’ve visited is here in Australia is Wilpena Pound in South Australia, the coolest part was I didn’t even know it existed until I visited.


  3. I love this part of Arizona – it’s so beautiful. It always annoys me when people go to Europe and say things like “we don’t have anything this old in North America” or “Those countries are so young”. Um, NO! People have been creating breathtaking architecture and art here for thousands of years!


  4. I have been to Sedona several times when we had a family business in Phoenix. I never knew those historic sites existed. Nice to know for next visit. Thanks for the info.


  5. Wow, these spots both look amazing! We’ve been to Sedona several times, but I hadn’t heard about these dwellings. We did make it to the nearby Montezuma Castle National Monument, which we enjoyed, but I like how it seems as though you can get a bit closer to these sites. We are definitely going to have to check them out on our next visit–thanks for sharing!


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