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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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?
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