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Palatki Ruins, AZ

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Guide 32 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona NW
3.8 of 5 by 11
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 0.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,742 feet
Elevation Gain 296 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 2.28
Interest Ruins & Historic
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
13  2018-01-29 AZBeaver
4  2013-06-24 Sun_Ray
10  2012-12-28 DarthStiller
10  2012-11-19 jochal
3  2011-04-07 MtnBart01
11  2009-05-04 PrestonSands
4  2009-04-18
Sedona Ruins
17  2009-01-23 cabel
Page 1,  2
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Co-Author tinyelvis
co-author avatarGuides 3
Routes 0
Photos 125
Trips 17 map (82 Miles)
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Nov, Dec → Any
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:15am - 6:25pm
0 Alternative
Culture Nearby
Well-preserved cliff dwellings and petroglyphs
by PaleoRob & tinyelvis

The ancient Sinagua Indians once lived in north-central Arizona, ranging from the Verde Valley in the south to Flagstaff in the north. Some of the most well known Sinagua sites are preserved as National Monumements, such as Wupatki, Tuzigoot, and Montezuma's Castle. Others lay scattered about the area, from Elden Pueblo, a well preserved Flagstaff area site, to Turkey Hills Pueblo, a mainly eroded mound of rubble. Hundreds of other sites can be found on The Coconino National Forest, and one of the best preserved is Palatki Pueblo, a Sinagua cliff dwelling located northwest of Sedona.

Palatki is a Hopi word meaning something like "red house", an altogether appropriate name. It is nestled at the base of the cliffs of Red Rock canyon, a former homesteaded now maintained by the US Forest Service. The first thing you will notice when arriving at Palatki is an older residence, rusted farming equipment and an orchard. The former homestead now serves as a museum/visitor's center/gift shop for the Palatki complex. Check in here with the rangers, and make sure that you're on time. The site's visitation is tightly regulated to prevent deterioration.

There are three different trails at Palatki; two will be combined here, since you really shouldn't do one without the other. From just behind the visitor's center one trail leads to the right and takes you to multi-leveled cliff dwellings of Palatki. It is a relatively short walk across former farmland before reaching a grove of oaks at the base of the cliff. Here the trail switchbacks up to the cliff dwellings. Total distance to the ruins from the visitor's center is about a quarter of a mile. At the ruin there is a steward on duty, to talk to visitors and explain a bit about the site. Sometimes these stewards are USFS employees, sometimes they are volunteers. In either case, you will find them to be highly knowledgeable about the site and its history.

The site was built around 1150, and abandoned around 1300, based on tree-ring dating, when most of the Colorado Plateau was being abandoned, though some Sinaguan refugees hung on in the area until around 1450. If you look around the ruin, you can still see some of the original beams used in the construction of Palatki. Some folks speculate that some of the Northern Sinagua moved to the Hopi Villages, and some Hopi stories apparently bear this out. Sinagua is a Spanish word meaning "without water." Obviously this is not what the Sinaguans called themselves; Some linguists, studying the Hopi language speculate that the Hopi word for Sunset Crater, Kana'a, may in fact be the name the Sinaguans called themselves, as the etymology of the word is foreign to the Hopi language.

The site was also once much larger than it is currently. Several stories tall when it was constructed, most of the upper stories have collapsed into themselves, leaving mounds of rubble inside the rooms - that's what you're standing on when you're inside the ruin. Some of these rooms have never been dug, and tourists are still finding things popping out of the ground, like sandals, arrowheads, and pots. Please, if you see anything of interest, contact the steward who will help document it. Apparently the settlers who operated the ranch in the valley had great respect for these ruins, and while they did dig up some artifacts they left most of the ruin alone. This is one of the reasons why it is so well preserved.

After seeing your fill of the cliff dwelling, return to the Visitor's Center, and then take the short Rock Art Trail. Head up the slope behind the VC on the well-maintained trail. It is only about a tenth of a mile, just a quick jaunt. At the top of the trail is a large overhung area, protected from the weather. It is here that the Palatkians created masterful rock art, some of the most beautiful images in the Sedona area. Butterflies, figures, shapes, people, all different types of amazing pictographs. There are two human figures with headdresses similar to Hopi Butterfly Maidens, as well as others with their hair seeming to be in the traditional unmarried Hopi girl's hair whorls, one large whorl on each side.

The Sinaguans weren't the last ones to visit Red Rocks canyon before the settlers came in the 1800s. The Apaches used to call this valley home, before the US Army drove them out. Their rock art also decorates the overhang on the Rock Art Trail, usually simpler figures of horses, but also some beautiful, complex figures as well. There is usually a steward on site at the rock art as well; ask them to point out some examples.

If you're into the pioneer history of the area, continue along the cliff face to the north, past the rock art, and you will find some more old settlement buildings nestled against the cliff.

There is no water along either stretch of trail. Water is sometimes available at the ranger station. When you call ahead to make your reservations, ask about the water status there.

This site is tightly controlled by the USFS to limit visitation. If you want to visit, you MUST call to make reservations ahead of time. Sometimes you can call the day-of, but I recommend calling a day or two in advance. The road to the ranch and ruins has a gate that is locked after hours to prevent trespassing.

Check out the Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-02-01 PaleoRob & tinyelvis
  • Sedona Trails 2018
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Palatki Ruins
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Thoroughly enjoyed Palatki Ruins. Palatki and its sister site, Honanki, were the largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock Country between AD 1150 - 1350. They also exhibit extensive rock art. The sites were first described by Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes, famous turn-of-the century archaeologist from the Smithsonian Institution, who gave them the Hopi names of Honanki (Badger House) and Palatki (Red House). The Hopi, however, have no specific names for these sites.

Currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service under the Red Rock Pass Program, the site is open to the general public for visits seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). A small visitor center and bookstore, run by the Arizona Natural History Association, is located a short distance from the parking lot.

There are three trails at Palatki Heritage Site, one trail that takes you up to the Sinagua cliff dwellings, one that takes you to a view of the dwellings and a third that goes to the alcoves that shelter the painted symbols, or pictographs from every native culture to ever occupy the Verde Valley. These trails, each ¼ mile one way making the round trip distance one and one half mile, are fairly easy but they are not accessible to most wheelchairs.
Palatki Ruins
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Not knowing that I needed a reservation to see the ruins (I guess it pays to do your homework), I arrived at the visitor center eager to explore. "What, you don't have a reservation?! Well, we're not too busy today, so we'll let you in this time." D'oh! :doh:
Anyway, I got to see outstanding ruins and prolific rock art images in a beautiful red rock setting. It was definitely worth the drive!
Palatki Ruins
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We walked around more than "hiked" at the Palatki Ruins. These were some of the better ruins I have visited. One of the benefits is that you can actually get up close to them and go inside some of them. Another benefit is there are park guides at the sites to both answer questions and to keep people from getting over zealous in exploring the ruins or creating more "art" on the walls. The walk was very pleasant and we had great weather.
Palatki Ruins
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With Lynn and the rain...

"PLAN A" was to hike Inner Basin Trail and have an August snowball fight in Arizona. Pulled the plug on that idea when we encountered heavy rain and severe lightning at the Lockett Meadow trail head. "PLAN B" was to head to Sedona and investigate some of the ruins I've had on my "must see" list for some time. Traveled down Oak Creek Canyon along 89-A through Sedona. At the west end of Sedona, turned off at Dry Creek Road and headed north. Stopped at a Red Rocks Pass Kiosk and paid the $5 fee for a day pass. Just before Dry Creek Road dips down into the Boyton Pass, there is a fantastic panoramic view of the Red Rocks area.


1.Arrived at the Palatki Ruins parking lot with threatening skies overhead.
2.There is a self-guided history display of the Red Cliffs area located beside the parking lot. Gave it a quick read while the rain held off.
3.Soon discover Palatki means "Red House" as named by Dr.J.W. Fewkes during his archeological digs in 1895 and 1911. The Hopi believe they are direct descendants of the Sinagua who built the cliff dwellings on this site.
4.We walk up to the 1920's homesteader house of Charles Willard. It is now occupied by USDA Forest Service Rangers. The Ranger asks if we have a reservation - no we do not! Fortunately the rain has minimized holiday visitors today and he allows us to be "walk-ups". He advises us to call 928-282-3854 to reserve a spot for any future visits.
5.From the ranch house/ranger station, the trail makes a "T" intersection. Turn left for rock art, turn right for ruins. We also see evidence of the rancher's orchard. Eat a peach?
6.The trail to the ruins has some interesting rock formations.
7.As the trail heads up towards the red cliffs, catch our first glimpse of Palatki ruins.
8.There is a Ranger on site providing visitors with an oral interpretation of the archeological evidence. Almost on cue, the skies burst open as the Ranger remarks that the overhanging cliffs provided the Sinagua inhabitants shelter from inclemant weather!
9.The west alcove ruins are off limits to visitors. You are however allowed to enter the 6 rooms of the east alcove ruin. Remember the code when visiting these ancient sites - LOOK, DON'T TOUCH!
10.Shot "A" of Palatki ruins...
11.Shot "B" of Palatki ruins...
12.Shot "C" of Palatki ruins...
13.Shot "D" of Palatki ruins...
14.Shot "E" of Palatki ruins. Note the rock art to the upper right. This is thought to be Apache, evidence of more recent inhabitation...


1.We walk back along the Ruins Trail in a steady rain heading towards the Rock Art Trail.
2.At Bear Alcove there is another Ranger pointing out the various petroglyphs (rock art carved or pecked into stone) and pictographs (rock art painted onto stone).
3.Shot "A" of Palatki rock art...
4.Shot "B" of Palatki rock art. Note the eagle petroglyph in the center, below the elk pictographs located in upper left...
5.Shot "C" of Palatki rock art...
6.Shot "D" of Palatki rock art. A classic elk pictograph...
7.Shot "E" of Palatki rock art. Typical snake/water pictographs...


1.Continue along FR525 to the Honanki Ruins parking lot.
2.Only a Pink Jeep Tours vehicle in the parking lot.
3.Trail is well maintained making for an easy hike. A history display informs us that Honanki means "Bear House".
4.Catch our first glimpse of the ruins through the trees and under an overhanging cliff.
5.A panoramic view of Honanki ruins.
6.Shot "A" of Honanki ruins...
7.Shot "B" of Honanki ruins...
8.Shot "C" of Honanki ruins...
9.Shot "D" of Honanki ruins...
10.Shot "E" of Honanki ruins...


1.Shot "A" of Honanki rock art...
2.Shot "B" of Honanki rock art...
3.Shot "C" of Honanki rock art...
4.Shot "D" of Honanki rock art. Some controversy whether the symbol over the ruins represents the moon, the sun, or a nova from the 11th century...
Palatki Ruins
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As stated in the description this is not a "hike". I went with the family, and we were able to take my 6 month old in a jogging stroller to the ruins with little difficulty.

We only checked out the Honaki Ruins. Nice area, great ruins. If you have the time and are interested in ruins check it out. Most of the walk (all 100 yards) is in the shade.
Palatki Ruins
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The following served as the summary for Palatki/Honanki Indian Ruins from 2003-04-03 to 2008-01-31

I don't think either of these can be accurately described as a "hike." It's really more of a stroll. Short hikes at both sites - less than a mile each. Therefore, I present them as one.

Palatki is nestled at the base of the Red Rock, a site homesteaded and maintained by former frontiersmen after the various bands and tribes of Indians left. The first thing you will notice when arriving at Palatki is an older residence, rusted farming equipment and a dead orchard. There are two different trails: one leads to the right and takes you to multi-leveled cliff dwellings. I found it fascinating that you can still see the original wood beams in certain parts of the frame. You are allowed to enter the dwellings! While there is another story above you, you will find (in talking to Rangers) there used to be many levels. Interestingly, the red rock/dirt that you are standing on is actually the remnants of those former levels.

The other trail is closer to the entrance of Palatki, and goes off to the left. This takes you to another base of a mountain, a natural overhang, "shelter" overhead. This part of Palatki is where you will find the petroglyphs/pictographs. This is an unbelievably active site with artwork everywhere. Nothing is too intricate, but plenty of quantity to keep you amazed. Notice the picture of Renee with the dark rock and the girls with ponytails in the back. These are known as "Hopi girls" I believe, and are identified by their large hair dresses.

Honanki is a sacred Sinagua cliff-dwelling site with plenty of pictographs and intact dwellings. The 700 year old ruins are well-preserved and relatively not crowded. The rock art on the walls is fascinating. It's easier to get too, free, and is often visited by Sedona Jeep tours (a la Pink Jeep). Honanki is a more intricate building site, with more intact structures (there was also a much larger population here). A great deal of the site is fenced off from visitors (due to deterioration), but you can still explore the site very intimately. Last time I was there, they were doing some major restoration, so the wooden fence may be gone now. You'll be amazed at how well constructed this site is, how smooth the corners are, not to mention how well the native people used their natural environment/surroundings in creating their home(s). There are plenty of pictographs. Look for the picture of me doing my best "Air Jordan" impersonation next to Michael's ancient-Indian predecessor.

Both of these sites should not be missed when visiting Sedona, especially for those history-oriented adventurers. While in the area there's plenty of mountain biking nearby. This is also a good entrance or exit journey while heading to Loy Canyon.

Dry Creek Road is paved past the junction with Boynton Pass Road. Boynton Pass Road is paved for a short distance until it makes a sharp left turn and becomes a rough dirt road. Watch for the signs. The road to Palatki is rough but passable by all cars (if cautiously driven) in good weather. On the other hand, the road to Honanki is very rough and a high clearance vehicle is required. During foul weather travel on the roads should be limited to four-wheel drive vehicles.

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
From the junction of Highways 89A and 179, drive 3,1 miles west on highway 89A to Dry Creek Road. Turn North and drive 4.6 miles to Boynton Pass Rd. Turn West and drive about 4 mi. to Red Canyon Road. Turn North and drive less than a 1/4 mile to the fork in the road. Turn right and drive two miles to reach Palatki Ruins. The road is decent, and a low clearance vehicle can make it, provided it hasn't rained or snowed recently.
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