Palatki Heritage Site: A Photo Essay

Sinagua, it means “without water.” That’s the name of the people that once lived in north-eastern Sedona, Arizona. About 900 years ago the Sinagua Indians lived in a thriving settlement high up in the Sedona red rocks. They left behind artifacts, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and pictographs. Getting to Palatki and its sister site Honanki certainly isn’t easy, but the determined traveler is rewarded with a look back in time at a culture long vanished from Sedona.

The hour-long trip up the uneven, dusty back-road is enough to deter many people from the site, but not this history-lover. According to the Forest Service, “the Palatki Heritage Site and its sister site, Honanki, were the largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock Country between AD 1150 – 1350.”  Three short trails around Palatki guide visitor to the petroglyphs and cliff-dwellings. Guides around the park help interpret the images and preserve the integrity of the site. I’ll let my photographs show you what the Sinagua Indians left us for posterity.

The road to Palatki Heritage site. The correct way: Highway 89A to Boynton Pass Rd. (about 4 miles). The way we went: Highway 89A to Forest Service Rd. 525 (about 12 miles of bone-jarring poorly maintained back roads). Don’t go this way!
The entrance to Palatki.
Hiking up to the cliff dwelling. (It’s less than 1 mile round-trip).
Sinagua cliff dwellings

Joey’s down there somewhere with Gaia.
Artifacts found at Palatki.
The view from the cliff-dwelling.
Palatki Trail Information
A very helpful guide interpreting the petroglyphs.
Petroglyphs and Pictographs
Aliens did it!
Animal Petroglyph

White petroglyphs, color pictographs.

The way out was MUCH easier than the way in.

If You Go

Even though Palatki isn’t as touristy as Sedona, reservations are required. The parking lot is very small and only three guides are available to watch visitors. Why is the monitoring necessary? Because people can’t help themselves but to vandalize or take home a piece of history. Only 10% of the petroglyphs and pictographs remain from what was first photographed in 1900. A few things to remember when visiting Palatki:

  • Stay on the trails
  • Closed-toe shoes and extra water are a necessity.
  • Don’t touch anything.
  • The 1/2 mile trail up to the cliff dwelling is short but strenuous.
  • Pets aren’t allowed
  • The fastest way to the ruins is Highway 89A to Boynton Pass Rd.
  • Call (928) 282-3854 to make a reservation
  • Only 10 people at a time are allowed to visit
  • Hours 9:30 – 3:00 pm

Although the road getting there was rough, I would definitely go again, especially after we found a shorter route. Palatki is a great day-trip for history lovers. My only regret is that I didn’t stay there long enough. In two weeks we’re returning for a second longer visit and a visit to Palatki’s sister site, Honanki. Stay tuned for updates. Palatki Heritage Site Homepage





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