Located approximately 20 miles northwest of Downtown Sedona, Arizona, the Palatki Ruins consist of a series of ancient cliff dwellings built right into the sides of one of the region’s many remarkable red-rock formations. There you’ll be able to witness the remains of two distinct pueblo-like structures, as well as a number of pictographs and petroglyphs. Today the Palatki Ruins are protected and administered under the guidance of the United States Forest Service, who run regular guided tours of the attraction as part of the Palatki Heritage Site.
Palatki Ruins History and Background Information
It is believed that the ruins we can behold today at Palatki Heritage Site are the remains of cliff dwellings built by the Sinagua people somewhere between the years 1150AD and 1350AD. The Palatki Ruins as we know them today were first studied extensively by Jesse Walter Fewkes near the end of the 19th Century. Fewkes, who studied zoology and anthropology at Harvard University before turning his attention to archaeology, was an archaeologist employed by the Smithsonian Institution. He is the one who gave these cliff dwellings—which are two of the largest cliff-dwelling remains in the entire American Southwest—the name we know them by today: Palatki, which means “Red House” in the language of the Hopi people.
What’s at the Palatki Ruins
Palatki Ruins are open 7 days a week, every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, between the hours of 9:30am and 3:00pm. Guided tours of the cliff dwellings usually run every half-hour beginning at 9:45am, with a lunch-break gap between 11:45am and 12:15pm. In order to go on one of the guided tours offered at Palatki Ruins, you’ll need to purchase the same sort of day pass required to hike any of the trails found in the greater Sedona area. This day pass will cost you $5, and is available for purchase at a vending machine on-site found near the site’s small Visitor Center. This facility also contains a small bookstore, and is run by the Arizona Natural History Association.
As a visitor to Palatki Ruins, you’ll discover that there are also three different hiking trails you can explore during your time here. Each of these trails takes you to a different highlight of Palatki Heritage Site: one trail will lead you right up to the cliff dwellings themselves, one trail will get you closest to the best remaining examples of pictographs found on location, and a third trail will provide you with a beautiful view of the entire site. If you were to walk all three of these trails it would be about 1.5 miles (round trip) of hiking; it is not considered a difficult hike, but please keep in mind that it is not accessible for most types of wheelchairs.
Palatki Ruins are well-situated in the midst of a variety of additional attractions and amenities. Just a few miles down the road you’ll find Honanki Heritage Site, which is in essence a sister site of Palatki; there you’ll encounter a series of cave-dwelling ruins similar to what you’ll see here at Palatki. Palatki Ruins are also not far from Doe Mountain. Of course, the charming town of Sedona is just 20 miles away. You’ll travel past Boynton Canyon if you take Dry Creek Road to the site. There you’ll find many stunning natural attractions, as well as plentiful dining and lodging options.
Tips for Visiting the Palatki Ruins
- If you are traveling with pets, please keep in mind that pets are only allowed in the parking lot of Palatki Heritage Site; they are not permitted to be anywhere else on the site. Its best to leave your pets home as there is very little shade in the parking area.
- Call ahead to reserve your spot in one of their guided tours. This is a great idea if you want to make certain your Palatki experience will fit perfectly into your trip’s schedule. Tours are typically limited to 10 people per tour, so reservations are important. They take very few people without a reservation.
- Make sure to bring along water when you visit the ruins at Palatki. While it is possible to purchase bottled water on-site, you can save a bit of money by bringing your own water along. Either way, though, you’ll want to make sure to have water with you as you tour the ruins.
- The final six or so miles of the drive that takes you right up to the site of the Palatki Ruins runs along an unpaved road that can get quite rough at times. Having a vehicle with 4-wheel drive is not absolutely necessary, but will go a long way toward making your journey to the Heritage Site a more pleasant one.
- If you are concerned about your car, you can take a guided Pink Jeep tour to the nearby Honanki Ruins.