Honanki Cliff Dwellings – Sedona, AZ

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Honanki Heritage Site website
My visit:  October 26, 2017
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Honanki entry sign

I finally made it out here, despite my fears about the road. It’s true what I heard about it being really rough in a little low-rider car like my Honda Fit. However, like most fears, the reality turned out to be not as bad as I imagined. (See video below.)

Honanki gate

And this was definitely a case of the destination being worth the journey!

Honanki trail startHonanki trail start

This is the start of the 3/4 mile roundtrip loop to the site. There is an offshoot Discovery Trail that has more rocks and steps, so is more difficult, but both paths converge at the cliff dwelling.

Honanki Path by dwelling

This turned out to be my favorite shot, showing the path alongside the ruins, some of the pictographs on the walls, the alcove with darker charcoal based art, and the beautiful scenery even in the background.

Honanki rooms

Looking from the other direction,you can see the size of this room and the artwork on the walls above.

Honanki room 2

I like how the rooms had these “windows” and how closely they fit against the cliff walls.

Honanki rooms and art

A closer view of the art above. It’s just impossible to capture all the design features and decor in one shot, not to mention the magical feeling of the entire space.

Honanki art collage 1

I did a couple of collages to try to zero in on the details of some. My favorite is the one on the left. My friend Nema said she thought it looked like a shaman under a full moon and I loved that. I hadn’t noticed the animals underneath until she pointed them out. We wondered if the one on the top right was some method of counting and the one on the bottom looked like a yucca plant, and one was growing right across from it.

Honanki art collage 2

I think the guy on the left is playing the flute. You play with the other ones – it’s fun to make up stories about them.  🙂

From info sign:

“The images on these walls were created by the people that passed through the Verde Valley during the past 10,000 years: Paleolithic, Archaic, Sinagua, Yavapai, Apache, Navajo and Hopi. Images seen here were likely symbolic of long-ago complex thoughts and ideas. Archaeologists think that the images were made as part of ceremonies, storytelling, or rituals. Some elements may represent clan symbols, supernatural beings, and hunting trips. However, their real meaning is known only to the people who made the images and their descendants.”

Honanki - history picFrom “Guide to the Heritage Sites of Coconino National Forest Red Rock District” booklet – (I bought at Palatki and highly recommend it):

“Honanki is significant because it is one of the largest cliff dwelling in the Verde Valley, second only to Montezuma castle in size. It is the premier, definitive example of the Honanki Phase (A.D. 1050-1350) of the Sinagua of the Verde Valley.”

“Honanki provides visitors with a rare opportunity to see an intriguing cliff dwelling and beautiful rock art, and a glimpse of life in the 12th and early 13th centuries.”

I like these drawings that make it easier for me to imagine what it looked like to the people who created and occupied this space.

Honanki looking up at ledge

Looking at the upper ledges, the guide said there is archeological evidence of this once being the bottom of a sea!

Honanki bird and moon

When I pointed my camera the other way, it was cool to see the fingernail moon and then I saw that boulder looked like it had a bird in flight carved into it. Love stuff like this!

Honanki Me & Samson tree

Speaking of stuff I love, Nema introduced me to this amazing Alligator Juniper. He looked so strong, his name is Samson.    As you can probably tell, even besides the ruins, there are other fantastic things to discover in this ancient land, so catch as many of them as you can!

How Bad is the Road to Honanki?

Here’s a 2.47 minute condensed You Tube video from my dash cam showing road conditions on Forest Road 525 after coming from Palatki on Forest Road 795:

One of the reasons it took me so long to finally visit here is because I had heard the road there was not just unpaved, but it was pretty rough.

Even the tour guide at Palatki said he did not recommend getting on the road to Honanki in a regular car and thought a Jeep type vehicle was necessary. But my friend who had been there before in a standard car said if we just take it slow, we could make it since the roads were dry. Even though my little Honda Fit sits rather low, we made it fine by just going slow.

I do recommend getting out there as early as they open in the morning (9:30 a.m.), though since the traffic coming and going increases a bunch in the afternoon.

Google Map Directions to Honanki:

There are two ways to get there – I had heard the road was rough either way, so I called to ask which way was best. The Ranger said from Sedona taking Dry Creek Road to Boynton Pass Road would cut about 4 miles of driving on the rough road, so I opted for that. I had been on Forest Road 525 before from 89A for a few miles when checking out Sedona Area Boondocking, and didn’t relish a longer trip on it.

Map - Palatki and Honanki We went to Palatki first because reservations are needed for the tour there.  The Forest Road 525 part from Palatki to Honanki seemed rougher than Forest Road 795 that I got on from Boynton Canyon Road to Palatki.

See my Palatki page for more info on it and the drive there.

Helpful Tips for Visiting Honanki:

Open 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. seven days a week. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. See their website for more details, including necessary fees.

There is a vault toilet, but no visitor center, water or snacks for sale here.

I’m glad I bought the little booklet at Palatki – “Guide to the Heritage Sites of Coconino National Forest Red Rock District” – that includes Palatki, Honanki and V Bar V. Great coverage in a brief format that provides a bunch of interesting information.

Please share: I’d love to hear from you in Comments below if you’ve been here and want to share your impressions or have questions!

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  • Jo Harmon

    Malia, so happy to come visit your blog. Your pictures are fantastic. I will have to catch up on the reading.

    • Well, I’m glad you’ve joined me, Jo! Thanks so much for the compliment!

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