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How To Visit The Honanki Heritage Site Near Sedona

How To Visit The Honanki Heritage Site Near Sedona

The Honanki Heritage Site is one of the largest collections of rock art and cliff dwellings located in the Coconino National Forest area of northern Arizona and one of 5 must visit ruins near Sedona.

This area offers a glimpse into the life of many indigenous cultures found historically within the area. It shows us how previous civilizations prepared meals, raised their families and learned to survive the harsh desert climates.

So who lived in these cliff dwellings and what does the rock art tell us?

This is exactly what we will cover in this blog post, including:

  • What makes up Honanki Heritage Site
  • Directions and entry requirements
  • A little bit of history about the dwellings and rock art
  • Details about the hiking trail
  • What to expect for your visit

Let’s explore this prehistoric archeological site!

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What Is The Honanki Heritage Site?

The Honanki Heritage Site is a large collection of well preserved cliff dwellings featuring rock art discovered within an isolated canyon near Sedona, Arizona.

Similar to its sister location, the Palatki Heritage Site, the Honanki Heritage Site was occupied by the Sinagua people. It is estimated to contain about 72 rooms which at one time was home to about 200 people.

Entrance sign to Honanki Heritage Site
Honanki Heritage Site Sign

What makes this Heritage Site unique from others in the surrounding region is that Honanki was built directly against the canyon walls. The cliff dwellings are very well hidden behind large trees as well.

In fact, you won’t see most of these ruins until you are well along the hiking trail. While significant portions of the cliff dwellings are still standing, unfortunately there are also many signs of degradation.

If you’re looking at what to do in Sedona, visiting both Honanki and Palatki Heritage Sites is right up there among the most popular activities in town.

Honanki Heritage Site Visitor Summary

  • Visitor Center Information – Open 7 days a week from 9:30 am. to 3:00 pm but closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. **Honanki may also close when temperatures exceed 100 degrees for safety reasons.
  • Address – 11450 N Loy Butte Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336, United States
  • What To Do – Short hiking trail around ruins, interpretive exhibits
  • Available Services – Vault toilets
  • Honanki Heritage WebsiteClick Here

Where Is The Honanki Heritage Site?

The Honanki Heritage Site is located in a remote red rock canyon about 2.5 hours north of Phoenix and about 1.5 hours south of Flagstaff.

Many people visit this Historical Site along with some of the other historical sites in the area as a day trip from Sedona or Cottonwood.

Because Honanki is farther out compared to some of the Heritage Sites, we would recommend combining your visit with a hike, a 4×4 off road trail or a visit to another Heritage Site.

Rough bumpy road to Honanki Heritage Site
The rough dirt road requiring a 4×4 vehicle

Forest Road 525

Forest Rd 525 leading to the Honanki Site from both Cottonwood and Sedona is a very rough dirt road, especially the last few miles. A vehicle with good clearance and AWD or 4WD is required.

Make sure you leave some extra driving time because you will have to drive quite slow to reach the parking lot for these ruins.

Bad weather conditions such as rain and snow may also close the Honanki Heritage Site. Always check weather conditions before leaving as it may make driving extremely difficult.

Directions From Sedona

Head south on N State Rte 89A towards Forest Rd and at the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto W Arizona 89A to continue straight.

Stay on stay on W Arizona 89A for 9.6 miles and then turn right onto Forest 525 Rd (you have now reached the rough dirt road).

Follow Forest 525 Rd for 6.0 miles and make a slight left to stay on Forest 525 Rd. Stay on this road for another 1.2 miles until you reach the intersection with Red Canyon Road.

Turn right to stay on Forest 525 Rd and continue another 3.1 miles until you reach the Honanki Heritage Site parking lot.

Sign along the road to Honanki and Palatki
Road signs pointing to each Heritage Site

Directions From Cottonwood

Take 89A north from Cottonwood for about 7.0 miles. Turn left onto Forest 525 Rd (this is the rough dirt road) about 0.5 miles north of mile marker 364.

Follow Forest 525 Rd for 6.0 miles and make a slight left to stay on Forest 525 Rd. Stay on this road for another 1.2 miles until you reach the intersection with Red Canyon Road.

Turn right to stay on Forest 525 Rd and continue another 3.1 miles until you reach the Honanki heritage Site parking lot.

The Nearby Outlaw Trail

The Honanki Heritage Site is located directly across the road from where the 4×4 off-road Outlaw trail begins. Unfortunately, this is makes for a dangerous combination with pedestrians and OTVs.

Please be extremely careful in the parking lot of the Honanki Heritage Site. Many OTVs will rip up Forest 525 Rd throwing stones and dirt from their wheels in all directions.

We saw a few close calls between OTVs and pedestrians trying to access the Honanki Heritage Site.

The entrance to Honanki Heritage Site
Kristen entering the Honanki Heritage Site

Entry Requirements For The Honanki Heritage Site

In order to enter Honanki Heritage Site, you will need:

  1. Either a Red Rock Pass or an America The Beautiful Pass

Red Rock Pass

You can buy a Red Rock Pass at this specific site in advance, or by scanning a QR code with your smartphone on the sign located at each fee site.

However, service can be spotty in some of these remote locations so it may be best to buy a pass in advance.

Red Rock Pass options include:

  • 1 Day Red Rock Pass – $5
  • 7 Day Red Rock Pass – $15
  • Red Rock Annual Pass – $20

If you plan to hike more trails around Sedona over a period of 2 – 7 days, you should buy the 7 day pass because you will need it at many other trailheads in the area.

America The Beautiful Pass

Are you a regular visitor to US National Parks and Monuments?

It’s highly likely you already have an annual National Parks pass, which is also known as America the Beautiful or the Interagency Pass.

Don’t have one yet?

Read our guide on why America the Beautiful national parks pass is one of the best things you can buy if you plan to visit multiple parks in the next year.

Instead of buying a Red Rock Pass you can simply display your America the Beautiful Pass.

A remnant of a cliff dwelling
Remnants of an old cave dwelling

When Was The Honanki Heritage Site Built?

Archeologists believe the Honanki Heritage Site was first occupied by the Sinagua people, who were ancestors of the Hopi, between 1150 to 1350 AD.

The Palatki Heritage Site nearby was occupied during this same time frame by the Sinagua as well. It is also believed these sites was used by the Yavapai and Apache cultures over time.

The Honanki and the Palatki Heritage Sites were both first described in 1895 by Walter Fewkes, a well known archeologist from the Smithsonian Institute.

Fewkes is credited with associating Honanki (Badger House) and Palatki (Red House) with their appropriate Hopi names. However, the Hopi had no specific names for these exact sites.

During his time, Fawkes was deeply interested in studying the lifestyle of the Hopi culture. He was a strong influence on protecting indigenous sites including Palatki and Honanki.

The beginning of the trail to the Honanki ruins
Kristen walking along the main trail

Can You Go Inside The Honanki Heritage Site?

There is one 0.6 mile self-guided loop trail at the Honanki Heritage Site. Many interpretive signs can be found along the trail explaining how the pueblos were built and how the Sinagua people lived.

The loop begins at the small visitor information booth. But before you start, a forest service employee or volunteer will give you a brief overview of the area and information about the ruins.

Honanki Heritage Site trail with cliff dwellings and rock art
The main trail goes past several cliff dwellings

Walkthrough Of The Self-Guided Loop Trail

Shortly after you pass the information booth, the trail will split at a junction. You can choose to go either right or left at the junction but it does not matter as the trail loops back around to this exact spot.

If you take the left, walking in a clock-wise direction, the path will head north towards Loy Butte. After walking for a short distance, you will reach the base of a cliff.

Ancient ruins in northern Arizona
Rock art visible above many cave dwellings

There is a small spur trail which climbs to a viewpoint beneath a cliff dwelling. From this location, you will also be able to see some rock art.

Next, you will follow the trail right directly along the base of the cliff. You will pass several dwellings which have been built directly into the overhangs.

Don’t Miss The Rock Art

If you look closely, you will notice many pictographs and petroglyphs above and within the cliff dwellings. There is a small climb required to reach the final dwelling but it is easily doable.

Woman admiring the trees at Honanki
Kristen admiring the vegetation on the trail

As you wander through the trail you pass by bushes, pinyon pines and many juniper trees making this a great place to briefly escape the hot Sedona sun. Be sure to read some of the interpretive signs too.

Archeologists estimate some of this rock art dates back to as early as 5000 BC. We won’t get into any more detail to save some surprises for your visit.

Rock art featured at the Honanki Heritage Site
A close up of some rock art

After you have seen the rock art and the numerous cliff dwellings, make your way along the loop trail back to the junction and information booth.

If you have any more questions about the Honanki ruins or the area in general, be sure to ask the staff as they are usually extremely friendly and knowledgeable.

A jeep sitting in the parking lot
The Jeep we rented in Sedona to get to Honanki Heritage Site

Visiting The Honanki Heritage Site Without A 4×4

We rented a Jeep in Sedona in order to reach remote spots like the Honanki Heritage Site which requires a high clearance 4×4 vehicle.

However, if you don’t want to rent a jeep, you have another option… take a tour with Pink Adventure Tours otherwise known as Pink Jeep Tours.

The Pink Jeep Tours Company is the official Honanki Heritage Site steward. Check out the link below to read reviews and see if this tour is for you!

Book A Tour To The Honanki Heritage Site Here.

Red rock canyon walls with green trees
A large red rock canyon wall

Best Time To Visit The Honanki Heritage Site

The Honanki Heritage Site is open year round. We visited Sedona in December and the weather was perfect for hiking at about 60°F. Visiting in the off season also meant fewer crowds.

Arizona summer days are extremely hot ranging anywhere from 95°F to 110°F. Very heavy rains, known as monsoons, are common late June to early August during the early afternoon.

Winter days in Arizona tend to have an average temp of around 60°F with lows commonly in the teens. Snowfall is rare but is possible.

Forest Rd 525 may be impassible in bad weather so be sure to check the weather forecast when you visit and plan appropriately.

It is important to drink plenty of water and hydrate properly, especially in the summer months.

Many cliff dwellings lined up side by side
Additional cliff dwellings at Honanki

Tips For Visiting The Honanki Heritage Site

  1. Ask any questions you may have because the staff are extremely knowledgeable
  2. Visit early in the day to avoid the heat
  3. Allow for some extra drive time down the rough Forest Rd 525

Our top tip for your visit:

Try to visit the Honanki Heritage Site early in the day to avoid the heat and crowds.

While most of this area is shaded, early morning will make for a much more enjoyable visit.

Etiquette guide for Honanki Heritage Site
A sign detailing proper behavior at Honanki

Archeological Site Etiquette

Over the years, we have lost much of this precious area due to human recklessness. It is important to leave all things as you find them so future generations can also enjoy this beautiful site.

Here are a few things to consider for your visit:

  • There is no sitting, climbing or standing on ruins or dwelling walls. Ruins are fragile and any of these actions will compromise the historical site.
  • Artifacts should always be left where they are found and never picked up from the ground.
  • There is no camping at either Palatki or Honanki Historical sites. Fires can destroy prehistoric organic materials and also covers the rock art with soot.
  • Desert plants are fragile. Please stay on marked trails and do not venture off these trails.
  • There is absolutely no graffiti. This destroys rock art and is extremely disrespectful to the cultures who created these wonderful images.
Sign pointing to the Discovery trail and Honanki ruins
A sign along the main trail at the Honanki Heritage Site

Honanki Heritage Site FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Honanki Heritage Site.

Is The Honanki Heritage Site Worth Seeing?

If you are short on time, the Honanki Heritage Site might not be worth your effort.

The Honanki Heritage Site is smaller compared to the other heritage sites in the area. It is also extremely difficult to get too because you need a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. Your time might be better spent at Montezuma Castle and Well or Tuzigoot National Monument.

However, if you have the time, we do believe the Honanki Heritage Site is worth seeing.

The cliff dwellings and rock art at this location are incredibly interesting and offer a wonderful glimpse into the indigenous cultures of northern Arizona.

Do You Need A Reservation To Visit?

No, you do not need to book a reservation in order to visit the Honanki Heritage Site.

How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Honanki Heritage Site?

Depending on which pass you buy, entry into the Honanki Heritage Site can range anywhere from $5-20 for the Red Rock Pass or free entry with the America The beautiful Pass.

Which Is better Palatki Or Honanki?

Personally, we preferred the Palatki Heritage Site over the Honanki Heritage Site. We had a knowledgeable tour guide at Palatki who was very funny making our tour enjoyable.

But if you have plenty of time in your Sedona itinerary, try to visit both the Honanki and the Palatki Heritage Site as they are very close to one another. But remember, you will need a reservation for the Palatki Heritage Site.

Are Dogs Allowed At The Honanki Heritage Site?

Unfortunately no pets are allowed beyond the parking lot. Please be mindful of the warm temperatures if you are planning to leave your dog in your vehicle.

Want more Arizona content? Head over to our Arizona travel guides to explore the best of Grand Canyon, Sedona and beyond.

We hope this guide to the Honanki Heritage Site helps with planning your visit!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the Honanki Heritage Site or your visit to Sedona in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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