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5 Unmissable Ruins To Visit Near Sedona, Arizona

5 Unmissable Ruins To Visit Near Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona has numerous ruins showcasing ancient cliff dwellings and rock art. Many of these ruins are found in remote locations deep inside red sandstone canyons. You can visit on your own or as part of a jeep tour.

In this guide, we’re going to show exactly where you can find the best ruins in Sedona and what to expect for your visit.

Our Sedona Ruins Experience

Woman at the second story ofTuzigoot National Monument
Kristen loving the views at Tuzigoot National Monument

We spent eight amazing days exploring Sedona and the surrounding area in December 2021. Originally we only planned a few days in Sedona, but we loved the region so much we extended our stay. We visited all of the ruins in this guide except for one because it was closed. Read more about us.

For our trip, we decided to rent a 4×4 vehicle in order to explore the Sedona jeep trails so we could easily access all of these ruins. If you don’t want to rent a vehicle, you can book a tour and we will give you recommendations later in this guide.

1. Montezuma Castle National Monument

Woman looking at Montezuma Castle from a distance
Kristen enjoying the view of Montezuma Castle

The most popular indigenous ruin near Sedona is Montezuma Castle National Monument. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt created this national monument to help preserve indigenous history and culture.

This ruin is comprised of two individual locations, Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. These two sites are located only 11 miles apart and can be easily visited in one day.

Montezuma Castle is one of the most well-preserved cliff dwellings ever found in Arizona. The entire complex of homes was built into a naturally occurring limestone cliff.

Because of the location inside the cliff, Montezuma Castle has been able to withstand the test of time. It has given archeologists precious and invaluable information about previous ancient civilizations.

Aerial view of Montezuma Well
View of Montezuma Well from the rim trail

Montezuma Well is the other subunit of Montezuma Castle National Monument. The well is a natural limestone sinkhole containing over 15 million gallons of water.

This area was a mystery for years because it was a reliable water source in the middle of the desert and no one knew where the water was originating.

You can also visit an ancient pit house located very close to Montezuma Well. This is a circular structure that was built into the ground for shelter.

Further Reading: Complete guide to Montezuma Castle National Monument

2. Tuzigoot National Monument

Aerial view of Tuzigoot National Monument one of the best ruins near Sedona
View from the second story of the Tuzigoot National Monument

The most exposed ancient ruin in Sedona is Tuzigoot National Monument. Built by the Sinagua people, Tuzigoot is an extremely large pueblo ruin. Its location high above Arizona’s Verde River was essential for the people who once lived here.

The entire complex consists of at least 97 ground level rooms. But there is also a smaller second story which you can explore on your own.

A visit to Tuzigoot National Monument will not be easily forgotten. You can walk the entire perimeter of the pueblo and explore additional small hiking trails nearby.

As you stand on top of the ancient pueblo, be sure to take in the beautiful views of the surrounding Verde Valley. If you are looking for tour option to Tuzigoot, check out this tour here.

Further Reading: Complete guide to Tuzigoot National Monument

3. Palatki Heritage Site

Sign at the Palatki Heritage Site
Main sign at the Palatki Heritage Site

One of the most educational Sedona ruins is the Palatki Heritage Site. This site is a large collection of cliff dwellings and pictographs. Archeologists believe this was one of the Sinagua’s largest and most important communities.

There are two short hiking trails featuring a sacred grotto area and several cliff dwellings. However, a tour reservation is required when visiting Palatki.

Reservations can be made on Recreation.gov and cost $1.00 each. Space is extremely limited so we recommend you book a tour as soon as you know the date you plan to visit.

Further Reading: How to visit the Palatki Heritage Site

4. Honanki Heritage Site

The most isolated Sedona Indian ruin is the Honanki Heritage Site and it’s difficult to access. This site is a large collection of well preserved cliff dwellings featuring rock art discovered within a remote canyon northwest of Sedona.

cliff dwelling ruins at Honanki
Ruins at the Honanki Heritage Site

It’s extremely similar to its sister site, Palatki mentioned above. But what makes this location unique is how the dwellings were built directly underneath a cliff overhang.

The Honanki Heritage Site is hard to visit because it requires a high clearance vehicle with 4×4. If you want to visit, but don’t have a 4×4 vehicle, we recommend you book a tour here.

Further Reading: How to visit the Honanki Heritage Site

5. V-Bar-V Heritage Site

Examples of rock at near Sedona

The V-Bar-B Heritage Site is one of the best places near Sedona to see petroglyphs. This is the largest known petroglyph site in the Verde Valley. It was acquired by the Coconino National Forest in 1994 and strives to help others learn about indigenous culture.

The petroglyphs at V-Bar-V are known as Beaver Creek Rock Art. This style is indicative of the Sinagua culture who lived here from 1150 to 1400 AD.

If you visit this historic site, you will see numerous engravings carved into rocks. But these carvings are not to be confused with pictographs which are images painted onto the rocks surface.

V-Bar-V is only open Friday to Monday from 9:30am to 3:00pm. It’s located less than 6.0 miles from Montezuma Well. We visited Montezuma Well on a day when V-Bar-V was closed. In hindsight, we would have arranged our itinerary so we could have visited this amazing site as well.

Sedona Ruins Entry Requirements

The main visitor center at Palatki Heritage Site
Palatki Heritage Site Visitor Center

If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, this will give you free entry into all of the ruins near Sedona we discussed in this guide. But you will still have to pay the $1.00 reservation fee for the guided tour at the Palatki Heritage Site.

If you do not have an America the Beautiful Pass, you will need to purchase either a Montezuma Castle/ Tuzigoot Pass or a Red Rock Pass depending on where you plan to visit.

Let’s take a quick look at which pass you need at each Sedona ruin:

  • Montezuma Castle National Monument – Montezuma Castle/Tuzigoot pass OR America The Beautiful
  • Tuzigoot National Monument – Montezuma Castle/Tuzigoot pass OR America The Beautiful
  • Palatki Heritage Site – Red Rock Pass OR America The Beautiful + a reservation for the guided tour
  • Honanki Heritage Site – Red Rock Pass OR America The Beautiful
  • V-Bar-V heritage Site – Red Rock Pass OR America The Beautiful

Travel Tip: If you need to purchase a Red Rock Pass, these can be obtained from a self-serve vending machine found at the Palatki, Honanki and V-Bar-V heritage sites in the parking lot.

How To Get To The Ancient Ruins Near Sedona

The parking lot for Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle National Monument parking lot

Most of the ruins near Sedona are easily accessible with the exception of the Honanki Heritage Site, but you will need a vehicle or rental car.

Palatki or Honanki are located on Forest Rd 525 which is extremely rough and bumpy. This will make it extremely difficult for most cars to drive and in our 4×4 SUV, we had to drive really slow.

We saw standard vehicles driving to the Palatki Heritage Site, but a 4×4 is required to visit the Honanki Heritage Site due to it’s extremely remote location. We rented a 4×4 Jeep for all of our excursions in Sedona including our visit to Honanki and recommend you book a tour if you do not have access to a 4×4 vehicle.

Here are a few popular tour options:

Be sure to read the descriptions before booking a tour to ensure you are visiting the correct sites. If you want to drive an off road vehicle, you might like our guide to the best Sedona jeep trails.

Etiquette Tips

A sign explaining etiquette rules when visiting ruins in sedona
Sign explaining the etiquette tips when visiting ruins in Sedona

Over the years, we have lost many of these ancient ruins due to human recklessness. It’s important to leave all things as you find them so future generations can also enjoy this beautiful history.

Here are a few etiquette tips to consider for your visit:

  • No sitting, climbing or standing on ruins or cliff dwelling walls. Ruins are fragile and any of these actions will compromise the historical site.
  • Never touch artifacts. These are important items that should remain exactly where they are located.
  • No camping at these historical sites. Fires can destroy prehistoric organic materials and also covers the rock art with soot. Check out the DYRT PRO for nearby camping options.
  • Stay on marked trails. It’s important not to venture off trails because our footsteps can destroy fragile ecosystems.
  • No graffiti. This destroys rock art and is extremely disrespectful to the cultures who created these wonderful images.

You should plan to arrive early in the day to beat the heat and the crowds. This will make for a much more comfortable visit.

Hiking Tip: When exploring outdoors, be sure to always practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace to preserve natural beauty so others can enjoy the same environments.

Who Created The Ruins In Sedona?

Sections of an old pot pieced back together
Pieces of ancient pottery found near Tuzigoot National Monument

Now that you know where to see the cliff dwellings and rock art in Sedona, it’s important to know about the people who created these ruins.

Many people and cultures have called Sedona home for centuries. But due to a lack of written history, there is little known about the early people who inhabited this region. Most of what we have learned about Sedona’s early culture has been due to archeological discovery.

All of the ruins listed in this guide were once inhabited by the Sinagua people who arrived around 650 AD. They spread throughout the entire Verde Valley during their time.

Originally hunters and gatherers, the Sinagua experimented with agriculture. They used a method of dry farming which led to their name of Sinagua, meaning “without water” in Spanish.

They also expanded on traditional housing method making pit houses with grass thatched roofs for shelter. The Sinagua’s success fueled development for large pueblos and created an influx of people into the Verde Valley area.

A pit house located by Montezuma Well a great example of a Sedona ruin
An old pit house near Montezuma Well

In addition to pit houses, they built large dwellings with several rooms able to house hundreds of people. Archeologists discovered trade artifacts at these ancient ruins near Sedona which showed how extensive the Sinagua’s trade routes were at their peak.

A little more than a century after they first inhabited the area, the Sinagua mysteriously disappeared. This is still one of the biggest mysteries of the Southwest and numerous theories exist as to why the Sinagua left abruptly. Now all we have left are many ancient ruins filled with secrets.

Best Time To Visit

Spring and fall would be the best time to visit the Sedona ruins when temperatures are cool. Arizona summer days are extremely hot ranging anywhere from 95°F to 110°F. Very heavy rains are common late June to early August during the early afternoon. It’s important to drink plenty of water and hydrate properly, especially in the summer months.

The 5 best indigenous ruins near Sedona we mentioned are 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 means fewer crowds.

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. If you plan to visit Palatki or Honanki along Forest Rd 525, the road may be impassible in bad weather. Be sure to check the weather forecast when you visit and plan appropriately.

In Conclusion

There are numerous ruins near Sedona, Arizona. We think visiting these ruins are one of the best things to do in Sedona because they showcase an incredible amount of indigenous history. If you have an America the Beautiful pass, you can visit all of these ruins for free.

Are the ruins in Sedona worth it?

Yes, the Sedona ruins are worth visiting because they are a unique experience in Arizona. We learned so much from visiting Montezuma Castle, Tuzigoot, Palatki and Honanki. You should try to visit as many ruins as possible during your visit to Sedona. But if you are short on time, our favorites were Montezuma Castle National Monument and the Palakti Heritage Site.

More Historic Sites In Sedona

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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 ancient ruins helps with planning your visit to Sedona!

Please let us know if you have any questions about any of the sites listed in this post or your visit to Sedona in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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