Visiting the Palatki Cultural Center

The Palatki Cultural Center is awesome! Les and I are interested in ancient ruins as well as artwork from any period of time. This place is rife with both and is located smack-dab in the middle of some of the most amazing red-rock scenery. It gets a HUGE thumbs up from us. OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me tell you about our day at the site. (grin)

A gorgeous meadow on the walk from the parking lot to the Cultural visitor’s center where you have to check in.

The very first thing that we learned upon entering the visitor’s center is that we were supposed to call ahead to make reservations. Oooops! After a long, bumpy drive down a dirt road, we could have easily been turned away from the ruins. The reason is that they don’t allow more than 10 people on any given tour. The ledge in front of the dwellings is fairly narrow and really would not comfortably and safely accommodate more than ten. Also, the site can be closed for renovation, rock falls and rain. At times, the walk to the cliff dwelling is closed, so you can only view them from a distance below the cliffs.

That would have been a bummer to be kicked out. So call ahead if you plan on going. We were lucky. On Sunday they were turning people away at the parking lot. On Monday we got to go in with no problem. You do have to get a parking pass, but the tours and site entrance are free. There are less and less free sites these days so that was a pleasant surprise.

Looking up through the trees on the trail to the cliff dwellings.

Les and I spent the better part of a perfect day hiking and taking a ton of pictures of the area. The day was a little overcast, so it was the perfect temperature for me. There was enough shade for comfort and enough sun for pictures. On a perfect plus note, it has been raining a lot this year so the varied wildflowers were in fabulous bloom. Can I say that it was just beautiful over and over?

Located outside of Sedona Arizona, Palatki and its sister site, Honanki, were the largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock Country between AD 1150 – 1350. The sites were first described by Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes, famous turn-of-the century archaeologist from the Smithsonian Institution, who gave them the Hopi names of Honanki (Badger House) and Palatki (Red House). The Hopi, however, have no specific names for these sites.

There are three trails at Palatki Heritage Site, one trail that takes you up to the Sinagua cliff dwellings, one that takes you to a view of the dwellings and a third that goes to the alcoves that shelter the painted and etched symbols from every native culture to ever occupy the Verde Valley. These trails, each ¼ mile one way making the round trip distance one and one half mile, are fairly easy but they are not accessible to wheel-chairs.

From the visitor’s center, you get your first guide, and walk a moderately short hike up to the cliff dwellings. The ranger at the visitor’s center said that the first hike up to the cliff dwellings was about half a mile, but it did not seem that long to me.

There are a few steps along the way, some of them a little steep. The center offers hiking sticks for you to borrow if you like. The ranger at the station handed this old lady (me) a stick automatically. I probably should have been insulted, LOL. Well, it turns out that I LOVED mine and never knew that I wanted one until I used it on the trail. It really did help with the steps and my arthritic knee. My purchase as soon as we got back to Sedona was a hiking stick with which I will never again hike without.

Hike up to the dwelling with my hand carved walking stick courtesy of the visitor’s center. It came in handy while trying to step down some of the higher rocks.

After you spend some time at the dwellings, you continue your hike on up to the grotto where you will be handed off to another guide. The grotto is a huge open cave type of area where the ancient art is. I have read reviews from people saying that there were not as many pictoglyphs (a picture/symbol painted on the rock) and petroglyphs (pictures and symbols incised into the rock) as they expected. LMAO! There were a ton of them once you really started looking.

Imagine how many years this rock art has been faced with harsh sun, snow, wind and rain. I was actually amazed by how many images were still in great condition and clearly visible under the circumstances. Our VERY knowledgeable guide was adept at pointing out layers upon layers of ancient artwork, separating them for my puny little mind to see.

The day was light as far as visitors go, so Les and I had the tour guides to ourselves. We got to take our time with each guide and ask as many questions as we wanted. The people working there are volunteers who, each and every one of them, were happy to answer every question as well as provide a wealth of information and stories along the trail.

A part of the grotto was closed off for the bats that migrate there every spring. When we craned our necks around the rocks, we could see into a small entrance to the bat cave, but we could not walk past a roped off area at the entrance.

The Palatki center was a wonderful experience. We were lucky because this year has brought a lot of rain to Norther Arizona. The spring trees were practically glowing with their neon green colored leaves. The varied wild flowers were blooming in profusion. It was magical.

Les looking at art. You can see that the drawings were roped off. You could not touch them, of course, but we were right up next to them which is starting to get rare out here.

On our drive home, the skies opened up and the rain let loose. Even so, it was still a beautiful drive home.

Below is some practical information if you plan on visiting the site. I hope that you will. It was way worth it.

Currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service under the Red Rock Pass Program, the site is open to the general public for visits seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). A small visitor center and bookstore, run by the Arizona Natural History Association, is located a short distance from the parking lot.

Time Period Represented
AD 1150 – 1350

Hours Open
Open 7 days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m
Seasons Open
Open year-round

Visitor Fees
Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required on all vehicles parked at our cultural sites. This pass can be purchased the Palatki Visitors Center.

Visitor Restrictions or Regulations
The area next to the cliff dwelling is limited to ten visitors at a time. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Before you visit, please call for reservations at (928) 282-3854 and read our Archaeological Site Etiquette Guide.

ADA Accessibility Notes
The trails are short and fairly easy, but they are not accessible to most wheelchairs.

Pet Friendly Notes
Pets are not allowed beyond the parking area at this heritage site.

Bumble Bee to Cleator to Crown King

It was another beautiful day in paradise this past weekend so Les and I took a drive over to Crown King for another art day. For years, people have been asking if we’ve been yet and telling us that we are missing out and it’s so beautiful and yada, yada, yada.

Bumble Bee, Cleator and Crown king are recognized as three of Arizona’s many ghost towns due to the demise of the mining operations in the mid to late 1800’s.

We never actually got out our art supplies on this trip. We did take a few pictures that I used as reference for my art journal when I got home.

It’s true that the day trip was beautiful. There are lots of desert flowers in bloom right now so that was cool. Plus, driving anywhere in Northern Arizona is beautiful as far as I’m concerned. The dirt road as far as Cleator was fine – no wash outs or potholes to speak of. Viewing wide open vistas is always a favorite of mine.

We came upon Bumble Bee first. It has a really cool welcome sign as you see here. Bumble Bee is small. Just a handful of cattle ranches and private homes are all that remain of this once thriving stage stop.

Cleator was the next town that was along the route. We were surprised at how many visitors had come up for the day. The town bar was hopping. The yacht club was in full swing too. Yes, you read that right. They have a yacht club! It had lots of chairs and pick-nic tables with a ton of people talking, laughing and having a good time.

Les stopped in to check out the yard sale that looked like it never closed. We actually liked Cleator better than Crown King even though it is way smaller. It was definitely more interesting to us.

Pretty vistas surrounded us, but I had to keep telling Les to keep his eyes on the road. he was scaring the be-jeebers out of me.

The road on up to CK was pretty hairy. It was narrower and rougher. At times it narrowed down to a one car road. You had to pull as far to the side or back up to allow passing. I did not like that at all and was a nervous wreck by the time we got to the town.

Crown King also had hoards of people milling about but the atmosphere seemed creepy somehow. Well, two things that I don’t like (besides scary roads) are crowds and drunks. I don’t know if it was a special event or if every weekend brigs so many off-roaders, but it was evident that many had been drinking it up and were pretty rowdy. We were happy to get out of there!

To be fair, I heard one guy say to another that it’s always a zoo around there on the weekends. He said that during the week it’s like a ghost town (which kind of made me chuckle to myself.) So if you get on over to my neck of the woods, the shake down is as such: Bumble Bee= cute, Cleator= interesting and Crown King= thumbs down (unless possibly during the week).

Verde Valley Train Trip Through the Southwest High Desert

Verde Valley Train

If you are ever in Clarkdale, Arizona, take a ride on the Verde Valley Train. You should book in advance as the cars are often filled to capacity. This train trip is a little pricey, but worth a take. I mean, you will spend twice as much as  if you go to a movie and buy refreshments in the theater snack bar, but you will have a better outing, so do it.  OK, maybe three times as much, but it’s not something that you do every day. Continue reading “Verde Valley Train Trip Through the Southwest High Desert”

Urban Camping in Northern Arizona

wide openSee that teeny little disturbance in the middle of the photo? That is our camp site. Even though Dead Horse Ranch State Park is practically in the town of Cottonwood, AZ, there is still plenty of wide open space and privacy.

Les and I decided to give “Urban Camping” a go this past weekend. Urban camping is about choosing a campsite that is near or in a town or city.
We decided to camp at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Camping in Arizona is still kind of strange for us. Coming from Southern California, we are used to driving long distances past housing development after housing development just to get out of town, much less to get to an actual camping spot. We have lived in Arizona for thirteen years already and it still trips us out that we can step out our front door and hit a hiking trail. Being surrounded by this huge blue sky and so much unoccupied land is such a gift to be appreciated and, believe me, we do!.

Les workingSetting up camp: as usual Les was doing  all the work while I goofed off taking selfies. Life is good. (grin)
At Dead Horse camp grounds there are a ton of camp loops ranging from citified (lots of shade trees and fully equipped with electricity and running water) all the way out to the farthest point where we chose. And even that site (tents only) had the most immaculate restrooms and showers we’ve ever seen at a state park. Les said that they were better than some of the hotels that we have stayed in and he is right!

unusual plants at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona
unusual plants at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona

abondoned cabinThis park is an exciting choice because, not only is there a lot of ground to cover, exploring abandoned shacks and ruins, but there is a wonderfully cool, shady lagoon to explore as well. You’ve got such a diverse eco-system within the park. You can hike from a high desert, to a cool lagoon to a shady marshland all in one day. Everywhere you look, the flora, birds and animals are plentiful.

Colorful and comical blue herons hang out at the dock of the lagoon where they steal fish from the buckets of unsuspecting anglers. This waterway is so peaceful and beautiful- an excellent destination if you just want to pack a lunch and go for a relaxing day hike.
the lakeAt the lagoon, there is also kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, and a ton of different hiking trails.

Tadeshi marshOn our second day in the park, we trekked on down to Tavasci Marsh.  It’s a fabulous hike down to a cool, wooded, marsh. It’s quite a surprise to find such an oasis in the middle of a dry Sonoran desert.  One of the rewards to this hike is coming upon a fern covered wonderland. You can see how dense the fine, lacy ferns are in the photo at the upper right corner of this collage.

Tuzigut Ruins, ArizonaFrom the Marsh trail-head, you can look across and see the Tuzigoot Indian ruins in Clarkdale, AZ. Also an interesting site seeing destination best saved for another day.