The trail into Loy Canyon is rarely used, probably because visitors to Sedona read the description and see that it is almost 10 miles roundtrip, so doing the full trail up to the rim is rated as difficult, and Sedona is full of shorter, easier trails that are closer to town. They don’t know what they’re missing.
The ancient Sinagua
, ancestors of the modern Hopi, certainly knew a good thing when they saw it, and they chose the area around Loy Butte to build the largest cliff dwellings in all of Red Rock Country: Honanki and Palatki. They also created their most impressive rock art panels here.
Wall of the Ancients Rock Art Panel
Many New Age believers in Sedona speak of Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock as "ancient sacred sites", but these formations did not hold any special attraction for the Sinagua. For the most part they did not live in the area where Sedona is located now. The proof of that is that there are only a few small cliff dwellings in Sedona, and there are no rock art panels at all.
The "Wall of the Ancients" rock art panel across the canyon spans almost 100 yards. It is thought to contain images from every culture to ever occupy the Verde Valley.
Tread lightly here, for this area is monitored by hidden cameras and site stewards. If you decide to visit you can provide an extra set of eyes. Please report anyone you observe conducting paid tours (which is illegal) or vandalizing archaeological sites to the Coconino National Forest.
The Warrior's Wall Cliff Dwellings
The famous "Warrior's Wall" is an unforgettable defensive structure (see photo at top of page) built on a narrow ledge to protect a valuable water source. One or two warriors could have held off a hundred attackers.
While most photographers come here specifically to capture an image of the photogenic defensive wall, it's only one small part of a larger cliff dwelling (shown below).
FINDING THE SOCIAL TRAILS
Take Dry Creek Road from West Sedona. Turn left on Boynton Canyon Rd, then left again on Boynton Pass Road. There are stop signs at each of these intersections. Boynton Pass Road soon turns to dirt. Continue on Boynton Pass and follow the signs to Honanki and Palatki.
This will turn into Forest Road #525 (shown below). The dirt road is rough but passable to a 2 wheel drive passenger vehicle if you drive cautiously. The parking area for Loy Canyon has a sign, and the trailhead is directly across the road.
The map below shows the Wall of the Ancients rock art panel on the right side of Loy Canyon (marked with a red triangle) and the Warrior's Wall cliff dwellings on the left side (marked with a yellow sun symbol). It also shows the location of Honanki Heritage Site and a cliff dwelling on top of Loy Butte.
The first part of the system trail (shown below) works its way around the Hancock Ranch, which is privately owned. Once the trail goes over this hill and drops down next to the dry creek bed you're getting close.
The turnoff to Wall of the Ancients (shown below) comes just before the system trail crosses the normally dry creek bed, and just beyond the private property.
One way you'll know you're in the right place is that this creek crossing has steps cut into the side to make it easier. That creek crossing is visible in the photo below, about 20 yards beyond where the hiker is turning right on the social trail.
You'll also see a "No Trespassing" sign on the right side just before this turn. That sign marks the end of the private property. The Wall of the Ancients is on National Forest land.
The turnoff to the Warrior's Wall is approximately .3 miles farther. Once you pass the turn to the rock art you will see the next big rock formation sticking out into the canyon on the left side. It has some nice alcoves that will seem promising, but there are no ruins in this first set of pockets (shown below).
The ruins shown above are in the NEXT set of alcoves, just around the corner. Most people seem to turn off to the left about 100 yards too soon, which leads to an exhausting climb, a lot of unnecessary bushwhacking, and a fruitless search. At best you'll come out high above the ruins. I've actually made that mistake twice myself -- once even after I had been to the ruins.
Easy for the rock art panel
for the ruins due to route findingDifficult
for the full system trail due to length and elevation gain
DISTANCE ONE WAY
1 mile to the rock art (rated easy)
1.26 miles to the ruins (rated moderate)
5 miles to the rim (rated difficult)
150 ft to the rock art
450 ft to the ruins
1680 ft to the rim
ESTIMATED HIKING TIME
2 hours for rock art panel
3 hours for the ruins
6 hours for the rim
BEST TIME TO GO
All year for ruins & rock art
Sept - May for the full trail to the rim
Yes for the system trail only. They must be leashed at all times. Please pick up after them and pack it out. No for ruins and rock art! Please do not bring your pet to any archaeological sites.
Good luck finding these special places! If you have questions, feel free to email us or direct message us on Instagram. We would love to see YOUR photos, so tag us if you find it!