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  • Stories in Stone near Sedona, Arizona: The V-Bar-V Petroglyphs

Stories in Stone near Sedona, Arizona: The V-Bar-V Petroglyphs

The V-Bar-V-petroglyphs at noon on the summer Solstice. This site is located just outside Sedona, Arizona.The V-Bar-V-petroglyphs at noon on the summer Solstice. This site is located just outside Sedona, Arizona.

Just a few miles north up Interstate 17 from Montezuma Well is a hidden treasure of the ancient Sinagua past, surrounded by some of the loveliest creekside scenery around.

V-Bar-V Ranch, once a large cattle operation founded in the 1920s, is home to a well-preserved and beautiful petroglyph site, created by the Sinagua Indians sometime between 1150 and 1400 AD.

The photo was taken on location on June 21, first day of the summer solstice.

Marking the passage of time across what is now believed to be a solar calendar or panel­—one of very few worldwide—shadow stones naturally wedged in a rock crevice play light and shadow across the cliff face. The precise times of the vernal equinox and summer solstice, important events for planting and harvesting, are tracked by light and the sun’s transition across the southwestern sky.

V-Bar-V SignPark at the Heritage Center lot and begin the 1/3-mile trail that follows Beaver Creek to the site. The chimney from a former ranch building bearing the V-Bar-V logo stands at the trailhead, the first sign of people from the past that seems to assert, “We were here once!” You’ll stroll along a path that’s bordered on one side by meadows full of grasses and wildflowers, and on the other by towering cottonwoods and sycamores, with the cool burbling of Beaver Creek just beyond. Countless songbirds and the whisper of wind in the leaves provide the soundtrack to your walk, which ends at a tall sheer wall of red sandstone.

This is where lizards, deer, fantastic humans and coyotes have swirled and scampered on the rock face for centuries. The petroglyphs, which were created by chipping away at the cliff with stone hammers and chisels, are still remarkably clear, with over 1,000 images identified at this site. Animals, human figures and intricate geometric shapes are connected by meandering lines, perhaps suggesting some kind of narrative or time table, but like much of the Sinagua’s history, we can only guess at its meaning. That mystery is part of the magic of this site, which is a must-see to complete your exploration of the Verde Valley’s distant past.


V-Bar-V Heritage Site is located 2.8 miles east of the junction of I-17 and SR179 (FR 618). Watch for the entrance on your right less than one-half mile past the Beaver Creek Campground
on I-17.

9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (entrance gate closes at 3:00 p.m.), Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas).

A Red Rock Pass is required to park in the Heritage Site lot and visit the rock art. Red Rock Passes can be purchased at the Heritage Site Visitor Center, or at various locations around Sedona. For information about obtaining a Red Rock Pass, contact the Sedona Red Rock Ranger Station: 928-203-2900.

Restrooms are available; water is not. It’s a good idea to bring your own water, as even a short walk in the heat of the day can be taxing for some. No pets allowed.


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