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Follow a quick and easy trail passed a stone fireplace—the remnants of an old pioneer ranch that gave the site its name—to a shady, gated sanctuary with wild grape vines and colorful rock walls that work as an art gallery. Here you’ll find the largest and most well-preserved rock art petroglyph site in the Verde Valley; V-Bar-V Heritage Site has a whopping 1,032 rock art petroglyphs on 13 panels. Most of the images were carved by the Southern Sinagua between 900 A.D. and about 1350 A.D. in the Beaver Creek Rock Art Style. Towering red rock overhangs shelter many of the petroglyphs from rain and snow, preserving these voices from the past.

One image may have been modified by the Yavapai. And experts believe at least one petroglyph dates to the Archaic period. There is also a separate panel of names and dates from the pioneers, starting in about 1840. But before this site was a ranch and homestead, indigenous peoples carved out their place in history.

A knowledgeable docent explains how the Solar Panel worked as a sun dial, yearly calendar, and guide. Boulders wedged into cracks in the rock wall above this panel cast shadows and sunlight on different images during solstices and equinoxes. For example, the corn stalk symbol is highlighted when it’s time to plant corn. To get the full effect, visit V-Bar-V Heritage Site during the summer solstice, which is the best-preserved. The sun dial is also obvious during the winter solstice and spring and fall equinox, so those are still great times to plan a trip.

The U. S. Forest Service acquired the property in 1994 and opened this historic site to the public in 1996 as part of the Coconino National Forest Red Rock Ranger District. Visit this archaeological wonder Friday-Monday 9:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at 6750 North Forest Ranger Road in Rimrock, Arizona, less than three miles southeast of Interstate 17. About 10 minutes north of Camp Verde, take the Sedona Exit 298 and you’ll find V-Bar-V Heritage Site just after Beaver Creek Picnic and Day Use Area. Purchase a $5 Red Rock Pass from the self-service vending machine or bring your America the Beautiful Pass.

Grab a hat and water for the short trail, especially if you visit in the summer. Binoculars are handy for getting a closer view of birds like the Northern Cardinal. Although the trail is wheelchair accessible, the petroglyph viewing area is not. Stop in to the Natural History Association gift shop, as well as the Visitor Center with artifacts and a visitor registry you can sign to mark that you were here too.

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