Solstice at Hole in the Rock

I take an interest in solstice markers at ancient sites. Hole in the Rock at Papago Park is one of those sites that has been visited by people for millennia. After visiting this site previously, I vowed to return on the winter solstice to witness the sunset and learn about it’s alignments.


Not only is the winter solstice the shortest day of the year, but it is also the only day of the year that the sun sets furthest to the south – this is the key. By using the hole in the rock like the sights on a rifle, I think early people marked the sun’s last rays on this day.


We arrived well before sunset and hiked around the back. Richard is to the right of a giant boulder and a few other visitors are heading through the hole toward the orange glow of the evening sun in the large hole while the rays burst through the small upper hole.


We noted the single beam of light from the small hole in the shadow of the butte. With Fountain Hills in the distance, we watched the beam climb up and to the right as the sun lowered in the western sky.


Looking north from the shadow of the butte are beautiful views.


Hundreds of people visit each day to enjoy the views over Phoenix from the hole.


I was ecstatic to see that some of the sun’s dying rays could go clear through!


With my leg creating the center shadow, I noted now there were two beams on the far side of the shadow.


I made this starburst silhouette by standing in the beam. It is interesting that the small hole is still visible as well.


The ray from the large lower hole highlights this bush just over the fence on the west side of the butte. The fence prevented us from following the beam to its finale – perhaps another day. As the sun lowered, the beam raised into the south east.


Last glimpses made me wonder what happens here during the summer solstice?


We stepped out of the shadows to absorb some heat and headed back to the car. Before we left the park, we stopped at the restrooms by the ranger station and I noticed a small petroglyph adorned the sidewalk to the building. I wonder where they brought it from?




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