Hiking to Soldier Pass Cave — Sedona, AZ

The Soldier Pass Cave is tucked away well off the trail, but is still one of the coolest caves I’ve hiked to. This is just one example of why I love red rock country in Sedona so much. The shade inside the cave can also provide some relief from the hot sun, and I love watching the different colors inside change depending on the sun’s position overhead.

If you decide to visit, please always pick up after yourselves and treat this place with respect, as beautiful caves like these can be particularly sensitive to human activity.

 

Hike Info

Date Hiked: Dec 30
Miles
: 4.3 roundtrip
Elevation Change: 813 ft
Trail Type: Out and back
Trailhead: Google Maps
Cost: Free

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Getting There

The main trailhead called Soldier Pass Trailhead No. 66 has less than 15 parking spots in the gated lot. That lot will likely be full, so you’ll have to park on the streets like us, which added a total of 0.8 extra miles onto our hike. Be sure to read the posted signs VERY carefully, as we saw a cop circling, and you can’t park just anywhere in the neighborhood.

The Soldier Pass Trailhead is only open 8am to 6pm, so if you want to be there for sunrise or sunset, you’ll either have to park on the street in the residential area, or you could start from the Jordan Road Trailhead and take the one mile Cibola Pass Trail to the start of Soldier’s Pass Trailhead.

 

The Hike

Big thanks to this blog post by this blog post by Michael from My Nomadic Lens for helping me find this spot!

After parking at the trailhead, we ended up taking the dirt jeep trail instead of the hiking trail by accident. This detour ended up being only a little longer, and we got to see a jeep tour rock crawling and bumping past us on a tour.

Eventually we reached Devil’s Kitchen, a large active sinkhole that has most recently collapsed in 1995. Sinkholes are most commonly created when rainwater dissolves the limestone beneath the surface, and the caves that are slowly created collapses suddenly.

The Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole

The Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole

Although not the main highlight of the hike, the sinkhole was still quite impressive. It’s about 150 feet in length and 50 feet down to the bottom.

Continue following the trail, which is well maintained and has occasional wooden signs confirming you are indeed heading the right way. Hiking on Soldier Pass Trail is pleasant as the trail is partially shaded from the trees.

After about 0.9 miles, you’ll reach the Seven Sacred Pools. Some of the pools were partially frozen, and they all had a murky color from being stagnant in December, but I imagine if you go after some fresh rain and during the early morning or near sunset, the pools would look their best. The rock towers in the distance are also quite unique and make a perfect backdrop to these pools.

The hiking trail is parallel to the jeep trail, both heading north. Eventually the jeep trail will end, and you’ll be forced to use the hiking trail. About 0.9 miles from the pools, you’ll reach the turn off on the right for the cave. Take this small use trail and you’ll find yourself on an open mesa. You’ll see a rock wall in the distance, and if you look hard enough you might be able to spot the arch that marks the entrance of the cave.

Stay to the left when crossing the flat mesa. The trail after the plateau gets quite steep, heading towards the base of the cliff. Follow any of the trails heading towards the hole in the wall. Once you get closer, you should be able to spot two arches in the wall. Make your way through some of the red sandstone rubble and feel free to explore both, looking up to see how they form a cave behind the face of the wall.

If you’re careful, you can climb up into the back cave using some well placed rocks. Once you’ve climbed up inside, you’ll see the entire cave - an impressive sight to behold. We hung out inside for a while watching the light move across the sky, creating different shadows and colors inside the cave. I love how there is even a perfect window opening to the outside world.

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I love spots like these - unassuming from the outside, but inside Mother Nature sure has a surprise for us. As I wandered through the cave, I wondered how something like this would form. Rocks and geology can be so fascinating!

You can see from the bottom opening all the way to the skylight at the top!

You can see from the bottom opening all the way to the skylight at the top!

When you’re done enjoying this gem, climb down the way you came in, and retrace your steps back to your car. The perfect morning hike to start off our day in beautiful Sedona!

 

Favorite gear for this hike: