I can rave on and on about my favorite city in Arizona, Sedona. Why? Because there are so many breathtaking hikes to do in Sedona, and I finally got to cross one trail off my Arizona hiking bucket list for my birthday this year. The Soldier Pass Trail is an amazing hike that deserves its hype.
Soldier Pass Trail is a trail you’ve probably come across on social media and many images showcasing a dark cave split in the middle with rock bridges. But what makes this trail even more spectacular aside from discovering this cave are the other sights that are also discoverable here!
Stats of Soldier Pass Trail
Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation gain: 839 feet
Route type: Loop
Know before you go: Finding parking in Soldier Pass Trail and when NOT to hike this
Doing this trail is free, which I love. However, there’s a small parking lot that can at most fit 14 cars, and this trail can get a little bit crowded during the weekends – so you may have to go very early or wait until someone leaves, but you don’t want to wait. You would have to then find parking outside the parking lot and Sedona is strict with parking outside neighborhoods. (And the city has even gone as much to put down cones to make sure no one parks there.)
The trailhead and parking lot by the way is only open from 8 am to 6 pm, so if you plan to go later, then you definitely have to take alternative parking.
We found parking right by an elementary school called West Sedona School but this added about 2 more miles to the overall hike. You can however find a shuttle driving up and down the road near there that will take you to the trailhead if you choose to not hike longer.
In the title, I wrote “When NOT to hike this” and I chose to put out a warning for y’all that I wish more bloggers were able to. Upon hiking through this whole trail, I do think it would be prone for flash floods when there’s thunderstorms. You do not want to take the chance to hike here when there’s even a chance of rain, and as I’ve researched a lot of natural disasters that happened in and out of the country (because I find those stories fascinating), but you never know when a flash flood would occur; they are deadly.
Not only that, but when you climb up to the cave, it wouldn’t be easy as the rocks are a bit slippery even without any wetness on it. You wouldn’t want to climb there when it’s soaking wet!
Soldier Pass Trail: First stop to make is the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole.
As I stated earlier, this trail is more spectacular with other sights you can discover. This sinkhole is super massive and impressive. Devil’s Kitchen, the name of the sinkhole, is 150 feet by 90 feet wide and it is about 40-60 feet deep. As I stood in front of it, the hole was so impressively deep to look down at and it’s kind of scary too. I think sinkholes aren’t something we think too much about when we’re exploring places, but there’s always the possibility of how they can form.
Sinkholes happen when the ground collapses because the soil below gets naturally dissolved through groundwater (such as when it rains over time). In the case of Devil’s Kitchen, there was limestone there that suddenly collapsed and it not only happened once, but twice, in the early 1880’s and in 1989. The impact is scary, and it really raises the question if what we’re standing on sometimes has that possibility.
It is safe to come and see this though as there’s plenty of space to look around it, and if you’re wondering if it’s worth stopping by to see it or if you should keep hiking on, it really is.
Soldier Pass Trail: Then, make a stop at the Seven Sacred Pools.
Alrighty, I have to say this was on my list probably when I first moved to the state! I just love seeing water wherever and these holes are fascinating too. At the trailhead, it’s only 1.1 miles to see these pools. They’re really neat holes that can almost be like perfect Mother Nature versions of hot tubs hah, but there’s absolutely no swimming allowed in them. Plus, you wouldn’t want to with the icky rainwater. I think sometimes the pools are filled with more water, but at this time, it wasn’t overfilled.
There’s beautiful scenery all around, and it’s a nice place to just sit down and chill with your friends. However, if you’re looking to get a perfect shot with not a lot of people there since it’s a popular attraction, you may have to go there early OR when daylight starts to fade, like when we got back at night (it was around 7pm).
Hiking to the Soldier Pass Cave
Soldier Pass Trail was designed to direct you to this amazing cave. You will pass by a lot of areas shaded with trees and at some points, there will be lots of opportunities to provide shade as you walk on straight dirt paths. You do want to pay attention to wooden signs, but there’ll be a few parts of where it intersects.
At the beginning where the Seven Sacred Pools are, there are two ways to start the Soldier Pass Trail and either one is fine.
It is then when you get to the Soldier Wash, you have another intersection. You do not want to have to turn to the first fork you see, continue straight. There’ll be a Wilderness sign and you want to go straight of that as that is the Soldier Cave way. If you look at the map screenshot below, the cave leans more to the right.
As you follow along, you’ll eventually hit a flat plateau. This is a really nice place to sit down and rest if you’d like or to take photos on as you can see from afar the really cool red rock formations. The cave will be closer at this point, but you must walk across the plateau and stay towards your left because the trail to the cave is here.
The trail to the cave will get steeper as the more trees you’ll come across. There are three caves, but the one you might really want to check out to get inside of Soldier Pass Cave will be tucked inside on the right. It will be a very narrow way to get inside and it will also be narrow and steep to climb up, but I had my tall 6’2” friend climb ahead of me and just pull me up while also directing me where to step.
Climbing down is a bit tough too, but make sure to put one foot down first and hold onto some of the rocks for support. It really, really helps to have a friend who’s stronger and experienced in climbing to get ahead and be a spotter for you!
When you’re there, be sure to climb safely on the side of where the open arch window is because you’ll get to see a wide panoramic view of what you just hiked along and to get there, make sure to hold both hands on the rocks while staying as close as possible towards the wall. You would also want to explore the other side of that.
It’s truly an amazing place to explore and I don’t know about you, but I freaking love caves. And all credit goes to my wonderful supportive friends who joined me on my road trip to Sedona for my birthday and took these awesome photos of me!
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