Located just minutes from Sedona, Arizona, the hike to Soldier’s Pass Cave is a moderate, 3-mile hike to a narrow cave where you can do some fun exploring and rock scrambling. If climbing into a cave intrigues you, this is the hike for you! Although Soldier’s Pass Cave is the main highlight of the hike, there are also several interesting sights to see along the way, as well as beautiful views of the famous Sedona red rocks. In this article, we’ll tell you what to expect from the hike to Soldier’s Pass Cave and help you plan the perfect Sedona adventure.
Hiking in Sedona, Arizona
For those inclined to believe in the supernatural powers of natural world, Sedona is considered by many to be a vortex, or a place in nature that is particularly alive with energy and well-suited for mediation, healing, and spiritual enlightenment.
Now, most of that healing-crystal, zodiac-sign, natural-magic stuff is a little too out there for me, and I can’t say I felt any form of transcendental enlightenment in Sedona, but the underlying belief is true. Sedona is one of the most beautiful and geologically-unique towns in the United States.
Filled with towering red rock buttes, stunning sunsets, and glimpses deep into the stars, it is easy to see how Sedona earned its reputation as a place of unique natural energy.
Soldier’s Pass Cave hike details
- Hiking distance | 3.1 miles
- Elevation gain | 540 feet
- Total time | 2 – 3 hours
- Epic-ness rating | 7
- Difficulty | easy – moderate
Find this hike on AllTrails: Soldier’s Pass Trail
Note that the hike on AllTrails continues an additional 0.8 miles beyond the turnoff for the cave. We took this route on accident and there isn’t a ton to see. We recommend turning back after the cave.
Getting to the trailhead
The official Soldier’s Pass trailhead is located off Shadow Rock Drive, located under 10 minutes from downtown Sedona. The parking lot is tiny, with only 14 spots, so we would not recommend planning to park there.
Instead, you can park on the side of the road off Soldier’s Pass Road. Trust us, walking the extra distance will take much less time than trying to wait for a spot to open up – we made this mistake!
Word of warning: do NOT park on Shadow Rock Drive or anywhere in the neighborhood surrounding the trailhead. They will tow! As long as you park on Soldier’s Pass Road and check for no parking signs, you’ll be safe.
If you’d prefer to avoid dealing with parking near the Shadow Rock Drive trailhead, you can instead opt to start the hike from the Jim Thompson trailhead off Jordan Road. Starting from this trailhead will add about 1.2 miles roundtrip.
Starting the hike
Once you’ve found a spot to park, make your way to the Soldier’s Pass trailhead. The beginning of the trail is also a mountain bike path, so be on the lookout for bikers.
Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole
After just a few minutes into the hike, you’ll reach the Devil’s Kitchen, a massive sinkhole formed by the collapse of underground caverns. Look out for the Devil’s Kitchen to the righthand side of the trail about a quarter-mile into the hike.
Seven Sacred Pools
One of the most popular sights along the trail to Soldier’s Pass Cave is Seven Sacred Pools, a collection of 7 small side by side patches of water.
Personally, we thought the pools were cool but a bit overrated. It’s still worth looking out for them, but the real reward on this hike is certainly Soldier’s Pass Cave.
The Seven Sacred Pools are located on the lefthand side of the trail, just over half a mile into the hike. They are pretty easy to miss – we walked right past them on our way out so be sure to keep an eye out.
Turnoff for Soldier’s Pass Cave
The turnoff for Soldier’s Pass Cave will be about 1.2 miles into the hike. It is not well-marked and again very easy to miss!
We walked right past it and ended up hiking 2 miles out of the way. The trail to reach the cave is an unassuming path that branches off to the right and doesn’t look well-traveled, but once you are on the trail it is very easy to follow.
If you look closely, you will be able to see a large archway in the red rock. That’s where the cave is located, so just keep heading in that direction and you will be there in no time.
Soldier’s Pass Cave
Once you arrive at Soldier’s Pass Cave, you can climb up into the cave. It is a steep climb, particularly if you are short (like me!), and slightly frightening to hoist yourself up.
From inside the cave, you can rest with a view of the surrounding area through a little triangular window. The inside of the cave can get pretty crowded on the weekends, so it’s best to start your hike early for the best shot at having the place to yourself.
Despite the crowds, climbing around in this hidden red rock cave is a ton of fun, and the views looking out the “window” are incredible!
The return hike
When you’ve finished exploring the cave, follow the same trails the way you came to get back to your car.
Planning your hike to Soldier’s Pass Cave
In this section, we’ll help you plan the logistics for your hike to Soldier’s Pass Cave in Sedona, from the best time to visit to where to stay and what to pack.
How to get to Sedona, Arizona
Sedona is located in southern Arizona, and is easily reachable from:
- Phoenix, Arizona in 2 hours
- Tucson, Arizona in 3 hours 30 minutes
- The Grand Canyon in 2 hours
- Page, Arizona in 3 hours
- Las Vegas, Nevada in 4 hours 20 minutes
If you are arriving by plane, the best place to fly into is Phoenix, located just about 2 hours from Sedona. Tucson or Las Vegas are also options, but the drive will be significantly longer.
How to get around in Sedona
To get to the hikes in Sedona, including Soldier’s Pass Cave, you’ll want to rent a car. We rented a small SUV for $60 per day, but you certainly don’t need 4WD to reach the trailhead – a sedan will do just fine.
When is the best time to hike to Soldier’s Pass Cave?
The best time to hike in Sedona is during the Spring (March – May) and Fall (October – November), as temperatures tend to get very hot during the summer.
If you must travel during the summer, it’s possible to hike but the strong sun and high temperatures will likely be unpleasant. Make sure that you are prepared with plenty of water and sun protection
Although Sedona can get snow every now and then, temperatures tend to remain relatively mild through the winter. Therefore, December through February can also be good options to hike in Sedona. We went to Soldier’s Pass Cave in early March and it was the perfect weather for hiking.
What to pack for hiking to Soldier’s Pass Cave
Before taking off on your hike to Soldier’s Pass Cave, make sure you are prepared with the following:
- Backpack with bladder | The Sedona sun is strong and there is little to no shade on the trail, so make sure to pack at least 2-3 liters of water. We each use a simple Camelback backpack with bladder (HERS: Camelback Helena 20L, HIS: Camelback Rim Runner 22L). They’re comfortable, lightweight and just big enough to hold the essentials without weighing you down. (P.S. I have found that having a women’s pack that actually fits well makes a huge difference hiking!)
- Hiking pants | these Athleta Headlands pants are my absolute favorite! Plus all the pockets make them more stylish, so they can double as normal pants. Matt’s go to hiking pants are his PrAna Stretch Zion Pants.
- Tanks | I’m obsessed with the Athleta Conscious Crop – a sports bra and tank all in one, and so comfortable for hiking!
- Sunscreen and sunglasses | The sun gets very strong even when temperatures are mild and there is not much shade on the trail to Soldier’s Pass Cave.
- Trail map downloaded with AllTrail Pro (or other hiking app) | while the majority of the trail is very well marked, having the map downloaded makes navigation easy and will help you find the turnoff for the cave. Better yet, invest in GPS device in case of emergency (we always carry our Garmin InReach Mini GPS no matter how long or hard the hike).
Other useful resources
Planning a trip to the southwest? We think you may enjoy the following articles to help you plan your trip:
- Arizona road trip | Adventurous One Week Road Trip in Arizona & Southern Utah
- Grand Canyon: How to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
- Arizona: How to Spend One Amazing Day in Page, Arizona
- Bryce Canyon: How to Hike the Figure Eight Loop in Bryce Canyon
- Zion: Zion West Rim Trail: Backpacking Guide
- Canyonlands: How to Hike to Druid Arch in Canyonlands
- Grand Staircase: 9 Amazing Grand Staircase Escalante Hikes
For all things Arizona: Arizona Travel Guide
Have you hiked to Soldier’s Pass Cave? Let us know your favorite Sedona hike in the comments section below!