Complete guide to hiking Solider’s Pass Trail in Sedona

Scenic views of Solider's Pass Trail

Solider’s Pass Trail is an iconic hiking trail in Sedona, Arizona with amazing red rock views and landmarks including, the 7 Sacred Pools and Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole. In addition, this trail leads to a spur trail guiding hikers to some of Sedona’s famous caves. If you are looking for unique scenery, Solider’s Pass trail is a must-do, as well as the Birthing cave hike and Boyton Subway hike. Sedona’s caves used to be a “secret,” although plenty of people know about them now, they are still unmarked and relatively unspoiled, which is a fantastic thing.

Many people would like to keep it that way and discourage public blog posts about them. I totally see where they are coming from, but as an adventurer, I believe everyone should have access to these stunning natural creations as long as everyone abides by the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. It is imperative to respect nature and do all you can to preserve it while enjoying it. The natural wonders of the earth take a bit hit with tourism, but if everyone who visits, visits responsibly, more people will have the same fulfilling experiences for decades to come. Thank you for following the Leave No Trace principles when hiking in Sedona.

The Best Time to Hike in Sedona

Hiking in Sedona can get busy, and this hike was no exception. I enjoyed the caves and the scenery getting there but did fight with tourists at its notable landmarks. It’s best to start your hike early (before 8 am) and go in the offseason to avoid the crowds.

March through May and September through mid-December are considered the high season, with temperatures in the 70s. December, January, and February (winter) are considered low season months with average high temperatures in the mid-50. In July and August, temps reach the 90’s or above, making outdoor activities a little tough to enjoy.

I hiked the Solider’s Pass Trail in early April while on a 3-month car-camping road trip. I’ve also visited Sedona in the winter, and although temps are cold, hiking is more enjoyable with fewer tourists and cooler temps. Accommodations are also less expensive in winter.

Solider's Pass Trail to 7 sacred

Where to Park for the Solider’s Pass Trail

Parking is a big challenge at this trailhead. If you do not arrive before 8 a.m, you most likely will not be able to park in this small 14 car parking lot until later in the day after the a.m hikers are leaving. The small gravel lot is located at the end of Forest Service 9904 Road.

Cars line up as early as 7 a.m during high season, waiting for the parking lot to open at 8 a.m. I arrived at 7:15 a.m on a weekday in early April, and I was the 5th car in line; more than 14 cars were in line by 7:45 a.m. The parking lot and trailhead are located in a residential subdivision where street parking is not legal. The automatic gate to the trailhead lot closes at 6 pm, so if you do not make it back in time, your car will be locked in until 8 am the next morning.

If you can’t find parking at the Solider’s Pass Trail, head to the Jim Thompson trailhead off W Park Ridge Drive. This lot holds up to 50 cars, is open 24 hours, and has facilities. America the Beautiful pass or a Red Rock Pass is required to park here (you can purchase a Red Rock Pass in the parking lot for $5), and the lot fills by 9 a.m on most days. You will have to walk two extra miles round trip via alternate trails to get to the Soldier’s Pass caves. More on alternate routes later in this post.

Alternatively, additional parking is at the Posse Ground Park 1.5 miles south of the Solider’s Pass Trailhead. It is free to park at Posse Ground Park, and Debbie, a local, offers FREE (donations accepted) transportation to and from this park to the Solider’s Pass Trailhead. Call her at 928-592-2011 to see if she is operating while you are there.

Solider’s Pass Trail #66 and spur trail hiking details

  • Distance: 4.5 miles Soliders Pass Trail
  • Distance: 2.8 miles Solider’s Pass Cave Spur trail
  • Route Type: Out and Back 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length of Time: 2-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 850ft-540 ft
  • Parking: 14 car gravel parking lot
  • Dogs: Dogs are allowed with leash
  • Permit: No permit required, unless you park in parking lot with amenities (such as the Jim Thompson Trailhead)

Landmarks to see along Solider’s Pass Trail

Devil's Sink Hole along Solider's Pass Trail in Sedona

Devil’s Kitchen

The Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole is one of 7 sinkholes discovered around Sedona. Devil’s Kitchen is the most well-known and active of the 7, with geologists expecting another collapse, only there is no way to tell when. The first collapse happened in the 1880s, with a second collapse in 1989 and a third in 1995 when the northern wall fell in. However, danger to humans with an additional collapse is thought to be minimal.

It is only about .4 miles to the sinkhole from the Solider’s Pass Trailhead. It is worth a peep to see the 150 ft by 90ft wide hole averaging 50 ft deep. There are no railings or fences to block access to the sinkhole so observe it responsibly.

Sign for 7 Sacred pools along the Soldier's Pass trail head

The 7 Sacred Pools

This collection of small pools are the busiest landmark on the Soldier’s pass trail. They are only 1.1 miles away from the Solider’s Pass trailhead but can also be accessed by road, most notably via a Pink Jeep Tour.

These natural “pools” may be dried up, but they are still cool to see. The best time to see them full is after heavy rainfall. Swimming is not allowed, but they are a one-of-a-kind landmark enjoyed by all who visit.

Solider’s Pass Trail Caves

The caves are the most notable landmark on this moderate hike. The spur trail that leads to these caves is slightly uphill but offers the best reward. There are a few large archways in addition to a cave you have to climb into to explore. You can even climb out of this cave in a separate area for more insane views of the towering red rocks below.

Hiking Solider’s Pass Trail and Spur Trail

The Solider’s Pass Spur Trail to the caves is about 1.3 miles from Solider’s Pass trailhead. The Solider’s Pass Trail extends .5 miles beyond the spur trail and intersects with the Brins Mesa Trail. I had plans later in the day, so I only hiked to the caves, passing the Seven Sacred Pools and Devil’s Sinkhole along the way (more on alternate hiking routes in the next section).

From the Solider’s Pass Trailhead, take the trail to the right. The road towards the left is the 4×4 road that you want to avoid. At first, I headed down the 4×4 road and then turned around to get back on the hiking trail. I’d much rather not have to share the trail with loud jeeps stirring up dust.

You will come to the Devil’s Sinkhole in less than 10 minutes of walking; the 7 sacred Pools are less than 0.5 miles from the sinkhole. There is not much to see at the sinkhole other than the sinkhole itself, so you won’t spend much time here. The 7 Sacred Pools are quite scenic, with some towering rocks in the background making for a great photography spot. It was VERY crowded at this popular landmark with multiple talking guides and Pink Jeep Tours.

The pools are in an open area, so you have room to breathe even when they are crowded. After you get a few photos, continue along the marked path to the right until you come to the spur trail to the caves; take the trail to the right. The exact GPS location of the spur trail cave turn-off is 34.897722, -111.787778. Copy and paste these numbers into Google maps search bar and save them to your maps for easy reference.

The spur trail is unmarked except for the small wilderness sign on a tree. The trail to the left has a trail marker indicting Solider’s Pass Trail (this is not the spur trail). Make sure to take the trail to the right (towards the wilderness sign) and continue another .5 uphill miles to the caves, staying left once you get to the large open space.

This is the hardest part of the hike, but it will be well worth it once you see the caves. The path is relatively unmarked in this area, so make sure to stay left, and you will see a footpath (refer to photo above). 1/2 way up, you will start to see the arches in the rock and the cave’s location. The arches are fun to explore, but you will need to climb into a small, one person at a time entrance to really explore the cave.

The climb into the cave isn’t as challenging as getting out of the cave. It helps if you are tall but make sure you can do both before you climb in. There was a rope aid, but I found it easiest to scramble up on all fours.

Inside the cave, you can walk a short way to explore the opposite end, where there is another entrance/exit for the cave. You can attempt to get another bird’s eye view of Sedona by climbing up the rocks to the top of the cave, but you will have to climb back down and exit the way you originally came in as there is no trail to follow from the top of the cave. I skipped this area because a few locals said it was sketchier than they remembered, but in retrospect, I wish I would have tried the climb to see for myself. It is something I will definitely attempt on my next Solider’s Pass hike.

Once you have enjoyed the cave and arches, head back down the spur trail to the fork in the Solider’s Pass trail. You can head right and continue down the rest of the Solider’s Pass trail or go left to the parking lot, the same way you came.

Alternate hiking routes

There are many alternate routes to extend or shorten a hike through the Solider’s Pass trail. There are also many hiking options from alternate parking areas that include Solider’s Pass trail, which is helpful if parking is an issue at the Solider’s Pass trailhead.

From the Solider’s Pass Trailhead parking lot:

Seven Sacred Pools via Solider Pass to Brins Mesa Loop

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Type: loop
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 836 ft

Soliders Pass, Brins Mesa, Jordan, Javelina, Crusty, Adobe Jack

  • Distance: 9.3 miles
  • Type: loop
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1410 ft

From the Jim Thompson Trailhead parking lot:

Brins Mesa Trail to Jordan Cibola Pass Trail

  • Distance: 7.9 miles
  • Type: loop
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,115 ft

Brins Mesa via Brins Mesa and Brins Ridge Trail

  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Type: out and back
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 951 ft

Solider’s Pass and Jordan Trail Loop

  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Type: loop
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 314 ft

Cibola Pass and Jordan Trail

  • Distance: 2.0 miles
  • Type: loop
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Elevation Gain: 334 ft

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Sedona is one of my favorite areas to explore in the US. There is so much to see and do and so many hikes to complete you can’t get bored on a vacation to Sedona. I hope to come back many times to soak in the red rocks and desert vibes.

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After a lay off from the corporate world I decided to SEE the world. Sharing all my bucket list experiences to help spark your wanderlust and inspire your next adventure!

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