Welcome to the Boynton Canyon Trail and it’s cave! Everyone will try to tell you this Sedona cave is a secret- but it isn’t. Surely there will be a line to enter the cave commonly known as “The Subway”, yet many hikers won’t end up finding it for they missed the unmarked spur trail leading to it (it is very easy to miss)!
If you’re trying to figure out how in the heck you can find your way to the Boynton Canyon Cave without getting lost, don’t go anywhere. In this post I’ve included hike details, turning points, stats, and more to help you find this Sedona cave while leaving no trace.
This cave is 1 of 4 amazing caves within the Sedona Wilderness I’ve hiked to. Check out 4 of the best Sedona Caves and how to find them for more!
Boynton Canyon Trail Stats
Distance: 6.0 miles RT
Type: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 688 feet
Location: Sedona, AZ
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Trailhead: Boynton Canyon Trailhead
Fees: Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful
Note: These stats are measured from the Boynton Canyon Trailhead to the Subway Cave and back. The Subway Cave turn off is before the end of the Boynton Canyon Trail. While there isn’t a “destination” at the end of the trail, you can finish it if you’d like. Just remember that it will add some distance to your hike.
How To Get To The Boynton Canyon Trailhead
The hike to Sedona’s Subway Cave begins at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead. Feel free to map it from the link or follow the directions below. You will want to arrive early on weekends and during peak seasons because it will get packed.
The trailhead is a 17 minute drive from the heart of Sedona. Leaving from Sedona, you’ll get on 89A heading west, through West Sedona. Turn right on Dry Creek Road and follow it for a few miles. You’ll pass Devil’s Bridge Parking area, then soon after intersect with Boynton Pass / Long Canyon Road.
If you turn left you’ll head down Boynton Pass, which is where you want to go. Follow this road for a couple more miles until it curves, and on the right hand side, right as it curves, you will turn right into the Boynton Canyon Trailhead parking lot!
When To Hike The Boynton Canyon Trail
BEST SEASON FOR HIKING IN SEDONA
Spring, fall, and winter are the most comfortable times to hike in Sedona. Spring and fall offer peaceful, chilly mornings, then typically heat up late morning – midday. Always check the weather for some weeks can have heat waves and will still be 90 degrees!
Spring and fall are peak times for hiking in Sedona, so plan on getting an early start to beat the crowds. What I mean by early- begin hiking just before or right at sunrise.
Winter will have colder mornings and won’t be as busy, so you can get a later start. If you’re lucky you may get a dusting of snow on the ground too! Most hikes, like the Subway Cave off Boynton Canyon Trail, can still be done in the winter as long as the area didn’t get slammed with a snow storm.
It is never recommended to hike in the middle of summer, especially midday. If you are bound and determined to hike in the summer, make sure you begin just before sunrise and end by late morning.
BEST TIME TO BEGIN HIKING IN SEDONA
If you aren’t an early riser, now is the perfect time to start! When hiking in Sedona it is best to begin just before, or right at sunrise, except for during the winter. The parking lots can get full, crowds can get large, and you may not get the experience you set out to seek.
Some trails are good for sunset, however if you want to visit the Boynton Canyon Trail’s Subway Cave, it has its best light inside the cave during morning-afternoon.
I always recommend tracking yourself or following an already made track so you can check in and be sure you’re on the right path. Below is a screenshot of my track from Boynton Canyon!
Preparation saves lives. Know where you are going ahead of time and always have a way to keep yourself on trail. One way to do this is with a GPS system or app.
You can download my Boynton Canyon Cave track and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your own trusty device for ease of mind!
Hiking The Boynton Canyon Trail To The Subway Cave
From the parking lot you’ll want to head back up towards the road, and on the right side you will find the Boynton Canyon Trailhead, right across from the vault toilets. There will be a sign for the Red Rock Secret Wilderness as you enter the Coconino National Forest.
At first there are a couple intersections you’ll hike upon, but if you follow the signs to keep on the Boynton Canyon Trail, you’ll be able to navigate just fine.
Overall the hike along the trail is easy. For those who don’t hike as often they may find it more moderate, especially with the total distance. You’ll come upon the usual rock steps and inclines, but for the most part the trail is flat in the beginning.
For the majority of the way the Boynton Canyon Trail leads you behind the Enchantment Resort. It feels as if you are hiking through their backyard at times, and it turns some hikers off since it doesn’t feel like you’re lost in the wilderness. I know I certainly wasn’t expecting that, but I just kept my eyes peeled ahead to the beautiful views!
Just before you hike behind the Enchantment Resort you’ll pass a turn off that will lead you to the Boynton Canyon Vortex. It brings you up onto a rock outcropping where many people sit to take a break and soak in the energy. Feel free to visit it, then turn back and turn right to hop onto the Boynton Canyon Trail and head to the Subway Cave!
THE EXACT TURNING POINT TO FIND THE SUBWAY CAVE
Because the Boynton Canyon Trail doesn’t lead you directly to the Subway Cave, many people get lost and miss the turnoff for the cave. The trail actually continues for a while past the turnoff, but doesn’t take you to any “epic destination”.
If you’re wanting to see the Subway Cave you’ll have to turn right onto a spur trail, off the main trail. The Subway Cave will be 0.65 miles down the spur trail!
The turnoff to the cave will be about 2 miles from the trailhead. There will be an Alligator Tree (pictured below) on the left side of the trail, and up ahead on the right side of the trail will be a pile of sticks either leading or blocking the spur trail. It switches up from time to time because some people want to help you find it, while others don’t.
Just remember 2 miles in and you’ll need to turn right. After you hop onto the spur trail, there will be another unmarked fork that can get confusing.
Roughly .18 miles along the spur trail and you’ll hike upon a creek bed and large stump (pictured below). This stump marks where you till take a hairpin like turn to the right, up a hill. Do not cross the creek bed!
Once up the hill, the trail is pretty easy to follow, and will lead you straight to the cave and ruins!
As you’re approaching your destination you’ll spot the Sinagua ruins first, up on the cliffside. The Subway Cave can’t be spotted from a distance, or even when you hike up to it. It is tucked back inside the red rock, and to access it you will need to do a little scrambling. There are essentially two different approaches you can take.
The first approach would be to scramble from the bottom, up to the mouth of the Subway Cave. The Boynton Canyon Trail will dead end right at the base of the cave. There will be a very steep incline up slick rock and around desert foliage. Once at the top you walk to the back of the cave, turn around, and look out to get the full affect!
Most people take this approach not knowing about the second option. I do not recommend the first approach for it is a bit sketchy and frankly harder than it needs to be. Instead, look to your left and take the trail leading up to the Sinagua ruins.
Historical facts: The Sinagua’s inhabited the land around Sedona beginning around 650 A.D. for nearly 800 years. Their civilization grew corn, beans, and squash. They even had dogs as pets! Historians aren’t exactly sure why they left the land, but they do have some suspicions. Luckily they left behind some pottery, rock art, and ruins for us to appreciate. If you happen to stumble upon ruins in Sedona, chances are they are the Sinagua ruins left behind.
It is still a steep climb up to the ruins, but it is on a rocky, dirt trail that is shorter and easier than scrambling at the base. This little trail will take you up to a ledge at the top. To view the ruins you’ll turn left, and to get to the Subway Cave you’ll turn right.
I decided to hang a left to view the ruins first. There are two ruins- one very well intact while the other is a bit smaller and looks like part of it has been knocked down. You can continue along the ledge for beautiful, open views of the Sedona Red Rock Wilderness.
While visiting the Sinagua ruins, please remember to practice the Leave No Trace principals. These are ancient sites that need to be respected and preserved so they can last for future generations. NEVER carve into or move the rocks.
After viewing the ruins, simply take the ledge back where you started, but instead you’ll pass the trail and continue towards the cave. The ledge rounds a corner and does get a bit narrow so watch every step along the way.
Once you round the corner you’ll be able to view into the back of the cave. Walk all the way to the back and turn around to get the full Subway Cave affect! You can walk on either side of the cave, crossing from one to the other at the back end.
Sometimes there is a line to get into the cave, but typically other hikers are considerate about waiting and letting each other take their pictures without photo bombing one another!
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the Subway Cave you can scoot down the first approach if you dare. If you’ve had enough adventure and want to play it safe, exit back the way you entered, and take the ledge around to the ruins, and back down the trail you came up.
Connect To Another Sedona Cave!
If you’re looking for a bit more adventure and want to visit another Sedona Cave, consider The Birthing Cave! It is one of the most photographed caves in Sedona and is even easier to get to. The pus side- you can connect from the Boynton Canyon Trail to this one. The Birthing Cave parking lot is extremely small, so sometimes it is easier to just go on foot.
I highly suggest utilizing a map system if you choose to connect the hikes, for that is how I figured out this route. I have not hiked it yet, however, so I do not know the distance between the two. My best guess is the connecting route is 1.5 miles, so 3 miles round trip. I drew this route in blue for you on the map below.
Let’s say you park at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead and hike to the cave, then back. Just before you get back to the parking lot, at the last trail intersection, you’d turn left onto Deadman’s Pass Trail. Hike until you intersect with the Long Canyon Trail and turn right. This trail will lead you to another intersection, which is the point where you’ll turn right to head towards the Birthing Cave.
There will be another point where you turn right, to climb up to the cave. For more detailed information on how to get there, check out my trail guide below!
Final Thoughts On The Boynton Canyon Trail and Subway Cave
In all honesty, I loved photographing the cave, but as far as the hike itself goes, I wasn’t too impressed. I hiked the Boynton Canyon Trail early one Saturday morning and beat the crowds. Still, I wasn’t a big fan of hiking behind the Enchantment Resort for what seemed like half the hike.
Seeing the Sinagua ruins in person was exciting, and the views from the ledge they sit on were stunning. Once the crowds of people began filtering in, though, I could see just how busy this place can get, making me want to leave. Once I began hiking back, I passed several groups of hikers confused on how to find the Subway Cave!
I was happy to give them verbal directions as we passed, hoping they were able to make it and see the interesting cave for themselves. Hopefully this guide reaches you before you embark your own hike to the Subway Cave!
As always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.