Commonly known as “The Lone Tree”, the Kachina Tree Cave is a hidden gem, making it one of the least known Sedona Caves. This means it is also the least popular for visitors.
Good news is if you do find it, chances are you’ll have it to yourself.
Tough news- reaching the Kachina Tree Cave is no easy feat.
Finding this cave will require some technical outdoorsy skills. If you’re up for route finding, scrambling, and overgrown washes, keep reading. This is going to quite the trilling little hike!
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This cave is 1 of 5 amazing caves within the Sedona Wilderness I’ve hiked to. Check out 5 of the best Sedona Caves and how to find them for more!
Kachina Tree Cave Hike Stats
- Distance | 3.70 miles RT
- Difficulty | Difficult
- Elevation Gain | 542 feet
- Trailhead | Boynton Canyon Trailhead
- Dog Friendly | No
- Fees | Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful
- Road Access | 2WD
Below is a map of the route to Kachina Tree Cave.
Dogs are allowed on the Boynton Canyon Trail, however reaching the Kachina Tree Cave isn’t suggested for dogs. The trail is not maintained, there are steep climbs, and too much cacti close by. Please leave them at home for this one!
Treat It Like Home!
When visiting please be respectful and treat the area like it’s your own. Sedona has been and continues to grow in popularity, making the streets and trails over crowded crowded during peak seasons. Kachina Tree Cave is off the beaten path so please tread lightly, don’t carve into the rock, leave the native ruins alone, and leave it better than you found it. Vandalizing archeological sites such as this one is illegal!
Help preserve and protect our lands by following the Leave No Trace Principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
How To Get There
The hike to the Kachina Tree Cave begins at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead. Sedona has recently implemented a free shuttle system, but it currently doesn’t service Boynton Canyon Trailhead. You’re able to drive yourself to this one! Feel free to map it from the link above 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 Kachina Tree Cave
Spring and fall are the absolute best times to hike in Sedona! Typically you’ll experience cooler weather and peaceful mornings if you begin at sunrise.
Winter is also a great season in Sedona, however I wouldn’t suggest hiking to the Kachina Tree with snow on the ground. If there isn’t any snow, I say go for it. But because there is no distinct trail leading to this cave and route finding is involved, it would be best to do it when you can see exactly where you are stepping. This area is littered with cacti and other desert vegetation we want to preserve.
I never suggest hiking in the summer heat, but if you must explore Sedona during this season I suggest starting right at sunrise and ending before late morning. It is always best to begin early and beat the heat when hiking in the desert!
It is actually dangerous to hike in washes. I would advise not to attempt this one if it is raining- you never know when a flash flood could happen so check the weather. Also, watch for rattlesnakes! They like to go out on the rocks and lay in the sun.
Best Time Of Day To Visit Kachina Tree Cave
Photographers aspire to photograph the Kachina Tree in its best lighting. If you’re a photographer, or just want to see it at its best, consider timing your hike for late morning when the sun is highlighting it! Usually this is just before 11 a.m. but can depend on the season.
When the sun is in it’s best position relative to the cave it highlights the tree and the red/orange rock around it. This makes it much easier to photograph and gives you those rich, vibrant colors.
Tips For Hiking To Kachina Tree Cave
- Wear long sleeves and long pants. Once you enter the wash and begin scrambling up to the cave, the route becomes overgrown and very prickly. You’ll want your arms and legs covered for protection.
- Watch for cacti! I know from experience- I ended up with more than a dozen little spines lodged into my hand.
- Wear sturdy hiking boots. Having good hiking boots will help protect your feet from the rocky and overgrown surfaces.
- Try to time your visit between 9 and 11 A.M. That is when the sun provides the best lighting for photos. If you begin at 6:30/7 in the morning this should land you between those hours.
- Keep a look out for a small white sign posted on a tree (pictured further in the trail guide). Once you come upon this sign you’ll know you’re in the right area- just keep on hiking past it!
- Remember to keep the spire rock to the right of you (pictured further in the trail guide). This spire will help keep you oriented throughout the hike.
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 Kachina Tree 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!
Keep in mind since this particular hike scrambles into a cave, the track can show a bunch of squiggly lines at that part. GPS’s usually do this when there isn’t good enough signal while you’re climbing in-between large mountain walls. But, my track can still help you find the turn off and most of the way to the cave!
Hiking To The Kachina Tree Cave
Before we begin I’d like to note two things. First, although it truly looks like a cave in the right perspective, this “cave” is more like an arch. The area is pretty open and isn’t fully covered above you, so just be aware you’ll have to get creative to capture the correct angle.
Second, the overall distance is short and you don’t climb too much elevation altogether, but I still rated this one difficult. It is actually a steep climb since you gain most of the elevation once you begin hiking from the base of the mountain it sits in, all the way to the cave itself.
Now that is taken care of, let’s begin this hike!
The beginning of Boynton Canyon Trail is simply beautiful. I always enjoy hiking this trail right after sunrise because the mountains look stunning in the lighting.
It won’t be long and you’ll see a spur trail on the right side leading to one of Sedona’s many vortexes- the Boynton Canyon Vortex. If you feel the vortex calling you, feel free to check it out, then return back to Boynton Canyon Trail to continue on.
Once past the vortex, you’ll begin to notice that you’re hiking behind a resort called the Enchantment Resort. This is my least favorite part of the hike because you lose that feeling of being in the middle of no-where. But, it doesn’t last forever, and it comes in handy for finding the Kachina Tree Cave.
The end of the Enchantment Resort marks the point you want to begin looking for a spur trail on your left. This will be approximately 1.30 miles in from the Boynton Canyon Trailhead. It’ll look a little like the picture below, on the left. Some sticks were thrown across the trail to deter hikers from going that way, but I did, and it led me into a wash.
For almost the remainder of the adventure you’ll actually be hiking in this narrow, overgrown wash. It is filled with large rocks and fallen down trees so tread carefully.
You’ll want to be on the lookout for a little white sign that is posted up on a tree. It came at just the right time because at this point I was questioning my sanity and whether I was on the right path or not!
You can see my husband beyond the sign in blue. The trail continues that way and will eventually lead you to a major landmark that will help you stay oriented the rest of the way- a unique rock spire.
This little white sign holds significant importance. Be sure to read it as you walk by, for it provides information on how you can protect and preserve native sites, as well as call and report someone you see disrespecting them.
Once you see the rock spire (pictured below) you’ll know you’re in the correct corner of the mountain to reach Kachina Tree Cave. The trick is to keep the rock spire to the right of you. From here, the real fun begins!
The Kachina Tree Cave is tucked up in the mountains behind it, almost at the highest ridge. You’ll want to use a GPS device or app to input the coordinates I’m about to give you. This helped me stay on the right path to finding the cave, otherwise it would have been a complete shot in the dark type of hike.
Kachina Tree Cave Coordinates: (34.91993, -111.85941)
What does Kachina mean?
Kachina is a small, carved figure representing an ancestral spirit named Kachina. This is common in the mythology of the Pueblo people, and this tree is called the Kachina Tree for it resembles the spirit bending like it would in ceremonial dances.
From this point on the hike will get steep, overgrown, and overall questionable, so watch where you put your hands and use your best route finding skills to get to the coordinates.
You want to be mindful of Leave No Trace Principles, and I know it is hard because at times there isn’t a trail, but do your best to minimize your impact while hiking through.
Quickly you’ll come upon a native ruin that has clearly been destroyed over the years, but still intact in parts. This ruin will let you know that you are heading the correct way. Unfortunately the trail continues past/through the ruin itself, so be careful not to disturb any of the rocks and continue beyond it.
It is extremely important while recreating and visiting historical sites that we work together to preserve and protect them for future generations. This means no moving rocks, carving in rock, leaving trash, etc. We are expected to leave these sites untouched and no trace that we were ever there.
Beyond the first native ruin the views got even better. They truly were breathtaking and different from many other Sedona views you get on hikes. Unfortunately you can hear the resort below you, but if it weren’t for that you’d feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere and it can be so peaceful.
Eventually you will begin climbing and scrambling and wondering if you’re even going the right direction again. The best advice I can give is keep along the walls. There is a point you’ll run into a large rock wall and it seems like there is nowhere to go from there. Oh there is, and it is to your right where you need to keep scrambling up!
The pictures below show some of the areas I am talking about. Just keep against the walls and eventually you will hike upon a second ruin in even better condition than the first (pictured above).
The Kachina Tree Cave isn’t much further once you find the second ruins. You just keep scrambling and finding your way to the cave. As you get closer you can start to see the Lone Tree in the distance.
Once you make it to the tree you’ll see what I mean by the rock resembling more of an arch than a cave, but the area is still neat to visit. My husband and I were the only ones here when we hiked so we had the whole place to ourselves and it was quiet.
Sit a while, eat a snack, and explore the area, then once you are done just head back down the way you came! Once back back to the Boynton Canyon Trail you can head back to your car, or continue on to see another Sedona Cave.
Continue On To The Boynton Canyon Subway Cave
Have you heard of the Subway Cave, or Boynton Canyon Cave? Both refer to the same Sedona Cave, and I’m sure if you see a picture of it you’ll know exactly which one I’m talking about.
Luckily it is off the same trail as Kachina Tree Cave and easier to get to. So if you’re looking for a longer adventure, consider hiking both in one day!
The Subway Cave is definitely more known so I’d expect it to be packed. Still, it is worth visiting if you’re already in the area. You can read my trail guide on it below to see pictures and more info to find your way there. Like the Kachina Tree Cave, it isn’t at the end of Boynton Canyon Trail, and you’ll have to find the spur trail that leads to it.
Gear For Your Sedona Hike
When hiking to Kachina Tree Cave there are some pieces of gear that would help make your experience more enjoyable. Having proper gear for your hikes is essential for safety and making the most of your time!
Investing in a sturdy pair of hiking shoes is always a good idea. They provide ultimate comfort, grip, and durability for the desert terrain. Typically I hike with my Adidas Terrex in the desert, but sometimes I choose to wear my Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid if it is chilly out or the hike will be wet. Solid choice if you require extra ankle support!
Merino Wool Socks
Moisture wicking socks are essential to prevent sweaty and blistery feet. They also are very warm and comfortable! I use Darn Tough Cushion Socks which are the perfect height to pair with boots and cover the heel, thus preventing blisters.
Hiking Backpack + Water Reservoir
Any normal backpack will do, but a quality backpack like Osprey Skarab 30 with straps, support, and breathability will feel like luxury during this hike. It also holds a water reservoir which makes it easier to carry water and stay hydrated on the trail without having to stop. Now a 30L pack is probably more than what most people need on a hike like Vultee Arch. I just overpack and carry my tripod so it works for me, but a smaller Hikelite 18 would suffice.
This one is extremely important because in the desert the sun is almost always beaming. You should always pack sunscreen with you and apply it before setting out to hike. Coola is an organic sunscreen perfect for the outdoors. A hat, sunglasses, and a lip balm are also important sun protection items to carry.
Final Thoughts On The Kachina Tree Cave
I love a good adventure that tests my skills, and finding this cave was a true adventure for me! I set out with only the coordinates of the cave and had to find the best way there through route finding and trial and error.
Not everyone enjoys route finding as much, though, and that is understandable. If you are one who would rather just know the best possible way there, I hope this guide is able to help you!
There are only so many directions that can be given to the Kachina Tree Cave since the trails aren’t maintained and there are not many significant landmarks around.
If you are weary of getting lost on the way, make sure you hike with a partner and use a GPS system to track yourself.
Is this your first time hearing of the Kachina Tree Cave? Are you planning a visit? Share in the comments below!
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