Keyhole Cave in Sedona and EXACTLY how to get there

Keyhole Cave Sedona

If you’re fascinated by caves and the windows they create, you’ll love Keyhole Cave. This cave has a grand entrance that can be spotted miles away but is still tucked back off the beaten path so not many people visit it.

Getting to this Sedona cave isn’t for beginner hikers or those afraid of the challenge to climb 10+ feet of slick rock. It is truly an adventure finding this one, so keep reading to determine for yourself if you’re up for the challenge!

In this post I’ve included all the details and directions you need to know in order to successfully find Keyhole cave and have a safe adventure.

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!


KEYHOLE CAVE STATS

Distance: 2.60 miles RT
Type: Out and Back
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain: 529 feet
Location: Sedona, AZ
Trailhead: Sugarloaf Trailhead
Dogs Allowed: Yes (But I’d advise against it)
Fees: $5 Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful

Note: My directions in this post may not be the best way to reach the Keyhole Cave, but are the way I found it which seems to be the most direct and less confusing. There are a few different ways to get here.


Keyhole Cave

HOW TO GET THERE

The hike to Keyhole Cave begins at Sugarloaf Trailhead which is tucked back in a Sedona Neighborhood. If you enter it into Google Maps it will take you right to it. There is a very small parking lot and you are not able to park on the neighborhood streets so it is best to arrive early.

If the lot is full you can try waiting a for a little to see if anyone leaves. I found people don’t stay here for very long since the trails are short so it is a fast turnaround!

Since the hike begins within a neighborhood don’t forget to be quiet and considerate of the residents that live there.

Keyhole Cave

WHEN TO HIKE

The best time to hike to Keyhole Cave would be spring, late fall, or even during winter if there isn’t more than a light dusting of snow. This trail is very exposed and the climb up to it gets steep- I would not want to do this one in the summer!

Since the route to get here is in a wash you want to be careful to not hike during or right after a rainstorm. You never want to be in a wash with chance of rain, just incase of flash floods. Also, be on the lookout for rattlesnakes! They like to sit on the rocks to soak up some sun.

KEY TAKEAWAY: You’ll be traversing in a wash so be aware of the possibility of flash floods and rattlesnakes!


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 Keyhole Cave!

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 Keyhole 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!


Keyhole Cave

HIKING TO THE KEYHOLE CAVE

Now the real fun begins! At the Sugarloaf Trailhead you’re actually able to spot Keyhole Cave way off in the distance. It is straight back and looks like a giant gaping hole in the mountainside. This is where you are headed!

You’ll take Teacup Trail which starts right at the trailhead. Follow along for a little ways until you reach an intersection with Thunder Mountain Trail. Along the way there are several off trails that lead back up to the same place or meander off somewhere else. It can get a little confusing but if you have a map you can see the trail intersection on it which makes it much easier.

It isn’t that far until you’ll reach a sign marking the intersection. You’ll want to take a left like you’re hiking along Thunder Mountain Trail, but just after you turn left there will be a wash on your right side. Take this wash and it will lead you all the way up to the base of Keyhole Cave!

The wash is extremely rocky so be careful of your footing the entire way while looking out for snakes. Some branches hang low over the “trail” and you may need to use two hands to step over some large rock areas, but overall the wash is extremely easy to follow and traverse.

As you’re hiking up the wash you’ll notice several trails that zigzag across it. I tried following these trails last year during my first attempt to find Keyhole Cave and was unsuccessful. The trail was hard to follow, we didn’t know exactly where it started or ended, and we ended up bushwhacking and being way off of where we needed to be.

I found sticking to the wash is the easiest and most direct way to reach the cave. Along the way you can even see the gaping window in the distance as you head towards it.

Hiking to Keyhole Cave

Eventually you will find that the wash narrows a bit and becomes filled with fallen trees and rocks to climb over. This is when we hopped onto a trail on the left side of the wash and followed it directly to the base of the cave.

This was the right time to get on an actual trail because we were close enough to the base and we could see it, so we knew the trail led directly to it. Once you hop on the trail, though, the hike quickly becomes difficult because you have to climb the elevation up to the base of the cave.

Entrance of Keyhole Cave

The climb up is very steep and slippery. You’ll need to watch your footing on the scree and for cacti along the narrow trail. Be very careful as your coming back down! Take your time and take small steps to prevent slipping and falling back into a cactus.

I’m not going to lie, I fell back on my butt on the way down this trail! Luckily I missed the cactus and landed safely. You just never know when you’ll lose your footing on these desert rocks.

At the base of Keyhole Cave you’ll find that you need to climb a high, slick wall to get into it. We found the right side of the cave was easier to climb for it had foot holds and plenty of jagged rocks to hold on to. It was still difficult due to the sand and slippery rock, though.

We used the buddy system and went one after another, lending a hand and passing the pack up and down. You definitely don’t need ropes to get into the cave, just some guts to climb up and down it!

Once inside you can feel a breeze and the cooler temperatures, a wonderful break from the desert sun. Some visitors graffitied the cave walls- please do not draw or carve into the walls and leave them as is!

Keyhole Cave

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE KEYHOLE CAVE

Part of the allure of Keyhole Cave for me was finding it myself. There wasn’t a lot of information online that I could find, and trying to follow other’s vague directions proved to be ineffective. I knew what it looked like and where it was, I just didn’t know how to get to it- now I’m glad I’ve figured it out!

I hope this trail guide helps you find this enormous Sedona Cave. It truly is a off-beaten gem and perfect for silhouette photos.

As always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.

New to hiking? Check out Hiking for Beginners 101- The Best Guide for New Hikers to get started!

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7 thoughts on “Keyhole Cave in Sedona and EXACTLY how to get there

  1. Mara says:

    Hi Kara.
    Just want to Thank You for your directions. They were very much easy to understand and we were able to Hike up all the way to the Cave.
    🙂

    • Kara says:

      Hi Mara!
      Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.
      I’m so glad to hear you were able to make it to see the Keyhole cave! 🙂

  2. Jacob says:

    Followed the wash 90% of the way up and it made for a really interesting hike. The final 10% was not clear as there are at least 3 “inlets” near the top and in sight of the cave. All of which take a drastic upturn in difficulty from an otherwise straightforward hike.

    After going up each of these a decent way (and I was nearly bitten by a snake), we ended up turning back.

    Be advised, if not using the author’s GPX files, the final leg may not be very clear. Still, a beautiful area with wonderful sights wherever you trek.

    • Kara says:

      Thank you for your review, Jacob! I’m sorry to hear you didn’t make it to the cave…but I agree, the area is beautiful regardless. I apologize my directions couldn’t get you all the way. Sometimes it is difficult to explain exact directions in the outdoors when trails aren’t very straight forward 😛 Part of the challenge for sure, but next time I visit I will try to pay more attention on how I can describe the last part better.

      Happy adventuring!

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