I hope you’re ready for an adventure because reaching each one of these Sedona caves requires a bit of path finding, steep inclines, and scrambling! Nonetheless, it will all be worth it.
Sedona is full of beauty and unique rock formations, so each of these 5 caves will give you a completely different experience than the other.
In this post I’ve rounded up 5 unique caves in Sedona that you won’t want to miss. I include the trailhead, details on how to get there, and links to each individual trail guide for photos of exact turning points and even more details.
After this you should be fully equipped to find each of these caves!
HIKING IN SEDONA
When recreating in the National Forest lands and Oak Creek Canyon in and around Sedona your vehicle will need to display either a Red Rock Pass or the America The Beautiful Pass. If you’re not parking in or around these wilderness areas, you won’t need either!
You can typically stop at any gas station or grocery store in Sedona to purchase a $5 Red Rock Pass. I suggest doing this as soon as you get to town and before you begin your day hiking. Not every trailhead has a permit station so its best not to chance it.
PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE
A lot of people don’t want to share the locations of these caves in order to keep them “secret”. However, I believe since these are public lands we all deserve the right to visit these beautiful sights. Instead, all that I ask is that we hold ourselves and others accountable by continuing to practice the leave no trace principals.
The Red Rock Wilderness is home to many species, Native ruin sites, and epic destinations that should be visited with respect and these principals in mind:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of others
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. Especially for these caves since most of them are off the beaten path!
You can download my tracks for each cave hike and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your own trusty device so you can find them too!
THE SEDONA CAVES
Below I’ve listed 5 wonderful Sedona caves worth exploring. These are only the ones I’ve hiked to myself, and as I continue to do more cave hunting in the area I’ll be adding to this list- so subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out!
The last one is currently my favorite, and chances are if you’re brave enough to climb into it you’ll most likely have it to yourself!
SOLDIER PASS CAVE
Distance: 3.5 miles RT
Difficulty: Easy- Moderate
Trailhead: Soldier Pass Trailhead
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
One of the most popular Sedona caves to visit, but still a little tricky to get to, is the Solider Pass Cave. This one is extremely fun to photograph and has several points of interest along the way. You’ll pass 7 sacred pools and Devil’s Kitchen.
The hike begins at Soldier Pass Trailhead which has a very small parking lot located in a neighborhood. If it is full you’ll have to park up at the main road and add some extra mileage to your hike. For the most part Soldier Pass Trail is easy to follow. After about 1/4 of a mile you’ll already be at Devil’s Kitchen!
Another 1/4 mile after Devil’s Kitchen and you’ll find yourself at 7 Sacred Pools. After you take your photos here you’ll continue on the main trail until you see a slight fork with branches laid down blocking one way. You’ll actually veer to the right at this point, over the branches, and continue on to a large rock cropping called Brins Mesa.
Just keep hiking straight while sticking to the left and you’ll find the trail again, leading you to climb up to the Soldier Pass Cave! Getting inside the cave does require a little bit of a climb but is relatively easy if you’re in good shape. If you can’t climb into it, it is still worth hiking to for there is a large archway and some shade to sit and snack under.
Read the full trail guide: How to find Soldier Pass Cave- Sedona, AZ
Distance: 2 miles RT
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Trailhead: Long Canyon Trailhead
The most difficult of Sedona caves to photograph has to be the Birthing Cave. It actually wasn’t what I expected the first time visiting so I want to make you aware also. In order to get the full window in frame you’ll first need a wide lens, and second need to be able to climb up a slick rock wall to sit on a tiny ledge at the very back of the cave.
If the cave is busy you will most likely have others in your photos. And what you see in my photo is pretty much the entirety of the cave because I am pressed up against the back wall. Since the hike is so easy and is still cool to look at, the Birthing Cave is worth visiting at least once!
You’ll begin your hike from the very small dirt parking lot at Long Canyon Trailhead. Follow this trail until you come across a clearing with logs and rocks blocking you from going straight. You’ll turn left at this point and keep hiking along Long Canyon Trail.
At the next fork in the trail you’ll keep left again, and this is where the trail turns to lead you up to the cave. Once you get near the base it does begin to climb a bit of elevation and becomes more of a moderate climb. The trail will lead you right into the cave!
LOCAL TIP: Birthing Cave and Boynton Canyon Subway Cave (listed below) are in the same general area. It is easy to hike both in one day. You can either drive from trailhead to trailhead, or add some mileage to your hike and connect the two hikes with a connecting trail. You can easily see this trail on a GPS app such as GAIA.
Read the full trail guide: The Birthing Cave in Sedona- EVERYTHING you need to know
BOYNTON CANYON SUBWAY CAVE
Distance: 6 miles RT
Trailhead: Boynton Canyon Trailhead
This “secret Sedona cave” is actually not so secret, yet people still get lost trying to find it. The Boynton Canyon Cave is commonly referred to the Subway Cave and even hosts ancient cliff dwellings along the ridgeline! If you can find it, it is definitely worth a visit.
What might confuse most people is that this cave is not marked, and it is about .60 miles off the main Boynton Canyon trail. Instead of hiking the entire trail, at 2 miles in you will see a large Alligator Juniper tree that branches out across the trail. Just past this tree you’ll see a lightly used trail off to the right. This is where you turn off to head to Boynton Canyon cave!
You’ll cross wash #1 and continue to follow this off the beaten path until you hike upon wash #2 and a large tree stump on your right. Do NOT cross the wash. Instead, you’ll hang a sharp right and go up the hill and continue to climb the elevation to the cave.
From here the trail will lead you to the base of this cool Sedona cave. You have the option to either climb up in-between the crevice, or hang a left towards the cliff dwellings on the ridge above. If you climb up to these first, you can then walk the ridge into the opening of the cave!
LOCAL TIP: Off the Boynton Canyon Trail is another little cave that features a Lone Tree (listed below). This one is much less popular but more difficult to reach. May be worth checking out if you’re up for the challenge!
Read the full trail guide: EXACTLY how to find The Subway Cave off Boynton Canyon Trail
KACHINA TREE CAVE
Distance: 3.70 miles RT
Trailhead: Boynton Canyon Trailhead
I believe the least traveled cave in Sedona is the Kachina Tree Cave. Partly because not many people know about it and also due to the fact it is difficult to find. The Lone Tree sits in the middle of a very special place that once was home to indigenous people of the area. Evidence of this is scattered near the cave, including three very well intact ruins.
The Kachina Tree Cave only resembles a cave given the correct perspective, and in actuality is more like an arch. Nonetheless, it is a treasure to be able to reach such a place given the history and uniqueness.
To begin, you’ll park and embark from the Boynton Canyon Trailhead. At about 1.30 miles in on the trail you’ll want to turn left onto a spur trail, and follow it into a narrow wash. This wash will lead you near the base of a very distinct spire rock. Keep this rock to the right of you as you search for the cave.
Once you get out of the wash and begin climbing the steep slopes of the mountain, route finding and navigational skills are essential. There is no maintained trail so you’ll need to be careful as you navigate the very steep and cacti filled area.
For GPS coordinates and more in-depth directions with photos, visit my full trail guide below. This one has a lot to cover!
Read the full trail guide: Finding the Kachina Tree Cave off Boynton Canyon Trail
Distance: 2.70 miles RT
Trailhead: Sugarloaf Trailhead
My favorite so far, and one of the lesser traveled Sedona caves is the Keyhole Cave. To get to this one you’ll have to be prepared for a steep climb and willing to scramble up a steep and slick rock wall. If you can handle that, you’ll most likely be rewarded with the entire place to yourself.
To get to this enormous cave you’ll begin on the Teacup Trail. Follow this trail for a little ways until it intersects with the Thunder Mountain Trail. At the intersection, turn left like you’d take the Thunder Mountain Trail, but instead you’ll hang a right and enter a wash.
This wash leads directly to the base of Keyhole Cave! There are several trails that cross paths with the wash on each side, but if you follow the wash for the most part, it’ll lead you to a trail that brings you right to it. If you use the Gaia GPS app, the map includes the wash as a trail and is extremely easy to follow.
Note: There may be a better way to get to this cave, but from my research and looking at a map, the way I went seems to be the easiest to follow and most direct route. This is probably one of a few ways to take.
CAUTION: 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.
Read the full trail guide: Keyhole Cave in Sedona and EXACTLY how to get there
BEST TIMES TO HIKE SEDONA CAVES
Hiking to these caves can be done year round. It really depends more on your personal preference. I’d refrain from hiking in the summer as much as possible. The crowds are terrible and the heat is dreadful. Instead, try hiking first thing in the spring, during the winter offseason, or even late fall which is my favorite.
If you do hike during the winter just make sure there hasn’t been a recent heavy snowfall. I haven’t visited these Sedona caves with snow yet, but I can only imagine deep snow would make it way more difficult. If there is a dusting of snow on the ground I think it would be do-able and also add to the experience. Sedona dusted with snow is gorgeous!
As always, arrive EARLY. It is best to be to your trailhead by sunrise to secure parking during the busy seasons. Plus the morning light will be perfect for photos!
HIKING GEAR FOR SEDONA CAVEs
When hiking in Sedona it is important to be prepared no matter the season! Below are some of the gear items I highly suggest bringing along with you to visit these caves.
- The Ten Essentials. Every hiker should have these when on the trails!
- Sun Protection. Technically part of the 10 Essentials, but a definite desert necessity. You should wear sunscreen and bring a hat and/or sunglasses with you.
- 2-3L of water per person. Even if it is cold out you still want plenty of water to stay hydrated. Try using a water reservoir if you don’t already. This will make it easier to stay hydrated while hiking and minimize the amount of water bottles needed.
- Durable hiking backpack. Always have a good hiking backpack to carry the essentials with. It will help take the weight off your shoulders and allow your back to breathe more!
- Proper footwear. Trust me, your feet will thank you if you have on the proper hiking shoe or hiking boot. I switch back and forth between the two depending on the weather. If I know it is going to be a overgrown trail or cold and wet I’ll opt to wear a boot.
CAMERA GEAR TO CAPTURE THE SEDONA CAVES
- Sony A7III is the camera I have and love! It is a mirrorless DSLR and shoots 4k video.
- Sony 24-70mm F2.8 is an amazing travel lens for your Sony and can do a variety of different shots. But, if you are in a pinch and want something cheaper, I started out with the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8. Just note that these don’t go wide enough to shoot the Birthing Cave.
- Tripod for your DSLR. If you are still shooting from you phone, I started out with this tripod when I was too!
- Remote for your Sony so you can get those solo shots!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SEDONA CAVES
The red rock contrasted with greenery and blue skies are part of what make Sedona special. There are so many wonderful trails throughout the wilderness it is hard to choose. But if you have a thing for caves, Sedona is full of them and these are some of the best in the area to hike to!
I do suggest utilizing some sort of GPS app to keep yourself on track. And remember, if you want to follow the exact routes I took, you can subscribe in the box at the beginning of this post to gain access to them. You can download the files and import them into your own GPS!
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
More in Sedona:
- Hike to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, Arizona
- Hiking Cathedral Rock: All you need to know
- Visit these 4 Sedona Wineries all in one day
You may also enjoy:
- How to Hike to Humphrey’s Peak- Arizona’s Tallest Peak
- The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek- Arizona Swimming Hole
- How to Kayak Antelope Canyon from Lake Powell