Sedona is full of beautiful backdrops and interesting rock formations and Solider Pass Cave happens to be one that continues to amaze hikers and photographers. It’s unique shape and windows of light draw in visitors from all over the world. But it can be an easy one to miss! Unless you know where to go, that is.
In this guide I’ll show you the different ways to hike the Solider Pass Trail, how to access Soldier Pass Cave, and other points of interest along the way such as Seven Sacred Pools and Devil’s Kitchen.
I hope you’re ready for an epic hike because this is one of the best Sedona hikes to do while in town!
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!
Hey there! Just so you know the below links contain affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through my links (at no extra cost to you). You can visit my disclosure for more info.
Complete Guide To Soldier Pass Cave
While this particular guide is written to help you find Solider Pass Cave via. the most direct and shortest route, you do have the option to extend your hike.
Below I break down both hiking options so you can choose the one that best suites you!
Solider Pass Cave Only Hiking Stats
The quickest and most direct way to reach Soldier Pass Cave is to hike it as an out and back trail. The stats below reflect this. You’ll embark from Soldier Pass Trailhead and still get to visit Seven Sacred Pools and Devil’s Kitchen.
- Hiking Distance | 3.5 miles RT
- Difficulty | Moderate
- Elevation Gain | 529 ft.
- Total Time | 1.5-2.5 hours
- Permits/Fees | Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful
- Trailhead | Soldier Pass Trailhead
- Road Conditions | 2WD, paved
- Dog Friendly | Yes, but not in the cave.
Soldier Pass Trail Loop + Cave Hiking Stats
If you’re up for a bit of a longer hike the stats below reflect this option. You’ll begin either at Soldier Pass Trailhead or Brins Mesa Trailhead and connect a series of trails into one big loop. This is typically called Soldier Pass + Brins Mesa Loop.
- Hiking Distance | 5.8 mile loop
- Difficulty | Moderate
- Elevation Gain | 932 ft.
- Total Time | 3-4 hours
- Permits/Fees | Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful
- Trailhead | Soldier Pass Trailhead or Brins Mesa Trailhead
- Road Conditions | 2WD paved or high clearance dirt road
- Dog Friendly | Yes, just not in the cave.
Visit the full trail guide for this option- coming soon!
What About The Entire Soldier Pass Trail?
The Soldier Pass Trail actually ends 0.5 miles past the spur trail to the cave. If you were to hike the entire trail it would be an out and back. Most people either hike the trail to get to the cave or connect it with Brins Mesa to create the loop option.
Getting To Soldier Pass Trailhead
You’ll most likely begin your hike at the Soldier Pass Trailhead which is located deep within a local Sedona neighborhood.
If you map the directions from the link or put them into Google Maps they will take you through Sedona on 89A, through some neighborhoods, then to the trail parking lot. The parking lot, however, is very small. It hosts maybe 15 parking spots.
If you aren’t lucky enough to sneak into the parking lot you have two options. First is to patiently wait and hope for a quick turnaround so a spot can open up. Second is to drive over to the Brins Mesa Trailhead, also known as Jordan Road Trailhead, because the parking lot there is much larger.
Doing so will of course add milage to your Solider Pass Cave hike, but it is better than nothing! The parking lot here is larger but I’d suggest an SUV at the least, no sedans. The dirt road is pretty rutty.
Do not try parking within the neighborhoods. Cops drive around and you will be ticketed or towed.
If you are hiking between Thursday and Sunday you’ll have to use the Sedona Shuttle. Skip down to that section for more info!
Red Rock Pass Or America The Beautiful
Once parked you must display either the $5 Red Rocks day pass or an annual National Parks Pass like the America The Beautiful.
You can purchase a Red Rocks pass at the Brins Mesa trailhead parking lot only. The kiosks don’t dispense cash so bring exactly $5 or you can usually stop in any local gas station or grocery store to purchase one beforehand, which is suggested if you are using the Soldier Pass Trailhead.
The city of Sedona has implemented a free public shuttle that runs year round in order to mitigate the over crowding on trails and roads. It runs Thursday-Sunday and services a number of popular trailheads throughout the city.
If the Sedona Shuttle services a trailhead you are not able to drive to that trailhead during operating hours- you are required to use the shuttle. For more information visit the Sedona Shuttle website.
Soldier Pass Trailhead is serviced by the shuttle. You will have to use the shuttle when it is operating.
Jordan Road Trailhead is not serviced yet by the shuttle. You can drive yourself to and from at any time!
Sedona Cares Pledge & Leave No Trace
As you can imagine Sedona is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and tourism. Over the years the crowds and traffic have grown enormously but the streets and agencies within have not, which means at times they have trouble keeping up. Sedona is a small mountain city and needs help from locals and visitors alike to keep the trails and roads clean!
While visiting please be mindful of the impact you have and take part in leaving no trace. This includes:
- sticking to already established trails.
- packing out your trash and picking up any you find.
- respecting all sacred archeological sites you may come across by viewing from afar. This means no touching them, moving artifacts or rocks, leaning on them, or vandalizing in any way.
- camping on durable surfaces in already designated spots.
- respecting others on the trail.
Part of Sedona’s sustainable tourism plan is to share and have others sign the Sedona Cares Pledge. I encourage you to read and sign before your next visit. Let’s work together to preserve the beautiful red rock country we all love visiting!
When hiking, 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 to Soldier Pass Cave!
Since the turnoff to the cave is not clearly marked on the trail and there are many spur trails that add to confusion, I suggest utilizing a map or following my already made track!
You can download my Soldier Pass Cave hike 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!
Best Time To Hike To Soldier Pass Cave
Summer temperatures in Sedona still reach scorching highs so I’d refrain from hiking during the summer (if possible) unless you plan on starting early and ending before late morning or arriving later in the day for sunset. Rule of thumb is to avoid the hottest part of the day which is usually midday!
Winter hikes in Sedona are beautiful and chilly, but fall and early spring are my favorite times to hike in this area. I hiked to Soldier Pass Cave once midday in the spring and once on an overcast day just an hour before sunset. I’d say midday washed out my photos too much and the evening light was just enough paired with some editing. Keep this in mind if you want good lighting for your photos!
The Soldier Pass Trailhead parking is only open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. so keep that in mind when you’re planning your hike. This area gets VERY busy during tourist season and there will most likely be Jeep tours happening at the same time along parts of the trail.
Looking for the best sunrise hike in Sedona? Check out Hike Doe Mountain Trail For Best Sunrise In Sedona
Hiking To Soldier Pass Cave Via Soldier Pass Trail
The Soldier Pass Trailhead begins from the main parking lot and is well marked. To begin you’ll hike down into a wash and cross it, following the trail on the other side. As you continue along you’ll approach a few signs- just keep following along the Soldier Pass Trail.
The majority of this hike is exposed so you’ll want to bring sunscreen and/or a hat. Even if it isn’t summer the Arizona sun can still be brutal. While the main trail is well marked for the majority of the hike you will come across several other trails that veer off in different directions.
Some of these connect to other trails that go on for miles while some just lead a few feet off to a viewpoint. Try to take a mental note along the way and stay on the main trail as much as possible.
This even means turning around and paying attention to what things look like coming from the other direction! One time I ended up having to refer to my Gaia app because I had accidentally kept hiking along the wrong trail rather then taking a turn when I was supposed to.
There are interconnecting trails everywhere in this area leading to all different places so it is easy to get off track!
About 1/4 mile in and you’ll already be at Devil’s Kitchen, a giant, natural sinkhole. The sinkhole is roughly 150 feet wide and goes 50 feet down. The first collapse happened some time in 1969 with a second collapse following in 1989.
The sinkhole isn’t the main destination, but still a really cool one to stop by for a couple minutes!
Seven Sacred Pools
After roughly another 1/4 mile along Soldier Pass Trail and you’ll be at Seven Sacred Pools. This is a very popular spot to photograph along the way if the pools are filled with water.
Keep in mind the pools are not always filled. During my spring visit they were dirty and not completely full. Actually only 6 of the 7 had water in them! Expect these to be dried up during the summer unless a monsoon happened to recently come through.
After Seven Sacred Pools, you’ll continue along Soldier Pass Trail until you come across a slight fork (pictured above). The trail is actually a loop trail, but to get to the arch you’ll need to veer off to the right.
It looks like it is blocked off with stones and wood, but this is the point you head off trail since the Soldier Arch and Cave are hidden back a little ways. There is no sign indicating where you fork off so it can be easy to miss.
Not long after you veer off the main trail and you’ll hike out onto a large exposed rock area. At this point it will seem like you’ve lost the trail, but all you have to do is keep going straight and keep to the left.
Once on the other side of the exposed rock area you’ll see the trail again, and keep hiking!
I rated this hike easy to moderate because it is easy until you begin climbing elevation to the cave. Although short in distance, the climb gets steep and will get your heart rate up.
Once you begin climbing elevation you’ll be able to see the Soldier Pass Arch in the distance with the cave back inside of it! Depending on the orientation of the sun you’ll most likely have some shade under the arch.
There will be a spot under the arch where you’ll need to climb up into the cave. About three steps up and you’ll be in! This short climb will be easy for some and a challenge for those who are not used to climbing.
Give it a try and push yourself! You made it this far…and I promise the views inside will be worth climbing up for. If you’re hiking with a buddy or group this is where coming together to help one another can be beneficial.
Once you make it up into Soldier Pass Cave you’ll be able enjoy the benefits of the shade and views from the windows. As you can see it is a lot of fun to photograph this cave!
Once you’ve gotten your run of the cave, you head back down to the trail and follow it until it intersects back with Soldier Pass Trail. Here you can either keep left to head back the way you came or go right and finish the loop.
Final Thoughts On Soldier Pass Cave
Soldier Pass Cave has easily worked its way to the top of my “favorite caves” list. My visit in spring of 2020 was midday and not the best experience. The trail was crowded, it was hot, and the inside of the cave was pretty washed out.
Skip forward to my visit in August of 2023 and it was a much more pleasant experience. There was hardly anyone on the trail, I went later in the evening to miss the heat, and I think the lighting inside the cave was much easier to photograph.
Soldier Pass Cave is probably my favorite one to visit and photograph in all of Sedona. I love peering at it from both ends because you get a completely different perspective each time.
You may also enjoy:
- Visit these 4 Sedona Wineries all in one day
- Hiking with your dog- 10 essentials to pack
- How to Hike to Humphrey’s Peak- Arizona’s Tallest Peak
- How to Kayak Antelope Canyon from Lake Powell
- BEST things to do when visiting Winslow, Arizona