The Soldier Pass Cave is one of the coolest places I have ever discovered. With no marked trail to this hidden gem, it takes a lot of focus to find the correct 'fork in the road' and make the ascent up the mountain to the entrance to the cave. This is what makes exploring in Red Rock Country so much fun as there are always more secrets to be uncovered.
There is nothing like a TRUE ADVENTURE to find a place so hidden in plain sight. In this guide, we make the experience arriving to the secret cave at Soldier Pass easier so you can focus on the exploring.
Date Hiked: June 2019
Miles: 4.2 miles
Elevation: 813 feet
Trail Type: Out + Back
Trailhead: Google Maps
Before you go discover the secret cave at Soldier Pass Trail, make sure you plan ahead with parking. Sedona is a beautiful small town with limited parking everywhere. You'll need to stop and pick up a Red Rocks Pass permit for the day. We wrote an entire blog on it so go check it out here.
I have bought my Red Rock passes from the self-serve stations and various gas stations located all around Sedona You can download the full list of Red Rock Pass Vendors here. They are $5 per day and $15 for a week-long pass. Most national holidays are fee-free as a free option!
If you wish to experience sunset or sunrise from Soldier Pass trail, it's important to know the limited parking lot at the trailhead is only open 8am to 6pm. You can instead start from the Jordan Road Trailhead and take the one mile Cibola Pass Trail to the start of Soldier’s Pass Trailhead. Make sure you display your red rock pass there as well.
Backcountry Cow captured great photos of the small 15-spot parking lot at the head of Soldier Pass trail below. If you can't find parking (like me), you'll have to park in the neighborhood nearby. This can add a mile onto your hike at the end so be careful. We parked near the dog park if that helps you.
Getting Started on the Hike
After you secure parking, start your hike heading towards the beautiful red rocks ahead. You're in for an action-packed hike as this trail is fantastic for seeing natural wonders along the way. In the beginning, you'll see the most crowds so be sure to social distance.
We packed a basic backpack with barely enough water looking back on it. For this hike, I would recommend a 16 oz bottle of water every hour to keep your 'cool'. Each person should have plenty of water and sunscreen.
A little into the into Soldier Pass trail, you stumble upon the first major sight to see, the Devil's Kitchen sinkhole. The Devil's Kitchen sinkhole is over 150 feet in length and 50 feet to the bottom. It is still active.
Keep heading the general direction of the trail. You should prepare to be looking ahead quite a bit and using educated guesses to discern where the trail is at times. Look for the occasional sign that assures you're on the right path. .8 miles more and you should see the second beauty, the Seven Sacred Pools.
Soon after you hit the Red Rock Wilderness sign, you need to be on the lookout for the hidden 'right' that will lead you to the cave across the valley. See my images below showing you where the caves are in respect to the Red Rock Wilderness sign.
We got lost and actually hiked till the end of the Soldier Pass trail and had to re-trace steps to find the fork in the trail. The key to knowing you're on the right path is right after the fork in the trail, you'll suddenly be opened up to a wide open red rock area where you can see the caves in the distance.
The next part is pretty challenging as its a straight-up climb to the mountain and up to the cave. This is not suitable for kids. Brace yourself and keep drinking water as your ascend!
When you arrive, the cave entrance in the massive fissure you see right ahead of you. You don't need to scale the outside of the any the rock to access the cave. There is an entrance that is similar to a rock ladder that allows you to climb into it. Be careful when you climb up.
When you crawl up, you realize how LARGE this cave actually is! There is even a ledge you can climb up on to lookout the landscape. I didn't try to climb out of the cave from the other side, but headed back down the way I came up.
It's like magic how the light reflects bright orange, red, and golden tones as the sun dances across the crannies and cracks of the cave. Please do your part to protect this natural wonder by cleaning up after yourself and respecting the land. Don't mark the side of the cave with your name.
For photography purposes, I wasn't there shooting professionally but just on my iPhone. The more you focus and time your visit, the more chances you have the orange color you're seeing in the photos below.
I would highly recommend the Soldier Pass cave excursion! It is truly amazing to see how the wind can carve these beautiful little treasures for us to go find. For the way back, be sure to be mindful of the Pink Jeep Tours that operate on the trail. I didn't have any issues but it's important to be cognizant.
Be sure to let us know if you have any questions or suggestions you'd like to add to this Soldier Pass guide for the Joy Club! Use tags #FINDYOURWILDJOY #THEJOYCLUB so we can re-post your adventures.
xx - Lacy + Team Wildjoy