Soldier’s Pass Caves and the Soldier’s Pass Loop Trail gives you the biggest variety of landscape when it comes to Sedona hiking trails! From sinkholes to sacred pools to caves to gorgeous views, this hike has it all.
This looped trail was my favorite hike in Sedona, hands down.
To make the journey a little longer, and parking a little easier, we hiked a 5-mile loop combining the Soldier’s Pass Trail with Brin’s Mesa Trail and Cibola Pass Trail.
Where to Park
Parking can be an issue in Sedona. We had heard that parking at the Soldier’s Pass Trailhead was a chaotic mess. Regardless, we decided to check it out, thinking maybe we would get lucky. We didn’t.
It’s kind of like hearing childbirth stories and somehow, you magically believe that your childbirth story will be the exception. You’re tough. You’re strong. It can’t hurt that bad.
Why do we lie to ourselves like this?
Parking is a challenge in Sedona. Believe it.
There is a small parking lot at the Soldier’s Pass trailhead that holds about 15 vehicles. It opens at 8 am, and when we arrived at 9 am it was full. Cars were pulling into the full parking lot, then turning around in the parking lot and trying to get out while the next car pulled in to try their luck. It was a mess.
Unfortunately, the Soldier’s Pass trailhead is located in a residential area and there are signs everywhere stating that parking on the side of the road is forbidden. About a mile away from the trailhead, where parking was permitted, but it was also close to full.
Rather than wait and try our luck, we opted to drive to another parking spot I had read about online: the Jordan Road Trailhead. It was a bit of a drive, so I wish we had just gone directly there, first. Learn from our mistake!
At the Jordan Road Trailhead, you’ll find a bigger parking lot with restrooms (vault toilets). The cost is $5 for a parking permit that can be purchased using a debit or credit card from a ticketing machine.
You can hike the 5-mile Soldier’s Pass loop in either direction. We opted to go uphill first, so we could go downhill on the way back.
Brin’s Mesa Trail
First, start on Brin’s Mesa Trail, heading north west. Continue north until you reach Soldier’s Pass trail at the summit.
Trail signage is minimal along this entire loop, which can make things a bit challenging. However, we had great cell reception (Verizon), so we were able to track our progress on Google Maps (or you could use AllTrails) and make sure we were in the right place.
Soldier’s Pass Caves
Next, head south on Soldier’s Pass Trail.
As you make your way down the trail, and down the hill, you’ll see Soldier’s Arch and the caves off to your left. The spur trail to reach the caves is actually south of the caves, so keep hiking and enjoy the views!
The trail will start to wind among the trees, blocking the view of the caves. That’s when you know you’re close to the turn-off!
Keep your eyes peeled for the cave trail… or follow the people. When you pass the sign below, you’re very close!
The hike up to the caves is fairly steep and you’ll have to scramble up some inclines and over some small boulders. The views are jaw-dropping gorgeous though, so stop and enjoy them! We didn’t on the way up but certainly did on the way down.
God does beautiful work.
Once you get to the top, enjoy the coolness of the caves and take in more amazing views.
To get the most out of the experience, climb up in the cave located on the right. There’s even a little “window” with a 4-foot wide ledge that you can sit on and take it all in.
Seven Sacred Pools
Next, after visiting the Soldier’s Pass Caves, head back down the cave trail to the main trail. Continue south and you’ll soon arrive at Seven Sacred Pools. The pools were much smaller than I had pictured, fairly dry, and a little murky.
Do stop anyway, take a picture, and try to imagine what it would look like after a rainstorm.
Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole
Finally, after leaving Seven Sacred Pools, you’ll hike toward the final landmark, Devil’s Kitchen which is a large sinkhole. The trail can get a little tricky. We used Google Maps on this portion to take us to the Devil’s Kitchen.
This sinkhole has two recorded incidents of collapse with the first one taking place in the 1880s. The dust from the sinkhole partially blocked out the sun according to resident Albert Thompson (1968).
It was strangely mesmerizing to stand near a large sinkhole and wonder if and when it might give away again. Sinkholes give me the heebie-jeebies!
Jordan Trail to Cibola Pass
Once you’ve had your fill of sinkholes, finish the loop! Follow the Jordan Trail until you reach Cibola Pass. Veer left off of Jordan Trail and take Cibola Pass the remainder of the way back to the Jordan Road Trailhead where your vehicle is parked.
HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SOLDIER’S PASS TRAIL AND THE SOLDIER’S PASS CAVES?
If you’re headed to Sedona soon and have any questions about the Soldier’s Pass Loop Trail, drop them in the comments below!
This loop is such a great trail if you want to get a little taste of a great variety of landmarks. Caves, sacred pools, sinkholes, wildflowers, majestic views…there’s so much beauty!
Looking for tips for visiting Sedona? Avoiding these six mistakes will save you both time and stress.
Allan and I took a couple’s trip to Sedona this spring. I did a fair amount of research before our trip, but there were certainly some things I didn’t plan for!
Sedona is drop-dead gorgeous, and we certainly fell in love with its towering red walls. We visited in April, knowing that spring and fall are the most popular times.
Regardless of when you’re visiting Sedona, these tips will help you make the most of your time! Learn from our mistakes…and avoid them!
Don’t expect low crowds in Sedona
Do know that the number of visitors to Sedona has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Data reports show that the number of visitors to Sedona has tripled over the past decade! In fact, in 2019 they had more than 3 million annual visitors.
These numbers rank Sedona with some of the most visited national parks in the United States. For some perspective, Yellowstone has about 4 million visitors per year. However, Sedona isn’t a national park and doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the high volume of visitors. Sedona is a small town, with only 10,000 residents.
The city of Sedona is actively working to find solutions for the highest priority issues like trailhead parking. They are in the process of developing a shuttle system for some of the more popular trailheads and hope to roll it out by the spring of 2022.
Don’t expect a seamless car rental experience
Do know that post-pandemic car rentals aren’t without a few hiccups. Across the nation, there has been a shortage of available vehicles. Rental car attendants have attributed it to multiple causes.
First, during the COVID shutdown, they were forced to lay off staff. As travel has resumed, they don’t have adequate staff to shuttle vehicles from their off-site locations to the airport, resulting in a lower number of available cars.
Secondly, to stay financially solvent, rental car agencies sold large portions of their fleet during the shutdown and didn’t purchase any new vehicles. As regular travel resumes, some companies just don’t have the fleet numbers that they did pre-pandemic.
Finally, some companies just handle online reservation systems poorly. During a recent trip to Florida, I had reserved a car through a booking agency. In my mind, if you reserve AND place a deposit on a vehicle, it should be in inventory when you get there. However, when we arrived, they had no vehicles to give us. This resulted in us having to obtain a rental car from another agency at double the cost. It seems unethical but is becoming more and more common.
Wanting to avoid that issue in Phoenix, I opted to go directly through a more reputable car rental agency for our Sedona trip and avoid a booking agency. I was able to score the best deal directly from Enterprise…and it was a minivan. Not the sexiest choice for a couple’s trip, but hey, I’m all about saving money and avoiding headaches.
We did have a long wait to get our vehicle at the Phoenix airport, which they attributed to the staffing shortage. However, returning the vehicle was a seamless experience.
Don’t wait to make dining reservations
Do plan at least a month in advance, especially for places like The Hudson. Their outdoor patio is highly prized for catching the sunset while enjoying good food.
I attempted to secure a reservation a couple of weeks before our trip only to discover they were completely booked out for five weeks!
We ended up having to wait about two hours to get a table for two next to the bar. Unfortunately, all the shops around the restaurant were closed, so the wait felt longer. Fortunately, the food was delicious and worth the wait…I think.
Don’t wait until the last minute to book your hotel reservations
Do book your hotel at least 3 months in advance. I find the best deals 4-6 months in advance. I reserved our hotel via Booking.com 4 months before our trip. A few weeks before we left I checked rates again and found that they had increased 2-3 times, depending on the hotel. That’s A LOT of money.
Don’t forget that Sedona is at 4,350’ of elevation
Do plan to puff like a road lizard if you’re coming from a lower elevation and hiking on your first day.
Since our hometown isn’t much above sea level, we try to make our arrival days low-key when visiting higher elevations. Sedona isn’t that high, but it’s enough to notice.
Don’t expect nightlife or shopping in the evenings
Do know that everything seems to close down early in Sedona. Want a souvenir? Shop during the day or before dinner. Even by 6 p.m., many of the shops were closed.
We aren’t huge nightlife people but enjoy sharing a cup of coffee during an evening stroll. Even the local Starbucks closed at 8 and 9 p.m.
DO Enjoy your time in Sedona!
Sedona, with all its beauty, has stolen a piece of our hearts. It’s somewhere I could return to again and again.
If you’re planning a trip to Sedona, I hope these tips for visiting Sedona help! Also, check out my post about a 3-day Sedona itinerary with tips on hiking trails, delicious eateries, and more. If you have any questions, drop them in the comment section! I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re looking for a kayaking adventure near Sedona, take a trip down the Verde River!
When we took our recent couple’s trip to Sedona, we knew we wanted to hike, eat delicious food, get a massage, and relax in our pool’s hot tub.
We also wanted to do something else that was fun, but not crazy expensive. A quick Google search returned the perfect afternoon adventure: a kayak trip!
With a little research, I decided that this was a safe option! (while we do have some kayak experience, we’re definitely not experts). Verde Adventures makes it easy to sign up online, so I snagged the last two spots available on a Friday afternoon.
About the Verde River
First, you should know that the Verde River is located 40 miles south of Sedona. While the creek that runs through Sedona, Oak Creek, is a lovely place to swim, it’s not ideal for floating and kayaking.
The Verde River is close enough to make a nice half-day trip! Depending on where you are in Sedona, you’ll need to allow at least 40-60 minutes to drive to the meetup point on the Verde River.
Primarily, the Verde River is a 192-mile river that is spring-fed, starting north of Prescott and south of Williams, AZ. It winds its way through the desert, dumping into the Salt River located near Mesa, AZ. Almost half of the water from the Verde River is used in the city of Phoenix.
Is It Safe to Kayak the Verde River?
Yes, usually! The Verde River is a small river and kayaking is only allowed when the water flow rate falls below 4,000 cubic feet per second. When we went in April, it was just a little over 1,000 cubic feet per second, making for a tame, but lovely, adventure.
At that rate, the water is relatively shallow and you can stand up in most parts of the river. At its widest point, the river is probably not more than 80-100 feet wide.
Guests are also provided with life jackets at the boat launching area. You are not required to wear the kayak but you are required to have it in the kayak with you. Allan and I opted to sit on our life jackets for a little extra padding. Since the water wasn’t that deep or crazy, we felt comfortable without them.
What Level of Experience Do I Need to Kayak the Verde River?
Very little. There were people in our group who were more experienced kayakers, some with just a little experience, and even a couple who had never kayaked.
The staff does a great job of identifying different land markers and explaining what to do if you find yourself in a difficult situation. Basically, it can be summed up in a single sentence: Call your guide using the cell phone number provided if you need assistance.
Using Inflatable Kayaks
Before launching, a guide will explain how to navigate the kayak. I have kayaked using both river and ocean kayaks. I have canoed. But, it was my first time using an inflatable kayak. Needless to say, it was a mildly entertaining experience getting started. Maybe the lady kayaking next to me would disagree, but it seemed funny to me. Haha!
If you have used an inflatable kayak before, you can probably imagine what happened the first time I dipped my paddle in the water.
If you haven’t used an inflatable kayak before, I’ll explain.
Feeling confident and excited to be on the water, I dipped my paddle for a quick stroke. Much to my surprise, that “normal” stroke spun me 180 degrees, causing my kayak to hit the lady floating next to me in her kayak. “Oops! I’m so sorry. I guess this is more like bumper boats!”
I quickly learned that a little goes a long way when you’re in an inflatable kayak. And, unless you like spinning in circles or going down rapids backward (that’s fun on this river), PADDLE LIGHT. It took a little while, but I did end up figuring out a stroke that kept me semi-straight.
For the most part, the current should carry you down the river with little paddling. However, we did end up getting a rather strong breeze that was blowing upstream. If we didn’t paddle we would float upstream against the current!
You just have to think of inflatable kayaks more like inner tubes than actual kayaks.
What to Bring on Your Verde River Kayaking Adventure Near Sedona
Before boarding the shuttle, we slathered on some sunscreen. Even though it wasn’t terribly warm the day we floated, the water always reflects the sun and can be intense.
We wore our water shoes (flip-flops can float away) that we purchased before our trip at Walmart, but you can even purchase water shoes from the adventure company online when you reserve your trip!
Also, we purchased some waterproof cell phone pouches that we hung from lanyards around our necks. My pouch was big enough that I was able to put the car keys in my pouch as well.
Since the float takes 2-3 hours, you’ll want water, so be sure to bring along your water bottle!
We met our guide at the Beasley Flats Day Use area in Camp Verde. Be forewarned. Beasley Flats feels like it’s located in the middle of nowhere. You’ll wind through the countryside, bump down a dirt road, and arrive at a sparsely populated day-use park.
If it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere and you might be lost, you’re probably in the right place. On Google Maps it’s marked as Beasley Flats RAP (River Access Point).
At the day-use area, you’ll have access to covered picnic tables. We arrived at the meeting point a little early, so we chose a picnic table and ate our turkey and brie sandwich that we purchased from Wildflower Bread Company. Delish!
If you drive to the end of the day-use area (it dead-ends at the river), you’ll find some vault toilets and ample parking.
From there, you’ll board the kayak company’s shuttle that will take you 4-5 miles upstream to the starting point for your kayaking adventure!
What You’ll See on the Verde River
On your kayaking adventure near Sedona, you’re bound to see a few things unique to that area.
Wildlife wasn’t as prevalent as we had hoped it might be along the river, but we saw a variety of birds, evidence of beavers, some ducklings, and a fish.
You’ll also kayak beside some ancient cliff dwellings. You can blaze a trail up to the dwellings and explore them if you have extra time. Just don’t forget to take plenty of water and watch out for snakes!
Also, along S. Salt Mine Road, the guide may point out a small boulder next to the road that has petroglyphs. On our way back home, we pulled off and took pictures. The history of this area is fascinating.
TIP: Visit the Nearby Montezuma Castle National Monument
If you want to dig a little deeper into the history of this area, visit Montezuma Castle National Monument on your way back to Sedona! This ancient, 20-room, 5-story cliff dwelling was once home for the Sinagua people.
How Do I Sign Up for a Verde River Kayak Adventure?
Visit the Verde Adventures website and choose the adventure package that best suits you. You can do a traditional three-hour kayak float, tube during the summer, or even choose a kayak adventure that includes wine tasting!
SEDONA AND THE VERDE RIVER
Overall, while the thrill factor is low, floating down the Verde River is a great way to spend the afternoon if you’re looking for a kayaking adventure near Sedona! We loved the quiet serenity of this experience!
Looking to spend three days in Sedona for a couple’s getaway? If you love nature and want to explore this beautiful part of Arizona, this three-day itinerary will show you all the best parts of this gorgeous red rock community.
While the town of Sedona is small (there are only 10,000 residents), the town attracts over 3 million visitors every year. The area is well-known for its hiking, art, and beauty. Sedona boasts more than 300 miles of hiking trails, numerous art galleries, hotels, and day spas.
Allan and I recently visited Sedona for a much-needed couples getaway. It was the perfect mixture of relaxation and rejuvenation. We hiked, sipped coffee, kayaked, explored, and ate amazing food.
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, Sedona is the perfect place to visit. If you’re looking for an adventurous getaway, Sedona is the perfect place as well. One thing Sedona doesn’t do well is nightlife. But that was fine with us since we are more into nature than city life…most of the time.
DAY 1: SEDONA GETAWAY
Eat Breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company
On your first day of your three days in Sedona, start the morning off with a quick breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company. While we didn’t find the breakfast outstanding, the views certainly are! Snag an outdoor table on the patio with unbelievable mountain views.
A short distance from Wildflower Bread Company is the Jordan Road Trailhead. While you won’t be hiking the Jordan Trail, it’s a great place to park if you want to hike Soldier’s Pass Loop Trail.
First, using your debit or credit card, purchase a $5 parking permit from the kiosk in the parking lot. Make a quick trip to the onsite vault-style restrooms (don’t forget to hold your breath). Then, hit the trail.
This 5-mile loop provides beautiful views of rock formations, and wildflowers (if you visit in spring), and stops by several well-known landmarks including Soldier Arch, Seven Sacred Pools, and the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole.
Have Lunch at Pump House Station Urban Eatery
You’ll be famished after all that hiking, so stop by the Pump House Station Urban Eatery and enjoy lunch on their back patio that butts up to Oak Creek. Large sycamores, green grass, and colorful flowers provide a peaceful ambiance.
Explore Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village
Take some time after lunch to explore the nearby art galleries and shops in the stunning Tlaquepaque Village. Cobblestone paths, beautiful landscapes, and arches will welcome you to stroll along and enjoy this area!
Experience the Airport Mesa Vortex
From the village, head to Airport Mesa to experience a popular Sedona vortex: Airport Mesa. If you’re up for more hiking, walk the 3.2-mile loop. If you just need some downtime, make the short trek up the rocky knoll to take in the incredible 360-degree views of Sedona. Sit and reflect, try some yoga, or even take a nap.
Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross
While three days isn’t enough time to hike every trail Sedona has to offer, there are some places you can drive to without hiking. Many places in Sedona allow for hiking or driving. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of those places. Parking is free at the chapel, but the parking lot usually closes early, around 5 p.m.
This functional work of art was completed in 1956 and is uniquely situated on the red rocks.
Relax at the Hotel
If you’re not ready for dinner, head back to the hotel and enjoy the pool or spa while everyone else is at dinner. A soak in the hot tub is a great way to unwind after all the hiking and walking.
Dine at The Hudson
The Hudson is rated as one of the best restaurants in Sedona. You can expect that they will be busy! Either make reservations online well in advance (3+ weeks) or go early and expect a wait. If you can snag an outdoor patio table, you’ll get amazing views of the towering rock formations.
After dinner, head back to your hotel and get a good night’s rest!
DAY 2: SEDONA GETAWAY
Grab Breakfast at Layla’s Bakery-Café
Swing by Layla’s Bakery-Café for breakfast. Conveniently located near the turn-off for the trailhead, you’ll find an assortment of coffees, pastries, or heartier (and healthier) options like avocado toast, sandwiches, and breakfast burritos and bowls. To speed up your experience, order online ahead of time.
Hike to Devil’s Bridge
(Mescal Trail + Devil’s Bridge)
Devil’s Bridge is one of the most photographed, and popular, locations in Sedona. However, no trip to Sedona is complete without having seen this phenomenon at least once.
Most people park along Boynton Pass Road and walk up Dry Creek Road (an ATV/4×4 road) to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead. Don’t be like most people. Alternatively, park at the Mescal Trailhead and take the Mescal Trail to Devil’s Bridge Trail.
The hike is just over 4 miles round trip and fairly easy…except for the last half mile to the top of Devil’s Bridge.
If you want to get your picture taken on the bridge, expect to wait 45+ minutes. When we arrived at 9 am, over 100 people were waiting for a photograph. Given the slowness of the line, I estimate that it would have been a 1 ½ hour wait. Having a photograph wasn’t that important to us, so we took a cheesy selfie and went on our merry way.
Get a Sandwich at Wildflower Bread Company
Grab a sandwich to-go from Wildflower Bread Company. Their homemade sourdough is all types of amazing. I recommend their turkey and brie on sourdough–delish! Either eat in the car on the way to your kayaking adventure or have a picnic lunch by the river when you arrive.
Kayak Down the Verde River
While it’s a bit of a drive, variety is the spice of life when you have three days in Sedona, and being on the water is always fun! Enjoy a 2-3 hour float down the Verde River, located about an hour south of Sedona. If it’s windy, you will need to do some paddling, but overall, this is a low-key adventure that is suitable for most adventurers.
Meander Through Uptown Sedona
After your trip down the river, you’ll be ready to take it easy. Walk the streets and explore the shops of Uptown Sedona. Pick out a souvenir for the kids at home, and listen to the music being played by the locals.
Eat Mexican Food for Dinner
If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican meal, head to Tortas de Fuego, one of the top-rated Mexican restaurants in Sedona. They had me at chips and salsa. If you’re looking for something more upscale, visit Javelina Cantina and enjoy some tacos and margaritas with a view.
Relax at the Hotel or Go Stargazing
After dinner, head back to the hotel to relax. Or, if you prefer, park your car under the dark night sky and do some stargazing. Favorite stargazing spots in Sedona include Airport Mesa, Two Trees, Jordan Road, and Crescent Moon.
DAY 3: SEDONA GETAWAY
Enjoy Breakfast at Red Rock Cafe or Casa Sedona
Start your last day with a leisurely breakfast. Either hit up Red Rock Cafe in Oak Creek Village or Casa Sedona Restaurant in Sedona.
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte
Located at the southern end of Sedona and just north of Oak Creek Village, there are plenty of trails to explore around Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try climbing Bell Rock and see how high you can get!
Lunch at Momo’s Kitchen
The highest-rated eateries in Sedona is a food truck. Momo’s Kitchen is magic. I’m a huge fan of bibimbap, and Momo’s did not disappoint. The truck is located in Uptown Sedona, making it the perfect lunch stop as you head up Highway 89A for your next adventure.
Drive Scenic Highway 89A
Next, hit the road and take the scenic Highway 89A north toward Flagstaff. Go as far as you would like and enjoy the beauty of the creek as it winds through the rock-walled mountains.
Visit Red Rock State Park or Swim at Grasshopper Point
If swimming is your thing, spend the afternoon at Slide Rock State Park. Located right off Highway 89A, you’ll find natural rock slides…and a fair amount of people. Additionally, visitors also enjoy swimming at Grasshopper Point where the crowds are a little thinner.
Enjoy a Couple’s Massage at Red Rock Healing Massage
Undoubtedly, the perfect way to top off your couple’s getaway in Sedona is to get a couple’s massage! Healing arts are widely embraced in Sedona, so there are plenty of options to choose from. We chose Red Rock Healing Massage. Patricia and Leigh were top-notch! They listen to your preferences and seem to know exactly what you need. They incorporated aromatherapy into the session, which I loved. I left feeling incredibly light and relaxed.
Dinner Creekside American Bistro
Finally, finish off your last evening in Sedona with a dinner at Creekside American Bistro. Weather permitting, outdoor patio seating is always a great choice!
Start Dreaming About How You’ll Spend Your Next Three Days in Sedona
Before our visit, I had heard so much about Sedona I was a little afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations—but I was wrong! Spending three days in Sedona for a couple’s getaway was the best decision!
Sedona is the perfect combination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and foodies alike!
If you have any questions about planning a couple’s getaway or a family trip to Sedona, drop them in the comments below! I would love to hear from you!