9 Things to Do in Bryce Canyon with Kids

If you’re looking for things to do in Bryce Canyon with kids, you’ve come to the right place!

The area around Bryce Canyon is not highly developed, so most of the adventures here will be a little more on the rustic side.

Fortunately, if your kids love dirt, rocks, trees, birds, and animals as much as our kids do, they’ll be perfectly content. The two days we spent camping at Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon National Park were some of our kids’ favorite days on our southern Utah road trip!

Go for a hike

I’m not sure how we got so lucky, but our kids love to hike. Maybe it’s because we always hiked with them (even when they were newborns) or because they got hiking genes. Either way, I count myself fortunate!

Even if your kids don’t love to hike, there are trails in Bryce Canyon that I think every kid, and adult, will love.

Queen’s Garden + Navajo Loop

2.3 miles

Moderate

Hands down, this is our favorite trail in Bryce Canyon. While it can be a little steep at the start and finish, there are so many “fun” things about this trail that make kids happy.

There are weird rocks, chipmunks, tunnels, rock cutouts, tree tunnels, and a tall narrow slot canyon. 

We rated it as The Best Family Hike in Bryce Canyon!

Rim Trail

As long or short as you want it to be

Easy

This wide, flat path will take you from Bryce Point to Inspiration Point to Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. You can walk the entire length or you can simply walk between two points, like Sunrise and Sunset.

Mossy Cave Trail

0.8 miles

Easy

Located outside of the main park area, this short jaunt offers something different–water. If water is flowing, that is. Kids may enjoy seeing something different, and Mossy Cave is different.

kids standing on the queens garden trail
father standing with kids on rim trail in bryce canyon

Take in the views

Don’t feel like hiking? Ride the shuttle!

Bryce Canyon shuttle buses are air-conditioned, which is lovely during the hot summer months. Kids will love sitting in a cushy chair, without a seat belt, and enjoying the canyon at an easy pace.

At most national parks that provide shuttle service, we like to ride the shuttle around the entire park when we first arrive to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the park.

The shuttle bus in Bryce Canyon takes visitors to well-known vistas including Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point.

people standing at the lookout at bryce point

Bryce Point

Go for a bike ride

The bike trail system in Bryce Canyon is top-notch!

There is a shared-use, paved path that winds through the park and out of the park for 18 miles. The portion of the path that runs through the park isn’t completely level, so keep that in mind if you have young bikers.

Bikes can also be placed on a bike rack on the front of the shuttle bus, so we recommend riding downhill (Inspiration Point is the highest location), then having the shuttle bus take you uphill.

shared paved path at bryce canyon
hoodoos at bryce canyon

Explore the Visitor’s Center

We always love learning more about the places we visit, the Visitor’s Center is the perfect place to educate yourself!

Watch a Park Movie

A free film about the park, its history, and its inhabitants plays every 30 minutes, on the hour and half hour. Kids will also enjoy looking at the animal displays located in the theatre.

Discover Hands-on Displays

Within the Visitor’s Center are educational displays that provide a hands-on experience.

Participate in the Junior Ranger Program

The Visitor’s Center is also a great place to pick up a Junior Ranger Booklet for the kids to complete. They can take the pledge as a young ranger and earn their own Bryce Canyon badge!

girl with backpack and binoculars in bryce canyon
girl at interactive display at visitors center in bryce canyon

Go Wildlife Viewing

Kids love nothing more than going on a wildlife sighting adventure! Take the shuttle, walk, bike, or hop in the car and search for wildlife at dusk. We saw birds, deer, turkeys, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and more!

young mule deer in meadow in bryce canyon

Wander Through Old Town Bryce

While Old Town Bryce is small and may be a bit of a tourist trap, it’s certainly kid-friendly. Kids will enjoy souvenir shopping, looking at petrified wood, and grabbing a sweet treat to eat.

father and daughter posing for a picture in a western cutout in old town bryce
family walking on path in old town bryce in utah

Attend the Bryce Canyon Country Rodeo

If you’re looking for an old-fashioned adventure, check out the Bryce Canyon Country Rodeo. It runs Wednesday through Saturday nights throughout the summer months.

Take a Horseback Riding Adventure

If you’d rather be in the saddle yourself, take a trail ride! Guests must be at least seven years old to participate.

horseback riders riding down trail in bryce canyon

Enjoy a Guided ATV Tour

For something a little more adventurous, take a guided ATV tour. Riders must also be at least seven years old to participate.

Or Simply Enjoy Your Campsite

Kids truly don’t need much to be entertained, and our kids enjoyed biking around the campground, finding lizards, making pine needle forts, playing games, and just hanging out!

Are you planning a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park with kids? Do you have any questions! I’d love to hear from you!

Best Family Hike in Bryce Canyon

If you’re looking for the best family hike in Bryce Canyon, look no further.

We combined Queen’s Garden Trail + Navajo Loop + Wall Street while visiting Bryce Canyon National Park with the kids. This 2.3-mile trail combo is now one of our top three kid-friendly hikes of all time.

Bryce Canyon sits at roughly 8,000 feet of elevation, so we enjoyed this hike on our second day in the park, which gave our bodies a little more time to adjust to the lower levels of oxygen.

Because we were visiting during the summer, on our 7-day southern Utah road trip, we opted to hit the trail first thing in the morning, before the sun was blazing.

FINDING THE TRAILHEAD

Head to Sunrise Point, where you’ll find the trailhead!

Shuttles in the park didn’t begin operating until 8 am when we were in the park, and since we wanted to get an early start, we opted to drive our vehicle to Sunrise Point.

At the base of the Sunrise Point viewpoint, you’ll see a trail marker for Queen’s Garden.

While you certainly can start this trail combo at Sunset Point, we had heard from some other travel friends that hiking UP Wall Street was magical, so we chose to start at Sunrise Point on the Queen’s Garden Trail.

Note: There are restrooms located near the parking lot at the General Store. There are no restrooms (of the modern variety) along the trail. So, plan accordingly.

QUEEN’S GARDEN TRAIL

You’ll quickly notice that the start of this trail is steep! However, this point of entry is considered the easiest trail to enter the canyon.

The trail can be dusty and slippery, so make sure you have decently treaded shoes!

The hoodoos (pillars of eroded rock) give a garden-like appearance…if you use your imagination. Keep an eye out for the garden’s namesake, Queen Victoria, as she looks out over the rocky garden.

queen's garden trail in bryce canyon national park

The scenery as you look out over the amphitheater is spectacular. Just within the first half mile, you’ll realize why this is one of the most popular trails in Bryce Canyon.

Around every corner is something mesmerizing.

family hiking through tunnel on queen's garden trail in bryce canyon national park
family hiking by hoodoos in bryce canyon

Rest in the shade of a limestone hoodoo when you get tired, or just pause to take it all in.

Kids, especially, will love the tunnels cut out of the rock!

NAVAJO LOOP VIA WALL STREET

The trail will eventually intersect the Navajo Loop trail. Turning right will take you back up and out of the canyon, but if you want to see the most remarkable portion of this trail, you’ll want to take a left and follow the Navajo Loop along the canyon floor.

The final portion of the Navajo loop will show you why this trail is the best family hike in Bryce Canyon.

towering red limestone hoodoos in bryce canyon in utah

Towering walls of red limestone will surround you and become increasingly narrow as you head up Wall Street.

If you’re like us, you’ll say “wow” every ten seconds and stop to take dozens of pictures.

The last portion of the trail is a series of steep switchbacks, but you’ll be inspired by all the beauty around you.

ARRIVE AT SUNSET POINT

The trail will come to an end at Sunset Point. Take some time to admire the views (and catch your breath). If your legs feel like JELL-O, grab the shuttle and hitch a ride back to your vehicle at Sunrise Point.

If you still have some energy to burn, hike along the Rim Trail back to your starting point.

looking down wall street in bryce canyon national park

Wall Street! Can you spot the hikers on the trail coming out of the canyon?

Have you hiked Bryce Canyon?

Do you have a favorite family hike in Bryce Canyon? Or have you hiked this trail combination before? Share it with us in the comments!

Southern Utah Road Trip: A 7-Day Itinerary

A Southern Utah road trip has been on my radar for years.

We’ve passed through Utah on several occasions, visited Zion National Park, and explored Dinosaur National Monument, but hadn’t spent concentrated time in this unique state.

The gorgeous red-rocked landscapes of Utah are recognized across the world. We didn’t have time to see everything (farming is a difficult job for Allan to do remotely), but we had plenty of time to see an amazing collection of some of the most beautiful places in Utah.

To help you plan your family’s southern Utah road trip, here’s a 7-day itinerary!

GETTING THERE

The first part of our road trip was spent…well, on the road. We traveled from the Central Coast of California to St. George, Utah. It was an 8-hour drive that was relatively uneventful.

The kids spend most of their time working on their new Road Trip Activity Binder that I created. Their favorite activities included the Find that State (license plate game), completing Silly Stories (my version of Mad Libs), and playing Sink the Ships. It definitely cut down on the typical disagreements that occur in the car.

The rest of the time they spent eating, looking out the window (we saw wild donkeys), and watching a Harry Potter movie.

We arrived at St. George in the middle of the afternoon and in the middle of a heatwave. A southern Utah road trip in July is not for the faint of heart. Thank goodness for swimming pools and air conditioning.

Swimming and relaxing for the afternoon and evening was a perfect way to start our vacation!

DAY 1 – BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Bryce Canyon is located only a little over two hours away from St. George. The wonderful thing about Bryce Canyon is that it’s nestled in the mountains at 8,300 feet above sea level. The temps dropped 25 degrees which was a nice change.

Get Settled at the Campsite or Hotel

When we arrived we immediately went to our campsite and set up camp. We like getting settled before we begin our adventures.

We stayed in the Sunset Campground which has picnic tables, fire pits (although there was a fire ban due to the drought), and flush toilets. Showers can be found at the General Store, a short distance from the campground.

kids holding skimboards at the beach while watching waves in Morro Bay in California

Sunset Campground at Bryce National Park

Visit Inspiration Point

After setting up camp and getting some food in our bellies, we walked to the campground entrance and caught the shuttle bus to Inspiration Point.

The shuttle buses have air conditioning, which was lovely on a hot summer day. Masks are required on the shuttle, so don’t forget to throw one in your backpack!

We hopped out of the shuttle at Inspiration Point and got our very first glimpse of Bryce Canyon. Allan saw it first and all he said was, “Wow.”

I cried.

“Momma, why aren’t you taking any pictures?” one of the kids asked.

“First I need to take it all in,” I replied.

Pictures are a treasure but they can never replace experiencing something with all five of your senses.

From the first viewpoint, we hiked up a short, but steep, dirt trail to the middle and upper lookouts for Inspiration Point. Sometimes, there are no words.

Tour the Visitor’s Center

Next, we hopped back on the shuttle and made our way to the Visitor’s Center. We typically like to stop by the Visitor’s Center on our first day in a new park to talk to Rangers, watch informative videos about the park, and check out the interactive displays. It’s also a great time to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet if you have younger children.

barnacles sea urchins sea anemones in a rocky tide pool

Explore Old Town Bryce

After the Visitor’s Center, we got back on the shuttle and rode into Old Town Bryce. We took silly pictures, contemplated buying an expensive slab of petrified wood (not really), and window-shopped.

TIP: Don’t forget to take your park pass with you! Old Town Bryce is located outside of Bryce National Park and the shuttle bus driver will require that you show your pass before you can get back on the bus.

We didn’t have ours with us. Oops! I asked if I could show him my campground reservation for proof of entry, and he obliged.

Visit Bryce Point

In the evening, we decided to drive ourselves down to Bryce Point. We admired the views of these amazing hoodoos, then got back in the car for our next adventure.

Take an Evening Wildlife Drive

The best time to view wildlife is in the cool of the morning or evening, around dusk. After leaving Inspiration Point, we drove towards Rainbow Point for a few miles and spotted mule deer, wild turkeys, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and ground squirrels.

Catch the Sunset at Sunset Point

Just before sunset, we ended our drive at Sunset Point. We walked along the rim trail and took in the changing views of the valley. There was a decent amount of cloud cover that evening, which ended up obscuring the sunset. Regardless, it was beautiful!

DAY 2 – BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

On our second day in Bryce Canyon, we decided to beat the heat and take a morning hike. We were told that to fully appreciate Bryce Canyon you MUST hike into the hoodoos and see the rock formations up close and from a different angle.

Hike Queen’s Garden + Navajo Loop + Wall Street

The Queen’s Garden Trail begins at Sunset Point. The trail is fairly steep and the dirt trail was loose underfoot, but if you have decent traction on your shoes, you should be fine.

We hiked down Queen’s Garden Trail until we ran into the Navajo Loop Trail, which we followed east, and then finished by going north on Wall Street, up and out of the canyon.

This loop was about 3 miles and one of the most beautiful trails I have ever hiked in my life.

girls fishing at Barney Schwartz Park pond in Paso Robles

Eat Ice Cream in Old Town Bryce

After working up a sweat hiking, we drove into Old Town Bryce and got ice cream from the ice cream parlor. Unfortunately, it was some of the worst ice cream we’ve ever had. Haha! I didn’t know it was possible to have bad ice cream, but apparently, it happens. Next time, we would probably opt for a prepackaged ice cream treat from the General Store.

Go Souvenir Shopping

Getting a small souvenir (we’re budget shoppers), is always on the kid’s “must-do” list. It’s also my least favorite part of vacationing. But it brings them joy for years to come, so it’s a small sacrifice. We perused the General Store in Old Town Bryce (it’s big!), then headed back to the campsite for lunch. 

Bike Bryce Canyon

Claire’s legs were done for the day, so Corrine and Allan went for a bike ride. An 18-mile paved multi-use trail runs through the park, and out along the highway. They ended up riding about 8 miles round trip and got in a workout with the higher elevation.

TIP: A shuttle bus driver said the best thing to do was to put your bike on the front of the shuttle in town, ride the bus up to Inspiration Point where the trail starts, and ride downhill the entire way back into town.

Hike the Rim Trail

Allan and the older kids still hadn’t had enough exercise, so they took the shuttle up to Bryce Point and hiked the 2-mile Rim Trail back to the campsite.

Date Night: Bike Ride and Sunset Watching

By the time they returned and we had dinner, I was itching to get out and explore more, so we left the kids at the campsite to play card games while Allan and I went on a quick date. We rode our bikes to Sunset Point and watched the sun set over the canyon. It was such a peaceful, beautiful moment that I’ll remember forever.

DAY 3 – SCENIC HWY 12 & ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

We packed up first thing in the morning and headed toward our next destination, Moab. Although it’s a slower route, I wanted to take Highway 12. This famous highway is famous for a reason.

Highway 12 could be classified as one of the most iconic and beautiful highways in the United States. It is equal parts majestic and terrifying.

You won’t see large semis on this route, for good reason. This route is carved through the beautiful rock formations of Bryce, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Capitol Reef. One section will take you along a ridge that has stunning drop-offs on both sides of the road.

Our advice, if you’re pulling a large trailer or there’s inclement weather, take an alternate route. Otherwise, this will be a road that you’ll never forget!

Take time to pull off the highway periodically and enjoy the views. If you have avid hikers, hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls (8 miles roundtrip). Alternatively, younger children will enjoy a visit to Goblin State Park!

I was also surprised to see that while there was a huge variety of rock formations, there were also beautiful green mountain passes like the one pictured below.  I definitely wasn’t expecting to see this view on my southern Utah road trip!

Eat Dinner at Moab Diner

An early dinner at the famed Moab Diner seemed like a good idea. The food is good, down-home cooking. Nothing too fancy. Just solid food. However, they have ice cream…

TIP: Get the huckleberry shake or a cup of huckleberry ice cream!  You’ll thank me later.

Explore the Windows Area of Arches National Park

Arches National Park is located on the outskirts of Moab, just minutes away from downtown. After dinner, we headed into the park and were able to see the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, Petrified Dunes, Balanced Rock, and the Windows Section.

The Windows Section had low crowds with ample parking. We all loved standing under Turret Arch and in the Windows. It feels otherworldly.  

We could have easily spent several more hours in this section of the park. There’s so much to see in such a small area.

TIP: If you’re wanting to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet, you’ll have to plan to arrive in the park before 5 pm, when their Visitor’s Center closes.

DAY 4 – ARCHES & CANYONLANDS National Parks

Spend the first half of the day exploring Arches National Park and the second half in Canyonlands National Park!

Hike to Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is one of the most photographed arches in all of Utah.  You’ll even find it on the state license plate.  It’s an iconic hike and something that should be experienced…at least once!

Arches National Park has seen higher-than-average visitor levels. When parking lots fill, they close the park entrance for a few hours until things thin out.

We left our hotel at 7 am to go to the park. We ended up driving around for 25 minutes trying to find a spot to park.

TIP: To secure a parking spot, arrive at the Delicate Arch Trailhead before 7:30 am, or arrive in the afternoon.

It was hot, so we opted to hike in the morning when the weather was a little cooler. 

The hike to Delicate Arch has almost no shade, and you’re walking uphill on a large slab of rock for a good portion of the trail. Bring plenty of water!

This trail is only 3 miles roundtrip with a moderate elevation gain. Spots near the end of the trail have steep drop-offs, so keep young kids close.

The view at the end is worth the work!

View Petroglyphs and Cabin

Near the start of the trailhead, there is a spur trail that leads to some petroglyphs and an old cabin that we all enjoyed viewing and learning more about.

See Other Areas of Arches National Park

Depending on your energy levels and how quickly you finish the Delicate Arch hike, you can check out the Fiery Furnace area of the Arches National Park, or take a quick hike to Sand Dune Arch (kid favorite).

Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park

Leave Arches National Park and make your way toward Canyonlands National Park. This park was the park that surprised us the most.

We took a picnic dinner and explored the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands. It’s truly stunning.

It reminded us of the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale…without all the people. This park is a hidden gem!

Hike to Mesa Arch

The hike to Mesa Arch is short, only .5 miles each way. Allan and I “hiked” in flip-flops, so I would say this is an easy trail for kids.

The most popular time to visit is in the morning when the sun is rising behind the arch. So, if seeing the Mesa Arch at sunrise is important to you, you could always visit Canyonlands in the morning and hike Delicate Arch in the evening.

The arch was much smaller than I had pictured it to be, but the view of the canyon through the arch is the show stopper. I could have sat there and stared out over the canyon for hours.

But, unfortunately, a storm blew in suddenly, and we were racing back to our vehicle to get out of the sand and wind. We, along with several other park visitors, ended up hanging out in our vehicle for almost an hour until the winds settled down and it was safe to drive.

Claire thought we were going to die. Everyone else thought it was exciting. To me, it was much less intense than being under a tornado warning in Texas (been there, done that).

TIP: Check the weather before you hike. Cell service can be spotty in the park, and summer storms can roll in quickly.

DAY 5 – TRAVEL TO ZION NATIONAL PARK

We packed up and hit the road for Zion. We thought about taking the southern route to see Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, and a couple of scenic spots in Kanab, but the kids were voting for less driving time, so we took the northern route.

Explore Springdale

The town of Springdale is located right next to Zion National Park entrance. There’s a free shuttle service that will allow you to travel up and down the main street. You can exit the shuttle right at the park entrance.

Visitor’s Center

Yes, this is the place where you can talk to Rangers, ask questions about shuttles and trails, and pick up a free Junior Ranger booklet.

Ride the Shuttle Around Zion Valley

Whenever we arrive in a park, we enjoy riding the shuttle around the park to get “the lay of the land”. We hopped on a shuttle and rode down to the Temple of Sinawava, got off, then got back on and returned to the Visitor’s Center.

Evening Bike Ride along the Pa’rus Trail

While the kids and I hung out at the pool, Allan opted to take a bike ride along the Pa’rus Trail that winds through the park. There is an abundance of bike rental shops in the town of Springdale that rent cruisers and e-bikes. However, since we’re cheap, we love fixing flat tires, and we think riding bikes that haven’t had a tune-up in years builds character, we brought and rode our bikes.

DAY 6 – ZION NATIONAL PARK

Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail

Although we visited Zion National Park in 2015, we didn’t hike the Canyon Overlook Trail, so this was a first for us.  Of all the hikes with did on our southern Utah road trip this summer, this one was one of our favorites!

We fell in LOVE with this trail.

It’s short, and has a cave, bridges, steps cut out of rock, and stunning views. What’s not to love?!

This 1-mile trail is family-friendly, but independence-seeking toddlers could make it more challenging.  

TIP: If you can only do one hike in Zion, do this hike!

Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools Hikes

Claire’s legs were maxed out after hiking the Canyon Overlook Trail (when you live with a muscle disease, you learn that it’s best to know your limits), so Allan took the girls back to swim while Brandon and I went for a hike.

We chose to hike Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools. It was sweltering, but we survived and there was at least a little water falling which made it rewarding. 

If you have younger kids, I would recommend taking the Lower Emerald Pools trail and combining it with a Kayenta Trail, skipping Middle and Upper Pools.

Relax by the Pool

We loved our hotel stay at La Quinta Inn and Suites. The pool was huge and perfect for families. Plus, we had amazing views of the red-walled cliffs and the hotel is located less than a mile from the park entrance.

DAY 7 – ZION NATIONAL PARK

The Narrows

The Narrows is a section of the Virgin River through a tall, narrow canyon. Hikers wade through the water, up the river for several miles. The water is typically no higher than waist-deep.

There are lots of rocks in the water that make it more challenging to navigate. It’s a gorgeous and unique experience that’s a must-do for most visitors to the park.

You’ll notice there are quite a few outfitters that rent hiking boots and poles.

Can you guess what we did since we’re cheap? We saved $150 and hiked in water shoes that we picked up at Walmart for $5.98.

You can hike for five minutes up the river or for hours. You choose!  Claire and I opted for an abbreviated version, and Allan took the older kids higher up the river.

While I do love this hike, it is one of the busiest hikes in Zion.  

The Lodge for Lunch

At Zion Lodge in the park, there is a cafeteria where we grabbed lunch after our Narrows hike. The food is typical park food with a selection of burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and salad. There is very little in life as rewarding as a burger and fries after a hike. I opted for a chicken burger and they were kind enough to give it to me in a lettuce wrap.

Attend Ranger Talk

We sat on the lawn to eat our lunch, and there was a ranger nearby leading a talk about condors. My ten-year-old especially loved learning more about condors! The rangers are great about making it interactive and having plenty of hands-on items for the kids to explore.

Relax by the Pool

Are you noticing a theme here?

We enjoy both camping and staying in hotels and typically do both on our road trips. In the first half of our trip, we camp. Then, for the second half, we stay in hotels. Ending our trip with plenty of pool time is a great way to just slow down and chill before returning home.

PLANNING YOUR SOUTHERN UTAH ROAD TRIP

Are you planning a southern Utah road trip? What is on your itinerary? Do you have any questions?

I would love to hear from you!

Hiking to Soldier’s Pass Caves via Soldier’s Pass Trail Loop in Sedona

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.

The Route

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.

google map of hiking route for the soldier pass caves trail loop

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.

brins mesa trail on soldiers pass cave hiking trail loop

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!

caves on ridge on soldiers pass trail loop

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!

man and woman on soldiers pass trail with caves in the background
coconino national forest sign for red rock secret mountain wilderness

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. 

man looking at red rock scenic views from trail leading up to soldiers pass caves

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.

couple standing inside soldiers pass cave in sedona

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). 

Another incident took place in 1989. (Info via University of Arizona geological survey website.)

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!

devil's kitchen sinkhole in on jordan road trail in sedona

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!

For more ideas on things to see and places to visit, check out our 3-day Sedona itinerary!

Tips for Visiting Sedona: 6 Mistakes to Avoid

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.

Crowds lined up for pictures at Devil's Bridge in Sedona

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.

Rental white minivan parked in Sedona

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.

couple hugging on top of Airport Mesa in Sedona

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.

Verde River Kayaking Adventure Near Sedona

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.

Gypsum cliffs along the verde river near sedona

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.

Life Jackets

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.

man in blue inflatable kayak launching on the verde river near sedona

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!

Getting There

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

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.

Cliff Dwellings

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!

Petroglyphs

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.

petroglyphs near camp verde

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!

Are you planning a trip to Sedona? Check out my 3-day itinerary for a couple’s getaway if you want to learn about some great hikes, good places to eat, and insider tips!