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

Jul 7, 2021 | Arizona, Sedona, Simple Suit, United States

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!

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