★★★★☆ Moderate / Sedona:
Long views, a crazy-big sinkhole, sacred pools, and a cave-lined ridge are just a few of the cool features on Soldier Pass Hiking Trail. This Sedona hike mashes-up some of the area’s wackiest red-rock formations in one short trail.
TRAILHEAD: rim shadows drive, FLAGSTAFF, AZ • DIFFICULTY: MODERATE • DISTANCE: 2.4 MILEs (4.8 miles RT) • APPROX. TIME: 2.5-3 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 465 FEET (33 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 720-820 • BEST TIME OF YEAR: sept.-June • PETS: YES • KID FRIENDLY: YES (10 AND OVER) • FACILITIES: Yes (but no water) • FEES: RED ROCK ($5 DAILY, $15 WEEKLY, $20 ANNUAL) OR NATIONAL PARK PASS ($85 ANNUAL) REQUIRED
The views alone make Soldier Pass Hiking Trail an awesome Sedona hike. Throw in a dramatic 2012-like sinkhole, a row of sacred pools and a series of shallow caves and it becomes a prime trail, overflowing with cool features.
To snag a spot at Soldier Pass’s limited parking trailhead, try to arrive early or hit the trail during a weekday. The path heads out from the lot then dips down, crosses a wash and follows its sandstone banks. Behind the wash sculptural red-rock spires frame the horizon.
A 1/4-mile into the hike, at the intersection of the Jordan trail, a sandstone expanse opens onto Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole, a yawning cavity sprinkled with random two-ton boulders, beneath Sphinx Rock.
Seven Sacred Pools sits on the side of the trail a quarter-mile further along. This series of small water filled pools has been slowly etched into the sandstone by centuries of rain. Expect to run into Jeep Tours at this popular attraction.
Beyond the pools, Soldier Pass Hiking Trail climbs a rocky hill for 1.5-miles. The views get increasingly long, with Bell and Cathedral Rocks clearly visible in the distance. To the right, a tall ridge is dotted by wind-worn caves.
The final 1/4-mile of Soldier Pass Hiking Trail levels off and veers right onto the top of the ridge. It ends at a T-intersection with Brins Mesa Trail. Turn around here to head back the same way, or head right onto Brins Mesa, then right again onto Cibolla Trail to form a loop back to the Soldier Pass Trailhead (see downloadable trail map below).
According to legend the Apache and Yavapai people considered the Seven Pools to be sacred as a consistent water source in the desert.
Directions From the intersection of 89A and 179, turn left / west on 89A. Drive 1.2 miles to Solider Pass Road. Turn right / north on Soldier Pass Road and continue 1.5 miles to Rim Shadows Drive. Turn right / east on Rim Shadows Drive and drive 0.2 miles to a gated entry road (keeping straight where Rim Shadows Drive splits left). The trailhead parking is located on the left side of the road.