★★★★☆ Moderate / Sedona
A two-story, red rock cave, sporting excellent Sedona views, sits at the top of this trail. Although unofficial, the Soldiers Pass Caves Hiking Trail is well worn and a cinch to follow. Inside the cave, a short, steep, rock scramble leads to a hidden upper chamber.
TRAILHEAD: rim shadows drive,Sedona, AZ • DIFFICULTY: Moderate • DISTANCE: 1.7 MILEs (3.4 miles RT) • APPROX. TIME: 2-3 HOURS • STARTING ELEVATION: 4,450 • ELEVATION GAIN: 450 FEET (32 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 510-580 RT • BEST TIME OF YEAR: sept. – june • PETS: YES (but steep) • KID FRIENDLY: yes (10 and over) • FACILITIES: none • FEES: RED ROCK ($5 DAILY, $15 WEEKLY, $20 ANNUAL) OR NATIONAL PARK PASS ($85 ANNUAL) REQUIRED
The Start – Soldiers Pass
To reach the Solders Pass Caves Hiking Trail, take Soldiers Pass Hiking Trail for 1.4 miles from its trailhead. Pass Devils Kitchen Sinkhole and Seven Sacred Pools. And continue through the wooded area following the valley alongside Brins Mesa.
The Caves Turnoff
The Soldiers Pass Caves Trail veers off to the right at a sharp turn in Soldiers Pass Trail. A row of logs and stones mark its unofficial status. And a National Forest Wilderness sign hangs near the entrance. (Hint: if you reach the large Red Rock Secret Wilderness sign, you’ve gone too far. Head back about 50 feet to find the turnoff.)
The trail is 0.3-miles from the turnoff to the caves. Although unofficial, it is well used and easy to follow. It kicks off with a moderate climb, then crosses a wide stone expanse. After this, the path gets steep and rocky as it makes its ascent.
At last the trail reaches the base of Brins Mesa’s red rock cliffs. Here, two shallow, side by side, caves recede into the sandstone. Both are shady, cool and fun to explore. The cave on the right leads to the upper chamber.
Climb the rocks inside the cave’s right side to reach it. At the top, a high alcove, with a narrow ledge, spans both caves. Light streams in from a crevice in the ceiling. And a small window is perfect for sitting and taking in the views of the valley below.
Total Nerdery Soldiers Pass is named after General Crooks Army Scouts, who lived in Fort Verde during the 1870-80’s. They used this trail to travel through parts of the Arizona Territory.
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. NOTE: The trailhead parking lot only accommodates 14 cars, and cars parked on the streets just outside the lot will be towed. Some parking is allowed along Soldiers Pass Road.