★★★★☆ Moderate / Sedona
A two-story, red rock cave, sporting excellent Sedona views, sits at the top of this trail. Although primitive, 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 start. 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.) Although this area is designated wilderness, it is legal to enter the area. All visitors are highly encouraged to be respectful, to follow all Leave No Trace Principles and to stay on the already established, primitive pathway.
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.
Free Sedona Shuttle – From the intersection of 89A and SR 179, turn left/west on 89A and continue for 1.5 miles to Posse Ground Road. Turn right/north and drive 0.5 miles to the Posse Grounds Park and Ride. Shuttle 14 departs every 50 minutes, Thursday – Sunday, from 7:00 am – 4:10 pm.
Trailhead – (Note: The 14-car lot fills quickly, making the Shuttle a good alternative.) From the intersection of 89A and SR 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 lot is on the left side of the road.