How To Hike Soldier Pass Trail In Sedona



Stunning view over Sedona landscape through arch looking Soldier Pass Cave on the Soldier Pass Trail hike red and orange sandstone rocks

Soldier Pass Trail is a moderately difficult 4.2-mile roundtrip hike with a total elevation gain of 750 feet. The trail is famous for its natural sandstone formations including devil’s kitchen sinkhole, seven sacred pools and soldier pass cave. It’s one of Sedona’s best family friendly hikes.

In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about hiking Soldier Pass Trail in Sedona.

Our Soldier Pass Trail Experience

Hiker walking on a narrow ledge inside Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona
Kristen walking on the narrow ledge inside Soldier Pass Cave

We hiked Soldier Pass Trail and climbed inside Soldier Pass Cave during our week long visit to Sedona at the end of 2021. It’s definitely one of our favorite Sedona trails because of its fun and photogenic rock formations. Read more about us.

Visiting Sedona in December during the low season usually meant we benefited from quiet trails but Solider Pass Trail was surprisingly busy. Luckily, we’d hired a Jeep so we could escape from the notorious trailhead parking problems and access the hiking trail from the nearby 4×4 road instead.

Hiking Statistics

  • Trail Distance: 4.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 750 feet
  • Hike Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Required: 3 hours
  • Trailhead: Soldier Pass Trailhead (trail no. 66)
  • Best Time: Afternoon

Soldier Pass Trail Map

Map showing all trails connecting to Soldier Pass Trail and Cave Trail with parking lots for hiking in Sedona
Map of the Soldier Pass Trail in Sedona

Map key:

  • Orange Line – Soldier Pass Cave Trail
  • Orange Star – Soldier Pass Cave Location
  • Red Line – Soldier Pass Trail
  • Green Line – Brins Mesa Trail
  • Light Blue Line – Cibola Pass Trail
  • Dark Blue Line – Soldier Pass 4×4 Road

The map above shows the two major parking locations for accessing the hike, as well as the various trails you can hike around Soldiers Pass. We’ll explain your parking options in detail later in the guide.

How Do You Get To The Secret Soldier Pass Cave?

Arrows on infographic showing where to turn on Soldier Pass Trail to reach Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona Arizona
Soldier Pass Cave directions as the trail splits

To get to the hidden Soldier Pass Cave you need to take a right turn at a very obvious fork in the trail around 1.3 miles from Soldier Pass Trailhead. Is it 1 mile north of Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole for reference.

Use the photo above to see how Solider Pass Trail splits. Heading left leads you to Brins Mesa Trail and heading right up the small hill leads you to Soldier Pass Cave.

Look for the white Wilderness sign posted on a tree immediately after taking the right fork.

Hiking Tip: When exploring outdoors, be sure to always practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace to preserve natural beauty so others can enjoy the same environments.

Soldier Pass Trail Hike Walkthrough

Let’s get into the Soldier Pass Trail hiking walkthrough. We are going to show you the entire trail step-by-step so you know exactly what to expect.

Don’t forget you can use our photos below throughout your hike on Soldier Pass Trail to help with navigation and landmarks.

1. Devils Kitchen

Devils Kitchen sinkhole on the Soldier Pass Trail hike to Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona Arizona
Enormous sinkhole at Devils Kitchen in Sedona

The first stop on Soldier Pass Trail arrives just 0.2 miles into the hike. You can’t miss the enormous gaping hole in the ground, known as Devils Kitchen sinkhole.

Expansive underground limestone caverns collapsed in the 1880’s and created this huge depression in the red rock formations. Don’t miss the information board to learn more about geological processes causing sinkholes.

Take extra care around the edges of the sinkhole if you are hiking with your kids. There is no protection of any kind around the perimeter.

2. Seven Sacred Pools

Seven sacred pools drone photo from above on the Soldier Pass Trail hike in Sedona Arizona
Our drone photo of Seven Sacred Pools in Sedona

Follow a nice and easy dirt trail through green juniper trees for a little less than half a mile. This will lead you directly to Seven Sacred Pools, which is one of the most photogenic natural areas in Sedona.

We took the photo above with our drone in December when the pools were almost dry and stagnant with dirty looking water. But if you visit Sedona when a seasonal spring feeds the pools, this scene looks like something out of Middle Earth or Narnia.

3. Soldier Pass Trail

Red rock formation with trees in foreground
View over Sedona’s red rocks from Soldier Pass Trail

Continue heading north from Seven Sacred Pools for 0.7 miles. The trail is almost perfectly flat, well beaten and very easy to follow.

Look left and right as you walk to soak up Sedona’s beautiful red rock landscape. You will pass through the deep Soldier wash which is where the Soldier Pass 4×4 road ends.

4. Turn Right At The Split

Split in hiking path forking left and right inside light forest
The all important trail split for Solider Pass Cave

Continue to follow the cairns and wilderness signs through the wash. Eventually you will reach a very obvious fork in the path.

This is the most important part of the trail. You must turn right here at the fork if you want to climb inside Soldier Pass Cave.

5. Look For The Wilderness Sign

Wilderness sign on a tree in a forest
Look for the wilderness sign on the tree

Moments after taking the right fork you will see a Coconino National Forest wilderness sign posted on a tree trunk like you can see in the photo above.

Exploring Sedona’s hidden caves and fantastic hiking trails should not to be taken for granted. We all have to be responsible and treat the stunning natural environment here with respect.

Remember the principles of leave no trace and be considerate when you enter this wilderness area along Soldier Pass Trail.

6. Gain Elevation

Hiker climbing red rock steps on a cold but sunny day
Kristen beginning to gain elevation

You will slowly begin to gain elevation on Sedona’s quintessential dusty red rocks. Your calves will start to burn pretty quickly!

It is important you wear shoes with good grips from here as you ascend to the entrance of Soldier Pass Cave because the trail can be slippery.

7. Cross The Flat Rocks

Flat open rock face red sandstone juniper trees and blue sky
Flat expanse to cross before climbing again

Next, you will cross straight over a wide open flat rock sticking to the left hand side. The trail isn’t marked or obvious, but you can just about make out a path on the opposite side of the rock.

Do not go directly toward to taller red rocks or attempt to gain elevation here. Keep left and stay flat in order to re-join the trail.

8. Steep Ascent To Reach Soldier Pass Cave

Outside of Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona Arizona resembling a giant arch
The outside of Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona

The climb to reach the outside of Soldier Pass Cave is steep and a bit of a slog. We think the trail difficulty transitions from easy to medium throughout the ascent.

From the outside Soldier Pass Cave looks more like an arch leading into a small depression with several layers like an onion. And that is exactly what it is, but there’s also a gap in one of the onion layers that you can climb into.

9. Climb Into Soldier Pass Cave

Narrow gap to climb into Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona
Mark about to climb inside Soldier Pass Cave

Enter the arch and you will notice a very narrow but tall gap directly behind the entrance on the right side as you walk in.

You have to climb the rocks to gain access to Soldier Pass Cave. The climb inside can be quite challenging. Even if you are a strong hiker you will still need to use your hands and feet.

Previous hikers sometimes leave ropes attached to rocks at the top of caves in Sedona so that other hikers can use them to gain entry. However, you should not rely on ropes being in place. If you think you’ll need the use of a rope, take your own.

Want a more challenging cave? How to hike the Sedona Keyhole Cave.

10. Enjoy The Views

Hiker with camera inside cave with three light sources Soldier Pass Trail Sedona
Mark enjoying the inside of Soldier Pass Cave

Climb up the rocks and you are rewarded with an incredible cave illuminating under three separate narrow light sources from the bottom side and back.

Take care when walking along the narrow ledges as you explore Soldier Pass Cave. It’s not very wide and it can become overcrowded with other hikers inside the small space.

Walk to the opposite side of the upper chamber and look back for a striking view of Soldier Pass Cave.

Awesome wide angle photo of Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona with light pouring in
Wide angle perspective photo inside the cave

The photo above was our favorite point of view inside the cave. You can climb up the back side of Soldier Pass Cave but it is very steep and requires a scramble. The climb leads to the top of the arch as you see it from the outside.

We chose not to climb up the back section of the alcove during our hike because we could hear at least 2 or 3 big and loud groups up there.

But if it is quiet when you visit Soldier Pass Cave and you are an experienced hiker, carefully climb the back part for elevated views over the spectacular landscape below.

11. Hike Back To The Trailhead

Starburst with the sun on red rock formation in Arizona
Soldier Pass Cave entrance resembling an arch

Once you’re done in Soldier Pass Cave, head back down the same way to rejoin Soldier Pass Trail.

Turn left to go back past Seven Sacred Pools and Devils Kitchen to the trailhead, or turn right to loop around on Brins Mesa trail. If you take Brins Mesa trail, we highly recommend you climb the spur trail to a fantastic overlook.

Our advice is to hike Brins Mesa only if you have plenty time on your Sedona itinerary. If you are short on time, there are plenty of better hikes and caves to explore in Sedona.

Pros And Cons


  • Soldier Pass Cave is unique and photogenic
  • Devils Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools are fantastic landmarks
  • Family friendly and great for teens


  • Very popular trail means it is always busy
  • The cave is a little tricky to climb into
  • Parking at the trailhead is near impossible

Soldier Pass Trailhead Parking

Parking lot for Soldier Pass Cave Trail hike trailhead 14 cars max
Parking lot full at Soldier Pass Trailhead in Sedona

Soldier Pass Trailhead parking lot is one of the hardest places to park in Sedona because it’s limited to just 14 vehicles and this is a hugely popular hike.

Every morning hikers drive to the trailhead hoping for a coveted spot only to find the line is already 20-30 cars long.

It’s important to know that Soldier Pass Trailhead is located in a residential area. Long lines of frustrated drivers lining up isn’t much fun for the locals who live in this part of Sedona.

Here’s the Google Maps location for Soldier Pass Trailhead. Only cars up to 20 feet in length are permitted to park in the trailhead lot, so don’t turn up in an RV.

When To Arrive

Soldier Pass Trailhead parking lot is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm daily. You can arrive anytime to get in line, but even a 7:00am arrival may be too late. It depends on the season and how busy Sedona is during your visit.

Cars will be in and out of the lot all day so you can get a spot if you arrive later, but expect to wait in a long line.

Important: If your car is still in the Soldier Pass Trailhead parking lot at 6.01pm, it’s staying there all night. The gates will be locked and you will be without your car, so make sure you are well out of the way in good time.

Alternate Parking Options

Chances are very high you will need to consider parking somewhere else for this hike in Sedona.

Here are your alternate options for accessing Soldier Pass Trail:

1. Posse Grounds Park & Ride

You can park at Posse Grounds park and ride to take the Sedona Shuttle right to Soldier Pass Trailhead. Here’s the Google Maps location for Posse Grounds park and ride.

Look for the green shuttle bus #14 for Soldier Pass Trail, which takes just 6 minutes.

The Sedona shuttle only runs during peak times. Here’s the timetable with buses starting at 8:00am and finishing at 5:51pm.

2. Jim Thompson Trailhead (Cibola Pass Trail)

Jim Thompson Trailhead parking offers the perfect alternative to stressful overcrowding at Soldier Pass Trailhead.

Here’s the Google Maps location for Jim Thompson parking lot.

If you park at Jim Thompson Trailhead, you can walk 1 mile along Cibola Pass Trail to reach Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole directly.

Hiking Tip: Jim Thompson is a better place to park if you want to hike the full Soldier Pass and Brins Mesa loop.

Parking Passes

Hiking trailhead with information boards and stones leading to a path
No pass is required if you park at Soldier Pass Trailhead

Soldier Pass Trailhead and Posse Grounds park and ride do not require a pass to park. However, you will need to display either a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass if you park at Jim Thompson Trailhead.

You can buy a Red Rock Pass at this page in advance, or you can buy a pass at a ticket machine when you arrive in person.

Red Rock Pass options include:

  • 1 Day Red Rock Pass – $5
  • 7 Day Red Rock Pass – $15
  • Red Rock Annual Pass – $20

Do you have an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass? You can use it instead of a Red Rock Pass at these trailheads in Sedona.

Soldier Pass 4×4 Road

4x4 off road Jeep driving on Soldier Pass Trail in Sedona
Mark driving our Jeep driving along Soldier Pass 4×4 road

Here’s a unique but expensive trick you can use to avoid parking problems for hiking Soldier Pass Trail.

If you hire a Jeep for a few days, not only can you drive the best Jeep trails in Sedona but you can also drive straight through Soldier Pass Trailhead parking lot beyond a metal gate and onto Forest Service Pass 9904 Road.

You can’t access Soldier Pass 4×4 road in an ATV. Only a Jeep with configured high clearance will get over the huge boulders at the road entrance.

Not having to think about parking when we hiked Soldier Pass Trail was a huge relief for us. We drove right up to Devils Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools on fun off-road trails, before parking at Soldier Wash to hike up to the cave.

Important – This is the only Sedona off road trail you have to purchase a permit to drive. Permits can be reserved here at

Best Time To Hike Soldier Pass Trail

Pools of shallow water in red rocks with sandstone towers in the background
Shallow water in pools along Soldier Pass Trail in December

The ideal time to hike Soldier Pass Trail is mid-afternoon on a weekday in spring or fall to benefit from perfect hiking and light conditions.

Best Season

Spring and fall are the two best seasons to visit Sedona and hike Soldier Pass Trail. But because it is so busy, you will struggle to get parked and the trails will be even more crowded than usual.

Winter and summer to a certain extent offer slightly quieter periods in Sedona, which means you have more chance getting parked at trailheads. However, it can be very hot in summer and very cold in winter.

No matter which season you hike Soldier Pass Trail, try to avoid weekends, holidays and the 10:00am to 2:00pm rush.

Best Time Of Day

Mid-afternoon is the best time of day to hike Soldier Pass Cave Trail to benefit from the best lighting inside Soldier Pass Cave, which is west facing.

However, it might be worth waiting until a little later in the afternoon in the hope that the trail will be less busy if you visit Sedona during peak season.

Further Reading: 50 best hikes in the USA

What To Pack

Sunlight illuminating Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona
Three sources of light inside Solider Pass Cave
  • Footwear – Footwear with good grips and traction are going to help you climb up the steep approach and reduce slipping on sandy rocks when accessing Soldier Pass Cave.
  • Water – Soldier Pass Trail is open and exposed, which means you’ll need to take water. Summer months require more water and even electrolyte drinks.
  • Sun protection – Sunglasses, sun hats, long layers and sunscreen are vital if you’re visiting Sedona in summer, especially on an exposed hike like this one to Soldier Pass Cave.

Our Top 5 Tips

  1. Take the Sedona shuttle or park at Jim Thompson Trailhead
  2. Hike in spring to see Seven Sacred Pools at its best
  3. Turn right at the trail split so you don’t miss the cave
  4. Climb inside the cave around mid-afternoon for the best light
  5. Hire a Jeep so you can drive right up to the trail highlights

Track Your Hike

Gaia GPS navigation hiking app showing location of Soldier Pass Cave in Sedona
Our Gaia GPS offline map at Soldier Pass Cave

Do you use any of the best hiking apps to track your hikes?

We followed our live location marker on our Gaia GPS app to make sure we were heading in the right direction for accessing Soldier Pass Cave.

Use our exclusive 20% discount link if you would like to join Gaia GPS Premium and track your future hikes.

In Conclusion

Hiker with camera next to a pool of water in a red rock landscape
Mark stood next to one of the Seven Sacred Pools

Soldier Pass Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona. Previous hikers rate it at 4.7 / 5 on All Trails. The hike is engaging throughout and Soldier Pass Cave is one of Sedona’s most unique photo spots. Parking is extremely limited at the trailhead, so you need a backup plan to access the trail.

Is Soldier Pass Trail worth it?

Yes! We think Soldier Pass Trail is one of the best hikes in Sedona. It’s the perfect hike for families with teens or older because it has interesting natural landmarks and a fun cave access scramble. You should definitely include Soldier Pass Trail on your Sedona hiking itinerary.

More Sedona Hikes

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Want more Arizona content? Head over to our Arizona travel guides to explore the best of Grand Canyon, Sedona and beyond.

We hope this guide to hiking Soldier Pass Trail helps with planning your visit to Sedona, Arizona!

Please let us know if you have any questions about hiking Soldiers Pass Trail or your visit to Sedona in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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