How To Hike Sedona Subway Cave + Boynton Canyon Trail



Subway Cave glowing orange on the Boynton Canyon Trail hike in Sedona Arizona one of the most photogenic caves and a very popular hiking route in Sedona

Boynton Canyon Trail is popular hike in Sedona, Arizona. It’s a moderately difficult 7.5-mile hiking trail with a total elevation gain of 1,250 feet when combined with the secret Subway Cave and Boynton Canyon vortex site. The Subway Cave is located at the end of a short spur trail which begins 2 miles into the Boynton Canyon hike.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about hiking Boynton Canyon Trail and show you exactly how to get to the Sedona Subway Cave based on our own experiences.

Our Sedona Subway Cave Experience

mark and kristen morgan from where are those morgans together in sbuway cave sedona
Mark and Kristen alone inside the Sedona subway cave

We hiked the entire Boynton Canyon Trail as far as its end of trail sign during our week long visit to Sedona at the end of 2021. And half way along Boynton Canyon we took the spur trail leading to the spectacular Sedona Subway Cave.

Because we visited Sedona in December, we had the entire Subway Cave to ourselves for the 30 minutes we spent inside. At the end of the hike we spent a few minutes at Boynton Canyon vortex site.

What we can tell you after hiking almost all of the best trails in Sedona is that Boynton Canyon with the Subway Cave is unmissable. But without the cave, we think there are much better trails you should prioritize in Sedona.

Hiking Statistics

Puddles reflecting the sky on a path surrounded by green shrubs
Clouds reflecting in puddles on the Boynton Canyon Trail

You can hike Boynton Canyon Trail in three different ways:

  1. Boynton Canyon Trail Only (without Subway Cave or Vortex Site)
  2. Subway Cave Only
  3. Boynton Canyon Trail, Subway Cave + Vortex Site

Let’s take a quick look at trail distance, elevation gain, hike difficulty and time required for the three hiking options you have on the Boynton Canyon hike in Sedona.

1. Boynton Canyon Trail Only (Without Subway Cave Or Vortex Site)

  • Trail Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 750 feet
  • Hike Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Time Required: 3 hours

2. Subway Cave Only

  • Trail Distance: 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 600 feet
  • Hike Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Required: 3 hours

3. Boynton Canyon Trail, Subway Cave + Vortex Site

  • Trail Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,250 feet
  • Hike Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Required: 5 hours

Boynton Canyon Trail And Subway Cave Map

Map showing the Boynton Canyon Trail hike with parking lot and directions to Boynton Vortex, the Subway Cave and end of trail in Sedona Arizona
Graphic showing Boynton Canyon and Subway Cave trails

The map above shows exactly what you can expect when hiking Boynton Canyon to the Subway Cave and vortex site.

Map key:

  • Yellow Icon – Boynton Canyon parking
  • Blue Line – Boynton Canyon Trail
  • Red Line – Boynton Vortex site
  • Orange Star – Turn off for Subway Cave
  • Orange Line – Subway Cave Trail

Hiking Tip: If you’re trying to visit as many Sedona caves as possible, don’t miss the spur trail leading to Kachina Cave not long after passing through the residential area.

How Do You Get To The Subway Cave In Sedona?

Silhouette of hiker with camera in Subway Cave Sedona
Mark silhouetted inside Subway Cave

Sedona’s Subway Cave is accessed by taking a spur trail around 2 miles into the Boynton Canyon hike. A huge black and gray burned tree is the turn-off landmark to look out for.

You’ll pass by multiple spur trails after starting the hike and wonder if you should turn or not. Do not turn off until you reach the large burned tree on the left side of the trail. This tree marks the exact place you need to turn right.

Find the tree, look to the right and you’ll see a wide opening leading across a creek. When we hiked to Subway Cave, another hiker had made an arrow out of logs pointing the way off Boynton Canyon.

It is essential you tread carefully, respect the nearby ancient ruins and do not touch or move anything you find around the Subway Cave.

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.

Hiking Walkthrough

Let’s get into a detailed Boynton Canyon and Sedona Subway Cave hiking walkthrough. We’re 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 to keep track of where you are in relation to the turn off for accessing the Subway Cave.

1. Park Up And Display Or Buy A Pass

Park at Boynton Canyon Trailhead parking lot. We recommend arriving around first light to guarantee a spot.

Display your America the Beautiful pass or Red Rock Pass. If you don’t have either, buy a 1 day or 7 day pass at the ticket machine in the lot or buy one online at

2. Take Boynton Canyon + Deadmans Pass Trail

Deadmans Pass sign marker with direction
First trail sign at the parking lot

Parking is by far the hardest part of this hike, so once you have a spot it’s time for the fun part!

Head directly for Boynton Canyon Trail and Deadmans Pass Trail. You won’t be on this connecting path for long.

3. Turn Left Onto Boynton Canyon

Left turn onto Boynton Canyon Trail near the parking lot in Sedona
Left turn onto Boynton Canyon at the split

At the first split take the left turn onto Boynton Canyon.

A right turn here would lead you along Deadmans Pass to join Mescal or Long Canyon trails which spread out further to the east.

4. Enter Red Rock Wilderness

Red Rock Wilderness sign with hiker passing into path
Mark entering Red Rock wilderness

You will be walking through Red Rock Secret Mountain wilderness in the Coconino National Forest during your hike through Boynton Canyon and the Subway Cave.

The dirt path is compact and very easy to walk on at this early stage of the hike.

5. Residential Area

Residential area next to hiking trail for accessing boynton canyon in Sedona Arizona
Small residential area on the early part of the hike

Pass by the right turn leading to Vista Point and the location of Boynton Canyon Vortex. You can stop at the vortex site on the way back. The reason to do it later is so that you avoid the Subway Cave being busy.

The next part of the trail passes by a residential area. You will gain a little elevation and walk on a narrow dirt path as you flank red adobe buildings with smooth lines and rounded edges native to Sedona.

6. Views Begin To Open Up

Weird and wonderful red rock formations with blue sky in Arizona
Red rock views early on the trail

The trail undulates with short climbs and dips on stone steps. After a dozen or so turns and bends surrounded by vegetation and enormous cliff walls, you will pass by old ruins with bricked entrances.

Now you are getting further into the canyon, red rock formations begin to burst into the sky and you quickly forget about the residential area.

7. Don’t Take Any False Trails

Split in dirt packed path with trees on a sunny day
Follow the footsteps on the narrow sandy path

Continue to follow the most obvious beaten path. At times the trail narrows into a single track just wide enough for one hiker but the beaten path remains clear.

Ignore any potential turn off points in which you might think is this where I turn? It isn’t. Not yet.

8. Walk Through Light Forest

Light forested area with burnt trees and no leaves on dirt packed path
Light forested area before the turn for Subway Cave

Next, you will enter a lightly forested area. The trees had no leaves when we hiked Boynton Canyon Trail in December 2021, which made navigation simple.

If you hike Boynton Canyon in summer when the trees here are filled with leaves, just keep heading straight on the dirt trail and don’t turn off until you reach a very obvious tree with a thick set trunk.

9. Find The Subway Cave Turnoff Tree

Tall burnt black and gray tree marking the turning point to Subway Cave on Boynton Canyon Trail in Sedona Arizona
Huge Alligator Juniper tree is the turn off point

The photo above shows the huge Alligator Juniper tree you need to use as the turnoff point for finding the Subway Cave. It is obviously larger than any other tree you have passed on the edge of the trail up to this point.

Important – We took the photo above from the opposite side looking back. As you hike up Boynton Canyon Trail, this tree will be on your left side as you come around the corner.

The tree is even more apparent when looking back, so keep looking backwards for this tree if you think you’ve gone too far.

10. Look For The Wide Opening

Hiker pointing direction of a trail through wide path with trunks
Wide opening opposite the tree

Directly opposite to the tree you will notice a wide opening which may have large branches on the ground like in the photo with Kristen above.

This is the way to Subway Cave and you can see this track from the main Boynton Canyon Trail. It is hard to miss once you know what you’re looking for!

11. Follow The Narrow Trail

Hiking through vegetation shrubs and tree roots narrow path
Kristen hiking on the Subway Cave trail

Now you’re on the short spur trail to the Subway Cave. The trail turns narrow with tons of shoot offs, tree roots and vegetation. Keep following the most obvious path with the least resistance.

This is unmaintained and you are in delicate wilderness so it is important to remember the principles of leave no trace. You should always leave these areas exactly as you found them.

12. Spot The Subway Cave

Red rock formation glowing under sunlight
First sighting of the Subway Cave

At this point you might feel unsure if you are on the right path. But as long you keep heading in the same direction and gain some slight elevation, you really can’t go wrong.

Eventually you reach a point with an opening in the trees and you can look up to see your first glimpse of the Subway Cave.

13. Climb The Steep Bank

Hiker climbing steep bank to access a ledge for entry to Subway Cave on the Boynton Canyon Trail hike in Sedona
Kristen half way up the bank

You have two choices when it comes to accessing the Subway Cave on Boynton Canyon Trail:

  • Pictured above – Your first option is a left turn and climb up a steep bank which may require use of your hands to help. This is the easiest and safest way in.
  • Pictured below – Your second option is a straight ahead climb through a narrow gap between two canyon walls. It doesn’t look it in the photo below but this way is very steep and unsafe.
One way into the Subway Cave in Sedona is direct up steep sandstone rocks
Steep alternative for accessing the cave

The angle of incline is incredibly steep if you take the direct route up slick rock. It is sandy and slippery.

We advise against trying to enter the Subway Cave this way. Instead take the left turn and climb the steep bank, which leads you to a ledge.

14. Walk Around The Curving Ledge

Hiker walking around a curving ledge on orange sandstone to access the subway cave in Sedona
Kristen walking around the curving ledge

After climbing the bank you will reach a cliff wall and take a right turn. Carefully walk around bushes and vegetation to reveal a flat curving ledge.

You need to walk with caution as you hug the inner wall of the ledge here. It is quite a steep drop off so take extra care.

15. Navigate The Narrow Cave Entrance

Hiking a narrow ledge path on sandstone rocks to enter subway cave in Sedona Arizona
Kristen about to enter Subway Cave

At the end of the curving ledge you will come to a left turn which will take you into Subway Cave. Again, the ledge here is narrow and the drop is quite significant so you have to be careful.

Hug the wall closely and take a big step inside. You might have to contend with a line of other people here if you hike to the Subway Cave during a busy period.

16. Enter The Subway Cave

The Subway Cave in Sedona Arizona glowing orange under mid morning sunlight
The Keyhole shaped Subway Cave from the back

Once you’re inside the Subway Cave you will know why it’s so popular. We took the photo above from the very back of the cave with a wide angle lens. You enter and leave to the right side of the cave.

Sedona’s Subway Cave is named so because it looks like you’re standing inside a subway station. We have to say it also looks a bit like a keyhole, but do not confuse this cave with the enormous Keyhole Cave, which is also in Sedona.

Subway Cave glowing with hiker walking spur trail on the Boynton Canyon hike
Kristen walking through the Subway Cave

Snap your photos but also stop for a minute to appreciate how awesome nature, erosion and geological process are for carving out such great places for us to visit.

We arrived into the cave around 9:00am in December. Ideally, we would have arrived earlier in the morning so the cave was illuminated more by light. A few hours later and the cave would be completely in shadow.

17. See The Small Ruins

Ruin near Subway Cave bricked entrance
Ancient ruin opposite Subway Cave

On the way back out of Subway Cave after you walk the ledge and arrive at the top of the steep bank, continue straight instead of going down the bank.

You will very quickly reach a small ruin as you can see in the photo above. Inside the bricked entrance you can see lightly carved petroglyphs.

View from ruin on a hike in Sedona Arizona
Kristen enjoying the view over Boynton Canyon

The view from the ruin entrance over Boynton Canyon, Sedona’s red rocks and an endless sea of tree canopies is wonderful.

Important – Don’t touch anything inside or around the ruin, the remains are very delicate. There have been instances of people negatively impacting the well-preserved site and that is not acceptable.

18. Get Back On Boynton Canyon Trail

Boynton Canyon trail after the subway cave near the end of trail
Trail leading to the end of Boynton Canyon

Take the same route back down to Boynton Canyon Trail. Now, you can either take a left turn at the big tree to go back to the trailhead or take a right turn to head for the end of Boynton Canyon.

Assuming you take the right, you will start out on a gradual incline and enter dense forested area. This very quickly turns into a steeper gradient and you will climb a lot of steps.

19.Steep Climb To The End Of Trail Sign

End of Trail sign after a steep climb up Boynton Canyon
The end of trail sign you will find at the climax

After you’ve worked up a bit of a sweat you will reach an even steeper section of trail with narrow, twisting and irregular stone steps.

Once you summit these steps you will be welcomed by an end of trail sign as you can see in the photo above. Going further beyond this point will cause damage to the environment and there is no designated trail of any sort.

View of huge formation canyon wall with blue sky background
View of towering cliffs at the end of Boynton Canyon

The summit view at the end of Boynton Canyon Trail is picturesque but it is by no means one of the best in Sedona. You will look back down the canyon from a slightly elevated position and see the tall cliff in the photo above.

Our advice would be to hike the full trail if you have plenty of time in Sedona or you have already hiked lots of other trails in the area. Otherwise, head back after Subway Cave and get onto the next hike.

20. Boynton Canyon Vortex Site

Where Are Those Morgans at Boynton Canyon vortex site in Sedona Arizona
Mark and Kristen at the Boynton Canyon Vortex Site

Boynton Canyon Vortex is one of the 4 most powerful vortex sites in Sedona. Don’t miss it as you head back toward the trailhead.

Hike until you see the sign for Vista Point and follow the curving gradual incline until you climb the far side of this shallow formation.

Enjoy more stunning views and see if you can feel an energy force.

Further Reading: Top 50 hiking trails in the US

Pros And Cons

hiker in yellow coat stood inside the sedona subway cave alone on a sunny day
Kristen looking out from Subway Cave

Let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons to hiking Subway Cave and Boynton Canyon in Sedona. Our opinions here are based on having hiked almost every popular trail in Sedona.


  • Subway Cave is one of the most photogenic landmarks in Sedona
  • Perfect for families with older kids
  • Four other popular hikes nearby with connecting trails


  • Parking is almost always a problem
  • Boynton Canyon Trail climax is nice but not the best in Sedona
  • The Subway Cave is often overcrowded

Boynton Canyon Trailhead Parking

Boynton Canyon Trail Parking Lot cars and red rocks on cloudy day
The limited parking at Boynton Canyon Trailhead

Boynton Canyon Trail has its own designated parking lot on Boynton Canyon Road. The parking area is small and it fills very quickly year round, but particularly during spring, summer and fall when Sedona is busiest.

How to get to Boynton Canyon parking lot from Sedona:

  • Take Dry Creek Road (which transitions into Boynton Pass Road) for 4.6 miles from downtown Sedona.
  • Turn right onto Boynton Canyon Road and park at the first lot on the right hand side after 0.2 miles.

If the lot is full, try parking at Fay Canyon or Doe Mountain which connect to Boynton Canyon via Aerie Trail.

Parking Passes

Red Rock Pass Sign in Sedona Arizona
The sign you will see at most trailhead parking lots in Sedona

Yes, you need to display either a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Interagency Pass on your vehicle dashboard before hiking Boynton Canyon and the Subway Cave in Sedona.

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.

View over Sedona Arizona from inside the Subway Cave on Boynton Canyon trail hike red rocks green trees and starburst of the sun
Sun shining into Subway Cave later in the morning

Best Time To Hike The Subway Cave And Boynton Canyon Trail

The ideal to hike Boynton Canyon Trail would be early morning on a weekday in spring or fall so you can benefit from perfect hiking and light conditions, but also get a coveted parking spot and enjoy a relatively crowd free hike.

Best Season

If you visit Sedona in spring or fall when it is at peak tourist season, you simply have to be out early at trailheads or you’ll have problems getting parked.

Winter and summer to a lesser extent offer quieter periods in Sedona, which means you have more chance getting parking spaces without issue. It’s less about temperatures and busy trails in Sedona, but more about finding free parking spots at trailheads like Boynton Canyon.

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

Best Time Of Day

The best time of day to hike Boynton Canyon is early morning because the Subway Cave is southeast facing, which means the subway tunnel shaped formation floods with light. Plus, the cave will be less crowded earlier in the day.

By late afternoon the sun will have moved so far around to the southwest that the cave will not illuminate and radiate its iconic deep orange color. The crowds inside Subway Cave will also be much larger in the afternoon.

What To Pack

Hiker in grey t shirt and blue pants sat on a tree at the boynton canyon vortex in sedona
Kristen relaxing at the Boynton Canyon Vortex Site
  • Footwear – Footwear with good grips and traction are going to help you climb up steep banks and reduce slipping on sandy rocks accessing the Subway Cave.
  • Water – Even if you just go to the Subway Cave it is going to be a 3 hour hike, 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 are visiting Sedona in summer. Most of the Boynton Canyon Trail is shaded by trees but there are exposed sections.

Our Top 5 Tips

Hiker taking photos inside sedona subway cave on the boynton canyon trail
Mark snapping photos out of the Subway Cave
  1. Parking at Fay Canyon trailhead and walk Aerie Trail if Boynton Canyon lot is full
  2. Don’t turn off Boynton Canyon Trail until you reach the big burnt Alligator tree
  3. Take the bank climb, not the even steep rock climb for cave access
  4. Get into the cave early morning for the best light and fewest crowds
  5. Don’t complete the whole trail if you are short on time because there are better hikes

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

We always use Gaia GPS offline maps for navigation and tracking our speed, elevation and time on hikes. If you’ve been thinking about getting a hike tracker, here’s an exclusive way you can get Gaia with our exclusive 20% discount.

We used our offline GPS to track our position on the Boynton Canyon Trail which made it much easier for us to know when to turn off for the Subway Cave.

In Conclusion

Boynton Canyon Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona. Previous hikers rate it at 4.7 / 5 on All Trails. It has a major vortex site, two caves and a viewpoint at the end of the box canyon. Subway Cave is among the most famous Sedona landmarks on social media channels like Instagram and Tik-Tok, so arrive early to beat the crowds.

Is the Subway Cave worth visiting in Sedona?

Yes! The secret Subway Cave is one of our favorite photo spots in Sedona and it’s definitely worth visiting. We enjoyed hiking Boynton Canyon Trail but there are much better hikes in Sedona. Our advice is to prioritize the Subway Cave, and only hike the rest of the trail if you have plenty of time.

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 the Subway Cave on Boynton Canyon Trail helps with planning your visit to Sedona, Arizona!

Please let us know if you have any questions about how to find the Subway Cave, hiking Boynton Canyon Trail or your visit to Sedona in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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