Although Devil's Bridge takes the cake as my top hike in Sedona, Soldier Pass comes in at a respectable (and close) second place.
It is also home to The Seven Sacred Pools, the Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole and a not so secret Instagram famous cave.
What's not to love about this hike?
The trail itself is relatively flat, well kept and features three worthy 'points of interest' along the way.
It's difficult to find a trail with so many interesting stops along the way.
On top of those three unique stops you'll be immersed in top notch red rock views and the lush vegetation of the Coconino National Forest.
Also, keep an eye out for Jeeps along the way! Some trails in Sedona share the road with off road vehicles, this is one of them.
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What to Expect Soldier Pass Hike
Okay I'll get to the big three stops along this trail in a moment, I promise! But first I need to take a second to call out the beautiful scenery along the way.
The vegetation through this area is particularly dense and diverse. Even without the namesake stops along the way this would still be a popular hike because it's so damn beautiful the entire way out!
I took the shot above near the beginning of the trail. It only gets better and more interesting the further you go!
Where is Devil's Kitchen?
A quarter mile from the Solder Pass parking lot you'll stumble across Devil's Kitchen. This is our first notable stop along the way. The trailhead leads right up to the edge so you literally can't miss this one.
If you're traveling with children be mindful that the area doesn't have any guard rails. You can walk right up to the edge and the drops are steep! If you aren't afraid of heights be sure to peer over the edge to take in the view, the area makes for a cool photo op and a quick stop before we continue on to the 7 Sacred Pools.
7 Sacred Pools is Located Along Soldier Pass Trail
Once you've had your fill of Devil's Kitchen, hop back on the trail and trek onward to our next stop which is the popular 7 Sacred Pools area.
Was seeing the 7 Sacred Pools the most exciting thing we did in Sedona? Absolutely not! However, these natural pools of standing water are unique, interesting to observe and the surrounding area is wide open making it an ideal place to stop and soak up the scenery.
Also keep in mind that this is one of the more congested areas of the Soldier Pass hike so chances are there will be others looking to take photos of the 7 Sacred Pools. You might have to wait your turn so be patient! After you're satisfied with your time here it's on to the final and longest leg of the hike.
How do I get to the Soldier Pass Secret Cave?
If you've been doing your research you probably stumbled upon photos of a really cool cave you can climb up into along this trail, especially if you've done that research on social media.
Let's talk about how you actually get there, then we'll talk about what to expect when you reach the cave.
At least a mile after the 7 Sacred Pools keep an eye out for a tree that has a National Forest Wilderness sign crudely fastened to it. This marks the spot where you need to turn off to the right in order to reach the cave.
Don't forget to check out my full video guide on YouTube that highlights all of my favorite Sedona activities!
Regardless of whether you turn off for the cave or continue on the traditional Soldier Pass trail you're looking at about a 5 mile (round trip) hike from start to finish. Whereas you'll reach Devil's Kitchen and The 7 Sacred Pools at just over a mile round trip. If you do the Cave turn off and complete the traditional trail you'll be looking at something in the 6-7 mile range.
Is the Soldier Pass Hike Difficult?
Keep in mind that as you approach the cave the terrain gradually becomes steeper and the footpaths gradually become more difficult to traverse since the path to the cave isn't an official trail. With that said, there's nothing dangerous or too difficult about accessing the cave.
As you work your way up to the Soldier Pass Cave be sure to look back and take in the stunning views!
Now that we've gotten you all the way to the cave, it's time to mention an unfortunate reality of this area which is that it struggles with the issue of "Instagram versus Reality."
I'm not bringing this up to deter you, because venturing up into the cave is a really really cool and fun experience. BUT - keep in mind this "secret" cave is not so secret and you'll be sharing the inside with lots of other people.
After waiting below for the first hoard of people to clear out, I was eventually able to take my turn. When I made it up the space was shared with 9 other hikers. A bit crowded considering there aren't many great places to sit.
While this can be frustrating for those looking to get the perfect Insta worthy photo, I was just happy to have completed the climb up inside so I could report back my experience!
Everyone we encountered was super nice, helping each other up, taking photos for one another and patiently taking turns to climb inside. It's also fun to make a few new friends along the way to share the experience with, embrace the silver lining.
One more thing.. the Soldier Pass parking situation sucks.
If you've read my other blog posts on visiting Sedona I probably sound like a broken record but.. I have to say it.. the parking situation here is arguably the worst of any trailhead in Sedona.
Where Should I Park for Soldier Pass?
The parking lot only has 14 parking spaces and they WILL fill up immediately. The lot is gated and will automatically open at 8am (it closes at 6pm). We arrived at 7:45am on a Monday morning in April and we were car number 12 lined up outside the gate looking to enter. If you want to do this trail you MUST arrive early.
While some trailheads allow overflow parking on the surrounding roads this is not one of them. If you can't secure a spot in the main parking lot you'll likely need to add miles to your day and drop your vehicle elsewhere.
Although the parking situation is no bueno and the cave can be crowded, this was still one of my favorite things we did during our Sedona stay. Pick a weekday and get an early start on Soldier Pass to beat the crowds as best you can - you won't regret it!
Looking for more Sedona ideas?
Be sure to check out my post on visiting the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park area if you haven't already. Sedona has a storied history when it comes to spirituality. The Native Americans who lived here considered it a Holy place and those who inhabit the area today continue that tradition.
Between the Stupa, Chapel of The Holy Cross, crystal shops and several popular vortices there are a variety of ways to get your spiritual fill.
I really enjoyed our visit to the Peace Park. It's not much of a time commitment (we spent less than an hour here, but some stay longer) which makes it a nice leisurely activity to do after a undertaking a longer hike such as Soldier Pass!