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Solider Pass Trail Sedona, AZ: Ultimate Guide to this Epic Hike

Apr 27, 2022

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Soldier Pass Trail in Sedona, AZ, is a classic! It’s known for popular landmarks like Devil’s Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools. The famous sinkhole and natural pools are visited by millions each year because they’re unique to the trail.

But do you know what else you can find on Soldier Pass Trail?

A secret cave—what?

You can off-road Soldier Pass or join this path with another nearby trail, making it a loop hike. In other words, there are countless ways to enjoy this Sedona gem.

It’s like choosing your own adventure!

Which probably has you wondering what the best hiking route is, when to go, or how to find that “secret” cave?

Even as an Arizona native, who goes to Sedona frequently, I get it. I got lost on my first time hiking Soldier Pass Trail. I was completely unprepared and had no idea there were so many options for exploring the area.

So you don’t get lost too, this blog will be your ultimate guide to hiking Soldier Pass.

We’ll start with some basic planning details. After, we’ll dive into the various trail routes.

And while you’re at it, check out my other Sedona guides to get the most out of your trip:

girl hiking soldier pass trail sedona at sunrise

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links! I only recommend products I know and trust—thank you for considering my links on your purchase!

When to Go

From my experience, Soldier Pass Trail is most enjoyable in the morning. However, if you hike around sunrise, the surrounding red rocks glow with the most beautiful morning light!

Hiking in the evening can work too. But there are better Sedona sunset hikes you can go on.

Parking & Sedona Shuttle

There are multiple ways to hike Soldier Pass Trail and enjoy what it offers. The most popular route includes parking in the Soldier Pass lot.

The Soldier Pass lot is gated. It’s open from 8AM to 6PM.

If you don’t get back to your car by 6PM, it will be locked behind the gate.

But that’s not all. In spring 2022, Sedona created the Sedona Shuttle.

The Sedona Shuttle runs year-round, Thursday through Sunday. It stops at a handful of trailheads, including Soldier Pass.

And when the shuttle is operating, visitors cannot park at trailhead lots. This makes things tricky for hikers like us.

I recommend doing this hike early in the morning, Monday through Wednesday when the shuttle isn’t running. Or parking at Jordan Trail and taking an alternate route to Soldier Pass.

If you have to take the shuttle, do it! But make sure you know the shuttle schedule—SedonaShuttle.com.

Now that we got the planning details out of the way, let’s talk about exploring Solider Pass Trail Sedona! After, we’ll cover the other routes to get here.

Hiking Soldier Pass Trail

  • Soldier Pass Trailhead: 34.891881,-111.7836384
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Distance: ~4.0 miles round trip (out and back); 1.2 miles to Sacred Pools and back
  • Duration: About 1.5 hours to complete
  • Elevation Gain: Mostly flat
  • Parking: About 14 spaces (open Monday through Wednesday)
  • Shuttle Stop: Yes (Thursday through Sunday)—SedonaShuttle.com
  • Best Light: Sunrise
  • Red Rock Pass Required? No

Everything you see along Soldier Pass Trail sits in a valley. Come here early to avoid crowds and catch the best light!

I would recommend avoiding this trail at sunset because everything in the area gets engulfed by shadows.

The trail is relatively flat from the start to Seven Sacred Pools, making it easy for hikers of all skill levels to enjoy! You’ll walk this path for about a quarter-mile until you reach your first stop, Devil’s Kitchen!

Devil’s Kitchen & Seven Sacred Pools

Believe it or not, Devil’s Kitchen is an active sinkhole! There used to be an underground cave there, but it eventually collapsed.

It is GIANT, and you can’t miss it. Stop at Devil’s Kitchen for a quick photo before heading off onto the next part of the trail!

Coming from Devil’s Kitchen, you’ll continue forward for about 0.4 miles. At this point, you should reach Seven Sacred Pools.

The Seven Sacred Pools were naturally carved over time. And while it is rare to see them full, it’s not impossible!

Hike Soldier Pass Trail AFTER a rainstorm for your best chance at seeing the pools with water.

Full or not, the pools are another fantastic photo spot, so take some pics while you’re here!

The Secret Cave

Want to know how to find the Soldier Pass Cave? About 0.9 miles from the Pools will be a fork in the trail.

An excellent way to tell if you’re in the right place is to look at the right-hand fork. You will see a tree with a “Wilderness” sign nailed to it.

This is the path you’ll take to the caves! If you miss the fork or the sign, try asking another hiker for directions.

Follow the path with the “Wilderness” tree up to a flat mesa. In the distance, you’ll see a rock wall.

To reach the caves, you’ll want to follow the footpath left of the mesa. It will lead you closer to the rock wall and directly to the cave.

Beware that going to the Caves may require some scrambling and WILL be a steep ~0.5 mile hike. Consider skipping if you’re weak in the knees!

Now that we know all about hiking Soldier Pass Trail Sedona and the three famous landmarks let’s combine this trail with others.

More Ways to Enjoy Soldier Pass

Truthfully, there are four popular ways to enjoy Soldier Pass.

  1. Soldier Pass Trail via Shuttle Stop/ Parking Lot
  2. Brins Mesa to Solider Pass (Loop)
  3. Cibola Pass to Jordan Trail to Soldier Pass
  4. Drive Solider Pass Road (4WD)

Don’t worry! We’ll be getting into more detail.

#1 Soldier Pass Trail via Shuttle Stop

map of soldier pass trail sedona arizona

We already covered this! When you get off the shuttle or park in the Soldier Pass lot, you can expect your adventure to look like the above.

When you’re done hiking to Seven Sacred Pools or the Caves, you can turn around and go back the way you came. Or, you can jump on another trail.

#2 Brins Mesa Loop

map of brins mesa loop in sedona arizona
  • Jordan Road Trailhead: 34.8976104,-111.7859149
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: ~5.0 miles round trip (loop)
  • Duration: About 3 hours to complete
  • Elevation Gain: ~1,200 feet
  • Parking: Fairly large lot
  • Shuttle Stop: No
  • Best Light: Sunrise
  • Red Rock Pass Required? Yes

After hiking to the Caves, come back down to Soldier Pass Trail and make a right. This will take you to Brins Mesa Trail!

Brins Mesa Trail is beautiful. Hiking up the path from Soldier pass will be steep, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Sedona!

The best way to enjoy Brins Mesa and Soldier Pass is to park at the Jordan Trail parking lot (AKA Jim Thompson Trailhead) and go on a loop.

Your route would look like this:

Brins Mesa > Soldier Pass > Jordan Trail > Cibola Trail

The blue line on the map above is Brins Mesa, the red line shows the loop. Also, clearly Google maps hasn’t hiked this trail.

It takes longer than 46 minutes.

#3 Cibola Pass Trail to Soldier Pass

map of cibola pass loop in sedona az
  • Jordan Road Trailhead: 34.8976104,-111.7859149
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: ~6.0 miles round trip (out and back)
  • Duration: About 2 hours to complete
  • Elevation Gain: Mostly flat
  • Parking: Fairly large lot
  • Shuttle Stop: No
  • Best Light: Sunrise
  • Red Rock Pass Required? Yes

You can do the above route backward too. Starting from the Jordan Trail parking lot, that would look like:

Cibola Trail > Jordan Trail > Soldier Pass Trail > Brins Mesa

It’s important to note that some folks completely skip Brins Mesa and turn right around at the end of Soldier Pass.

That’s okay too! It ultimately comes down to whether or not you want to deal with the elevation gain from Brins Mesa.

The benefit of choosing to hike Soldier Pass from one of the Jordan lot trails is that you won’t have to rely on the shuttle!

That means you can enjoy this area of Sedona, AZ, early in the morning, when it has the best light!

The blue line on the map above is the out and back route, the red line shows the loop with Brins Mesa.

#4 Drive Solider Pass Road (4WD)

The last way to enjoy Soldier Pass is to drive it.

Offroading is a MUST in Sedona, so if you have the chance to do this, take it!

The tricky part about offroading Soldier Pass is that you have to rent a car with 4WD and have a permit.

Only 12 permits are available to book on Recreation.gov.

If you’re still like, “Mannnnn, I really wanna do that,” and can’t get a permit, book a jeep tour! Jeep tours in Sedona are a-plenty.

A jeep tour was one of my favorite ways to enjoy Sedona as a first-timer. I got to see so many unique locations I couldn’t reach otherwise.

So whether it’s for Soldier Pass or another Sedona gem, booking a Jeep tour is an experience you’ll remember forever!

The Best Photo Spots

All of the best photo spots along Soldier Pass come one after another. I suggest taking pictures at Devil’s Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools.

The cave is a great photo spot too!

Some of my favorite photos from this area come from Brins Mesa. The top of the trail is incredibly scenic!

And remember, the Soldier pass area looks its best in the morning. Mid-day and late afternoon provide harsh lighting.

I suggest trying Cathedral Rock Vortex or Red Rock Crossing if you need a sunset hike.

What to Pack

Even if you’re doing a longer loop hike, Soldier Pass Trail isn’t difficult.

That makes packing much easier!

Sun Coverage

No one likes a sunburn, right? But, unfortunately, the entire trail offers little to no shade, and that Arizona sun can BEAT down on you.

Bring a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself!

America the Beautiful Pass

Want to save some money? Sedona has this thing called the Red Rock Pass.

It’s a way to pay for trail maintenance with a $5 fee. You pay this at trailheads.

But, if you’re a national park lover and have an annual America the Beautiful Pass, you can skip this pesky fee altogether!

A Good Camera

In my book, Soldier Pass is one of the most Instagrammable places in Sedona.

Make sure you have your camera handy, even if it’s your iPhone! To see what gear I use, read my blogger camera gear post!

PS: You need these too! Sturdy hiking boots, a headlamp, a reusable water bottle, and sunglasses.

Final Tips for Hiking Soldier Pass Trail

Let’s wrap this bad boy up with some parting tips to get the most out of your hike!

Plan Accordingly

With the new Sedona Shuttle and parking rules, you need to plan ahead. Read up on the shuttle schedule on SedonaShuttle.com.

And if you want to hike Soldier Pass from the Jordan lot, get there early. Some people arrive as early as 7:00AM!

Visit After Rain

This is not a must. You should hike after a rainstorm to see Seven Sacred Pools full of water.

Again, not required, but something to think about!

Add it to a Larger Adventure

Even if you have limited time in Sedona, there are so many things to do after your hike! Try to add Soldier Pass to a larger Sedona itinerary.

That way, you can see more of this gorgeous destination!

And that’s it!

Soldier Pass will be a fun little adventure no matter what route you take. However, to get more out of your time in Sedona, I suggest reading one of my other Sedona, Arizona posts:

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!