We are Shanna & Jason – welcome to our blog on Soldier Pass Trail! We are from small towns in northern Missouri and knew of each other in college. Years later we reconnected at a friend’s wedding. Coming from such small towns (populations of 200-500) is part of the reason why we really enjoy travel. Although we love our small town and rural homes, we know there is so much more of the world to see and we want to be able to take it all in.
However, being more outdoorsy and small town oriented, we usually lean towards outdoor adventures like Sedona and national parks – and taking in beautiful views of nature, instead of cities for our travels. Jason’s job requires him to travel constantly. But once we started dating, Shanna began traveling with him and inspired him to take advantage of those work travels, and also make use of the time he has off to travel elsewhere too.
Our goal is to visit all US states and national parks together, so we decided on a fall trip in 2021 to check off a couple more parks in Arizona and explore Sedona while we were there. We had already visited the Grand Canyon so we wanted to see Saguaro National Park and Petrified Forest National Park on this trip, which is how we spent the first few days of our trip.
But with all of the beautiful pictures we had seen of Sedona, we knew we would want to spend more time there. We spent 3 days of our trip in Sedona. During this time, we hiked Devil’s Bridge, Airport Mesa, Soldier Pass, Boynton Canyon and Subway Cave. We spent our last day renting a RZR to drive the ATV trails and give our legs a break (Jason’s favorite activity of the trip). We also enjoyed plenty of good food and taking in the views.
Our Experience Hiking Soldier Pass Trail
We found out about Soldier Pass Trail through Instagram and blogs while researching and planning for this trip. So it really hadn’t been on our bucket list until we knew we were already going to Sedona. Once we started hearing about “hidden” caves, we really wanted to explore them and knew there was one off Soldier Pass Trail that we should try to check out.
We started at the main Soldier Pass Trailhead by finally scoring a spot in the parking lot, after it was full the first time we went by. We hiked out to the cave and then straight back since it was later in the afternoon by the time we started, but the trail continues past the point you turn off for the cave. For us, it was about 3.5 miles round trip. We spent about 2.5 hours total on the hike including time exploring and climbing around in the cave.
The great thing about this trail is that there is plenty to see along the way. Not very far into the trail you can see Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole, and then further in are the Seven Sacred Pools, while you are surrounded by views of large red rock formations. We even saw a tarantula on a large rock-face part of the trail on the way back from the cave. Most of the trail is fairly flat and easy, with it getting a little tougher as you head upwards toward the cave.
Highlight of the Hike: Soldier Pass Trail Cave
Our favorite memory of Soldier Pass Trail was the cave, especially since we had it all to ourselves. It wasn’t crowded at all, with us just meeting a couple of other groups. Plus, it was our first cave in Sedona. It was unlike any cave I would have imagined – since it was up the side of a rock wall with the cave going up and sideways parallel with the face of the rock, instead of going straight in towards the middle of the rock as I would have thought.
This was one of Jason’s favorite moments of the trip because not only did he climb up inside of the cave, but he continued climbing up rocks to reach the very top of the entire rock formation (Shanna didn’t feel brave enough to scale the narrow part of the cave and climb up that high). But Jason really enjoyed the incredible views from the top of the rock above the cave.
Biggest Challenge of this Hiking Trail
The most challenging part of Soldier Pass Trail was just climbing up into the cave. Most of the trail is fairly easy, but if you want to explore the cave it does take some climbing and not being afraid of heights. We just tried to stay careful and safe, and help each other up into the cave where we could.
Then we tried to stick to parts of the cave that had a wide enough walkway, since parts of the cave only had a foot wide of walkway where you are pretty much scaling the wall. Jason told himself he wouldn’t fall *that* far if he slipped and his adventurous side took over as he climbed the rocks to the top. Even on his way up, he said “I don’t know how I’m going to get down from here” but he safely made his way back down.
Soldier Pass Trail: A Solid 7/10
We give this trail a 7/10. It wasn’t just another trail, since it had unique sights – like the sinkhole and cave which we loved. It was a good distance, a good difficulty and we liked that there was more to the trail than just the destination – so you could enjoy sights and stops along the way.
However, it wasn’t the best views we had ever seen, so we couldn’t give it a 10. But it might have been our favorite trail of Sedona, since our experience was a good one and not as crowded as other trails we hiked there.
Eco-Tips & Responsible Hiking Practices
Be sure to follow Leave No Trace rules, especially if you go in and around the caves. Many caves and areas out there are considered sacred ruins, so please be respectful and leave everything as you found it. Don’t litter, don’t draw graffiti or leave your mark anywhere, and don’t move things. It can even be dangerous in spots like that to try to move rocks around that are stuck in a cave, because one rock out of place could cause more to fall.
Need to Know Before you Go
One thing everyone should know before hiking Soldier Pass Trail is that the parking is very limited. The actual parking lot at the trailhead only has about 14 spots, so it can quickly be filled and it’s within a residential neighborhood at the edge of Sedona. Therefore, you have to be respectful to those who live there and cannot block or use people’s driveways to park (the residents might even be outside to make sure you don’t).
Sometimes there may be parking allowed alongside the street, but there was construction going on during our visit so there was no parking down the street. You may have to park at Posse Grounds Park or somewhere else nearby and walk to the trailhead, or possibly try to catch a shuttle.
Once we saw how busy it was and hard to park that afternoon, we decided to go to Airport Mesa to check those views and kill some time, and then went back to Soldier Pass Trail. We were lucky to find a parking spot there later in the afternoon as more people had finished the trail.
A permit was not required for Soldier Pass Trail. However, many trails around Sedona do require paid parking or a permit. More info and photos can be found on our Instagram channel – @chasingviewswithyou – where we have highlights and a guide featured specifically for Sedona!