Hiking Sedona’s Soldier’s Pass trail is a really unique experience due to the variety of landscapes and interesting geological features you will get to experience during your short visit. On this moderately easy 2.25 mile out and back adventure, you will take in the beauty of both the desert and the wilderness. Here you will experience breathtaking wide open views of the gorgeous red rocks, along with also enjoying a quiet stroll through the trees.
As you can see in the photos below, you will pass a diverse variety of plant life. This keeps the trail very interesting. The open views of the gorgeous red rocks is by far the highlight of the hike, although the peaceful section through the Red Rock Secret Wilderness is quite nice too (especially on hot summer afternoons).
Although the trail tends to get busy on weekend mornings and early afternoons, after about 4 or so, crowds are non existent. This is a great time to plan your hike as you will get to enjoy the beautiful open desert vistas all to yourself. Just be aware that the main parking area closes at 6pm, so you may want to find somewhere else to park just to be on the safe side.
The only downside of this beautiful trail is that it is not marked very well. In the first mile or so, you will see plenty of cairns and signs like those posted below to guide you along the trail. For some reason after this time, the markings become few and far between. At many points (such as the side trail to the arch), a simple sign could have guided hikers in the right direction. Time being limited due to the parking lot’s early closing, this can be a problem for some, especially beginning hikers.
A few of the unique features on this trail include Devil’s Kitchen, the most active sinkhole in Sedona, Seven Sacred pools, a series of descending pools, and 3 natural arches.
Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole – A sinkhole is a hole in the ground caused by various factors, most commonly by the collapse of caves in the limestone bedrock. Although not the largest of Sedona’s 7 sinkholes, Devils’ Kitchen is the most active having collapsed many times (1880s, 1989, and 1995). This sinkhole is about 50 feet deep with a 150 by 90 foot opening. In comparison, Sedona’s largest sinkhole (Red’s Canyon) is 110 feet deep and 225 foot in diameter. Read more about the history and formation of the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole.
Seven Sacred Pools – Seven Sacred Pools is a series of 7 natural pools which descend down the natural rocks. According to Red Rock Western Jeep Tours Operation Manager Randy Rohlf, these pools were considered sacred by the Apaches and Yavapai as the pools were considered a valuable source of drinking water year-round in a barren desert, and in addition, a sign of life and a means of attracting wildlife to the area.
Arches – After passing the Red Rock Secret Wilderness area (at a little over a mile into the hike), you will be able to see the 3 beautiful arches from the trail. To get a closer look, you can choose to take a detour right (as opposed to staying left on the main trail), at the Wilderness boundary and continue up a short, steep side trail that will take you up closer to the arches.
After the wilderness portion of the hike, the trail becomes a little steeper and rougher as you make your way up to Brin’s Mesa at the 2 mile point. At about 2.25 miles, it crosses the Brin’s Mesa trail. You can now turn back around or combine trails to make a longer loop. Combining Brin’s Mesa, Cibola Pass, and Jordan’s trail makes the journey a 6 mile loop (check the map by the start of the trail-head to plan your route).
Although the total mileage from Soldier’s Pass to Brin’s Mesa is only 2.25 making your round trip distance about 4.5 miles, the distance and effort exerted can feel much more intense on hot days. I would say the trail is moderate as there are a few steep sections, shade is limited, and it’s a bit confusing.
Overall, Soldier’s Pass is a good hiking option in Sedona, not my favorite, but a great way to spend the day enjoying nature and gorgeous red rock views. Be sure to come prepared with plenty of water, watch your time due to the early closing hours, and preferably visit early in the morning when the sun isn’t as strong, or better yet, during the cooler fall season.
To get to the Soldier’s Pass trail-head, take 89a west 1.2 miles to Soldier’s Pass Road. Drive 1.5 miles to Rim Shadows Drive. Drive 0.2 miles until reach the gated trail-head parking area.
Enter the following coordinates into your GPS: 34°53’03.4″N 111°47’01.8″W