If you have been to Sedona or know about Sedona, you definitely know Sedona is full of secrets. What I meant by that is if you google ‘things to do’, you will find some general places to go. It does not tell much about Sedona. A few years ago, when I was looking for places to go in Sedona, I did not find much. That time my searchability was limited to ‘things to do’. My perspective had changed over time and I found a lot of places, hidden gems to visit in Sedona, the red rock country. Interesting fact is that all these hikes are easily doable and can be done in snow too. I actually prefer if it snows as snow changes the whole scenario. One of them is this secret cave in Soldier pass. We visited this place in November 2019. It snowed a little bit the day before. So, the weather was quite soothing.
We actually did soldier pass hike in the middle of the day. That time, the parking was already full. We waited for some time, drove back and forth and found a spot after a few attempts. We did not want to park in the street or in the neighborhood. The trail starts at the end of the parking lot. There is a dirt road for four-wheeler. Don’t take that dirt road. After hiking around 0.25 mile, we reached this giant sinkhole that is 150 ft in length and 50 ft down to the bottom named ‘Devil’s Kitchen’. This is the first stop of the hike. When you stand near the end of the sinkhole, it feels like a massive hole on earth. This sinkhole had a major collapse back in 1989 followed by another one in 1995. Who knows may be within next 15-20 years, you may find it different than it is now!
Next stop is the Seven Sacred Pools. Just follow the trail for another 0.25 mile or a little more, you will find the pools on the left. This trail is well maintained. As it snowed the day before, it was muddy at places. But nothing impassable. I have seen a lot of picture of the pools. As it was midday and the sun was fully up over the head, it did not quite look like the pictures. I didn’t expect to see any cascading water flow from one pool to another in the month of November, but still it looked beautiful with waters in the pools with the snowy red rock formations in the background.
After around one mile (approximate) from the Sacred pools, you will come to a fork in the trail. There is a wilderness boundary sign on the right side, and you have to take that one. We took the left one and ended up on to the top of the mesa. If the trail is going up, you are on the wrong one. The right trail opens up on an open mesa. You are close to the cave but at this point you still will not be able to see the cave. While crossing the flat mesa, stay left. At the end of the flat area, you will find a trail that gets quite steep and heads towards the base of the cliff. There are several trails that goes towards the hole in the wall. Take any of those. As soon as you get closer, you will be able to see two arches in the wall. You just have to hike towards it. As there is no designated trail, all the trails are covered by branches, debris, small rocks. Watch carefully while walking. On the right side near the face of the wall you will see an opening. The cave is located right behind the face of the wall. So, you have to climb up a bit to get inside the cave. Honestly, the rocks are well placed and if you simply follow three-point strategy, it’s an easy climb.
Once you are inside the cave, it’s like another world. The entire cave is really impressive and there is a window from which the light enters, and you can have a view of the red rocks, trees. I could just sit there and watch the view for hours. There was a light ray coming from the top of the cave. The shadow and the light created an alluring environment. It’s like you entered in a dark secret place from which you can observe the rest of the world. We spent almost one hour here – taking our time, enjoying the view with a little snack and then started our return journey following the same way.
At a glance:
· Total distance: around 4.5 mile out and back
· Elevation change: 813 ft
· Trail time: 8 am to 6 pm
· Best time: Spring
· Permit: No permit or entrance fee required
· Parking: At the trailhead called Soldier pass trailhead no 66. Very few parking spots available (around 15) and often gets crowded. You can also park on the road. But that will add some extra miles. Please don’t park anywhere in the neighborhood. There is a good chance that your car may get towed if you do so.
Trailhead: 34.884278, -111.783833
The fork where you need to turn off the trail: 34.89772222, -111.78777778
· The trailhead gate is strict about the opening time. So, if you want to go for a sunrise hike, you have to park on the street or take the Jordan road trailhead and start from there.
· Check the weather during the summer. It may get very hot during the summer. Take sufficient water, snacks, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and dress according to the weather.
· Please leave no trace. It’s just a practice and a lifestyle. Let’s make it better than it was before.
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