our guide to exploring sedona, arizona
I headed out to Phoenix and Sedona this past weekend with some of my favorite gals for a weekend of hiking and just pure relaxation. It was such a change of pace from how Nathan and I travel because we usually plan things pretty thoroughly to maximize our time, but this trip had a slower pace and we definitely went with the flow.
I've been to Sedona once during the winter with the same lovely girls, Christina and Carolyn, a few years ago, but this was our first time back with our sights set on a hike! We had planned to hike Devil's Bridge, but the parking lot was beyond full, so we opted for a couple of shorter, but still amazing, hikes instead. Keep reading for a quick guide to the city and to learn more about our hikes.
Sedona is a breath of fresh air. From the gorgeous red rocks and abundant amount of hiking trails to the local, artistic shops, you'll love this charming area. You may have heard that the city radiates positive vibes & energy - it's true! Blame it on the vortex (ha!) but after spending a couple of days here, it truly did feel like we left a bit lighter.
Sedona is about 1.5 hours north of Pheonix, so you can fly into Phoenix and rent a car like we did or actually fly directly into Sedona! The drive is actually beautiful and if you have a car, it's much easier to get around.
In terms of lodging, you can experience everything from a luxurious stay to a small bed & breakfast! We stayed at an Airbnb, which was perfect, but a few lodging places that I've heard great things about
OUR WEEKEND ITINERARY
Hiked Soldier Pass Trail
Hiked Fay Canyon Trail
Explore Tlaquepaque Village
Enjoyed dinner at The Hudson (Get the bruschetta, clams, steak salad, and mushroom burger!)
Coffee at The Henry (They have a yummy latte.)
Brunch at Francine (Order the Croque Madame! It's amazing.)
Cocktails at Diego Pops (Get the nachos and Prickly Pear marg!)
Soldier Pass Trail
Distance: 4 miles round trip
Elevation: 620 feet
Difficulty: Moderate (climbing required to get into the cave)
Trail Type: Out & Back
Hiking Time: 3 hours (including the time to explore the cave and take photos)
The parking lot for its trail is extremely limited with 16 spaces and be aware that the gated parking lot is only open from 8a-6p. We arrived at the gate around 7:45 am and were maybe the 5th to 6th car in line for the gate. You definitely want to get there early! If you want to hike the trail for sunrise or sunset, your best bet is to park at the Jordan Road Trailhead and walk the extra 1.2 miles (each way) via the Cibola Pass Trail to Soldier Pass Trailhead.
The great thing about this trail is that there is a good amount of shade and plenty of cool things to see along the way, including gorgeous rock views pretty much the entire way. The trail is also pretty easy up until the turn-off to Soldier Pass Cave - you'll start off with a slight descent then gradually climb up and level out. Devils Kitchen Sinkhole About 0.25 miles into the trail, you'll hit the first highlight: Devils Kitchen Sinkhole. Sinkholes are often formed when water erodes the rock below the land surface dissolving the rock and resulting in the land above collapsing. From my research, it looks like the last collapse was in 1995!
Seven Sacred Pools
Keep going for another 0.5 miles and you'll hit the infamous Seven Sacred Pools, an iconic Sedona spot! The natural bowls in the rock fill with water forming seven consecutive pools lined up and pointing toward the scenic rock towers in the distance. The pools were empty when we went by since it's fall, but they were still very cool to see.
And now onto the not-so-secret secret cave! It's honestly such a cool spot to discover and explore. The cave takes a bit of effort to get to but it's worth it! You'll need to exit a turnoff from the main trail to find it, but we've got the scoop for you below.
After the Seven Sacred Pools, continue on the trail leading through the trees to the right. for about 0.7 miles. At this point, the trail forks at the wilderness area boundary sign. You’ll need to take the trail to the right leading to the cave.
Be on the lookout for the following site with two signs – one on the right attached to a tree and one on the left posted in the ground stating “Trail” with an arrow pointing straight. The trail on the left is the main trail. Don’t go that way. Instead, follow the trail to the RIGHT. There are some smaller cairns as well and soon you'll find yourself emerging from trees into a large flat mesa. You're in the right place!
If you keep your eyes peels on the rock wall, you'll soon see an arch formed in the rock wall - keep following the trail this way. Once you get closer, you'll actually see two arches. We explore both for fun, but the right arch with the small hole above it is going to be where you'll find the hidden pass. It's pretty crazy - when you look at the arch from the outside you really can't tell there's anything hidden inside it.
Walk into the arch and look for the crevice to the right side - you’ll see some rocks stacked on each other forming steps leading up into the cave. This is where you’ll climb up into the cave. Be VERY careful as you step on rocks since they might wobble, then you'll have to climb and hoist yourself into the cave. Make sure you have good traction on your shoes!
From there, you can explore the cave! Be careful since rocks can be slippery and there may be other folks about exploring the cave. It really is so cool!
Fay Canyon Trail
Distance: 2.6 mi
Elevation: 83 ft Difficulty: Easy (can be moderate if you climb up the extra 0.25 mile like we did!)
Trail Type: Out & Back
This trail is much more straightforward. It's a very easy flat trail for the first mile in. You'll end up hitting a sign that says "End of Trail." From there you'll peer straight up and see a rocky trail that climbs up deeper into the canyon. Again, always be careful and take your time going up these steeper parts of trails. From there, you can go up as far as you want until this small trail ends. Don't forget to turn around and take a look at the stunning canyon view. It's seriously gorgeous! We went up to a patch of cactus and found a little ledge to take some photos on too. You'll definitely want some here.
These are only two out of a TON of trails in Sedona, so you don't have to stop here. If you have any other recommendations, leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram.