Soldier’s Pass Trail is a trail in Sedona that we had been looking forward to. It was Steve’s choice as I thought it only fair after he had sat in a conference all day while I was hiking. It was mid afternoon when we started out and a bright and beautiful day the first week of March, 2020.
According to the hiking guide I used, Soldier’s Pass Trail in Sedona is listed as a moderate 4.2 mile in and out trail to Brins Mesa Trail. We did not get to Brins Mesa Trail but instead took the turn off to go see the arches in the cliff. We had to do a bit of a step retracing since we took the wrong turnoff for the arches. My fit bit tracked this at 4.3 miles and took 3 hours and 10 minutes. That is with taking lots of photos and having to retrace our steps.
I would consider this trail moderate. Soldier’s Pass Trail is well marked with both signs and rock baskets, as are most trails in Sedona. Although the way to the arches was not marked at all. The trail was dirt with some rocky areas. Occasionally you will be walking on top of larger boulders and there is some significant elevation going to the arches. There are areas you may want to climb around which are rocky.
When we arrived at the Soldier’s Pass Trail Parking Lot and it was full. There are less than 20 parking spots and it is in a gated lot. The gate closes at 6:00 PM so it was good that we were not able to park there. We parked about a half mile away along the road. There are many no parking areas as the parking lot is in a residential area.
The trail is well marked and there were a lot of bike riders on the trail while we were there. This is a very pretty hike. The path was mostly packed dirt but also some ups and downs with a rocky path. The first milestone on this trail is the Devil’s Kitchen. It is to the right of the trail. This is the most active sinkhole in Arizona having collapsed into itself 5 times since the 1880’s!
We continued on the trail and enjoyed the scenery all around.
Seven Sacred Pools
Next stop on the trail is the Seven Sacred Pools. The trail to here continued to be easy. These pools are actually 7 indentures in the rock which go down hill. These fill with water, even in the dry season and therefore are called pools.
We climbed down to the bottom of the pools to see if we could get a glimpse of all 7 pools at once from the bottom. Cool idea! Didn’t work! We couldn’t see any of the pools from the bottom!! Someone there told us we could get a good picture of all 7 pools from the Jeep road adjacent to the trail but there were so many jeeps coming and going we weren’t able to.
Many people turn around here as this makes this an easy hike with little over a mile round trip. After the Seven Sacred Pools we saw very few people on the trail.
Something to remember: You can follow the Jeep trail back to the parking lot. We did this on the way back because it was getting dark, and although we had our headlamps, the trail is very easy walking, wide, and no rocks, etc.
Looking For the Arches, Wrong Turnoff
After the Seven Sacred Pools we continued on Soldiers Pass Trail. We were looking for the turn off to the Arches. A couple we ran into told us wewere about 5 minutes away from the turn off, it was to the right and there were branches in front of it. We found it, although we did not know if this was the right one. It looked like right path because of all the foot prints we saw. We found out the hard way that this was the wrong turnoff!!
The path branched out many different ways but with so many foot prints we were sure we were on the right one. We were getting closer to the cliffs and kept following. The closer we came to the cliffs, the less footprints we noticed and the more faint the trail became. We did reach the cliffs only to realize, this is not where we want to be. As we walked along the rocks at the base of the cliff, we found out it was a definite dead end. So we retraced our steps and went back to the trail. I must say our legs got a bit beat up on the way down from brush and cacti.
So this makes twice in one day that I became misplaced! You can read about my morning hike on Broken Arrow Trail where I ended up in the wrong area. Just like on Broken Arrow Trail earlier, we could hear people and see where we wanted to be, just couldn’t get there from here.
Finding the Right Turn Off
After taking the wrong one, we found our way back and continued until we found the right one. We ran into another couple who were just coming back from the arches. Apparently they took the wrong trail first also and it may have been their tracks we were following near the cliff because they described the same place we came from!!! They gave us very easy directions and I wish we had come across them first.
So how can you tell the difference? Well now that we know, it’s easy. Both turn off’s are faint paths to the right. They are blocked by branches and rocks that you can step over. To find the right one, walk about 50 feet further, if you see a larger sign that says you are entering the Secret Wilderness, then walk back to that trail. That is the right one. If you walk 50 feet and don’t see a trail, keep going, that is the wrong turn off.
The below photo is Soldier’s Pass Trail. You can see the small sign to the right, if you follow the path a bit further you will see a larger sign about the Secret Wilderness. For some reason I did not take a photo of the larger sign. I am taking the photo standing by the turn off.
Once on the right trail, the Arches are easy to find. The trail is a bit tough though, but doable. We ascended a bit and then walked across a large boulder. After that we ascended steadily on a steep rocky path. Glad we made our destination but probably wouldn’t look for the arches again!! It was fun, but took away from seeing other areas of the trail. We were told by the last couple there is a beautiful cave up here. We didn’t have the time to search it out as sunset was coming upon us.
I was beginning to think that maybe the trail to the arches isn’t marked because maybe the powers that be don’t want people going there? I’m not sure, because most places in Sedona have a marker or sign. Like the Devil’s Kitchen and the Seven Sacred Pools. There was no sign for the Arches or for the cave.
As I mentioned, sunset was fast approaching so we headed back. Even though we have headlamps, we prefer not to hike at night. The sun setting against the rock formations was absolutely beautiful! Shortly before approaching the Seven Sacred Pools our trail intersected with the Jeep trail so we decided to follow that back to the parking lot. The sun had already set and even though it was still light, it was getting cool and darker by the minute. Glad we had an extra layer to put on!!
Soldier’s Pass Trail in Sedona is a great trail but as you can see from some of the pictures it would be a much better trail in the morning or early afternoon because of the position of the sun. Nevertheless, we had a great time and had fun making more memories together.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. The resort was very nice. Steve’s conference was here so it was convenient to stay here. The room was comfortable with a separate bedroom and a sitting room with fireplace. The room also had a small fridge and microwave. The two restaurants were good and we enjoyed the outdoor dining. I actually ate lunch there each day. There is an outdoor area with fire pits and seating, also an outdoor games area. The staff was very courteous and knowledgeable about the area. There also is a large spa. I did treat myself to a deep tissue massage after day 3 of hiking. The gal there was great!
When planning for hiking Broken Arrow Trail, I used the Great Sedona Hikes Guidebook. I liked this book because it gave straight forward information, good directions, accurate description and include a map. This book was easy to follow and contains information on over 100 trails in the area. The photos are in black and white but there is also an icon on each hike which you can scan on your phone. These icons contain color photos of the hikes.
I also used Sedona Trails Map while following Broken Arrow Trail and the many other Trails in Sedona. This is a sturdy map that fit nicely in my bag. Easy to follow and definitely worth having.
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