If you like red cliffs, blue skies and a little challenge, there is no better way to experience it all than hiking the Brins Mesa – Soldier’s Pass Trail Loop. This is one of the most popular hikes in Sedona, Arizona.
The Brins Mesa and Soldiers Pass trails form a 5.2 mile loop through stunning red rock formations and open desert. We started our hike on the Brins Mesa Trail and returned on Soldier’s Pass because Brins Mesa seemed less steep and therefore easier on the way up. It’s not that much difference however, so you can start either way.
Loop Length: 5.2 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 546 feet
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Dogs are allowed but they have to be kept on leash
Fee/Permit: $5.00 Daily Red Rock Pass, or Interagency Pass
HOW TO REACH THE BRINS MESA TRAILHEAD
Directions from Sedona: the Brins Mesa parking lot is located at the end of Jordan Road, which is off Highway 89A in downtown Sedona. The last part of the road is dirt and gravel but well graded. The Brins Mesa trailhead is located off of the gravel road, just to the left of the restrooms.
Directions from Phoenix: go north on I17 to exit 298 for Sedona/Oak Creek. Turn left (west) onto SR179 and continue to the traffic circle intersection at SR89A. Veer left through the circle heading toward Cottonwood on SR89A.
Between milepost 372 and 373, turn right onto Soldier Pass Road, drive 1.5 miles to Rim Shadows, turn right and continue 0.25 mile to the short drive to the trailhead on the left.
HIKING THE BRINS MESA TRAIL
The first section of the road climbs up to an elevation of 600 feet, passing by cypress trees, juniper, yucca, manzanita, prickly pear and agave. Because you don’t have water around, hiking Brins Mesa is not as scenic as hiking Havasu Falls trail, or the Red Rock Crossing, but it’s equally impressive.
After about 1 mile, the path becomes steeper, turning into a stone-stepping climb all the way to the top. There are lots of stair and stepping rocks, so attempting this hike when the temperatures are high may be difficult.
Once you reach the mesa top, the grade levels and drops down gently into a plateau. This is where the two trails (Brins Mesa and Soldier’s Pass) merge. From up here you’ll have sweeping views across the adjacent canyon, all the way to the Lost Wilson Mountain.
On the Brins Mesa Trail you can enjoy unobstructed views of the spectacular red rock formations for which this area is so famous. If you bring a map, you can identify the Coffee Pot Rock, Chimney Rock and more.
GOING DOWN ON THE SOLDIER’S PASS TRAIL
After spending a little time admiring the view from the top, we turned left and continued down on Soldier’s Pass Trail. Soldiers Pass Trail is a moderate hike down, although very dusty.
The trail rolls through a number of arroyos and past the Seven Sacred Pools, a series of deep filled potholes carved in sandstone.
The Soldier’s Pass Trail climbs over the pools and continues to the Devils Kitchen Sinkhole. The hole was formed by a series of catastrophic geological events when the sandstone layers collapsed.
This is a scary sinkhole (about 40-50 feet deep). It’s very tempting to get close to the edge to see it closer, but you should be careful because the rocks are loose.
Shortly below the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole you’ll be arriving at Jordan trailhead. This is where we became really confused.
According to our map, the Soldier’s Pass Trail connected directly with the Cibola Pass, when in fact we had to walk a short distance on the Jordan Trail to reach Cibola. Luckily, we made it down before dark!
Note: Some maps prior to 2009 have the Brins Mesa trailhead and parking lot next to Jordan trail’s trailhead. Since then, the parking lot has been extended and is now next to Cibola Pass Trailhead. Thus, on the return, take Cibola Trail as it branches north off of Jordan Trail.
TIPS FOR HIKING THE BRINS MESA-SOLDIER’S PASS LOOP TRAIL
- Daily Red Rock Passes ($5) can be purchased on site at the automated fee station. Only credit cards are accepted.
- There is very little shade on the trail, so bring a hat, sunglasses and some sunscreen.
- Bathroom facilities are only available at the trailhead.
- Bring enough water as appropriate to the season you are hiking. There is no potable water on site.
- Use comfortable shoes, preferably hiking boots that keep your ankle steady. The terrain is very rough in some parts.
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