I have always loved the fire-red cliffs of the the American Southwest. These multi-hued rock formations carved by waters, sands and winds keep luring me back to Arizona year after year. But nowhere are they more magnificent than in the small community of Sedona, just 30 miles south of Flagstaff. The area is famous for its jaw dropping scenery and iconic hiking trails. No matter the season or your level of expertise, you’ll always find a great hike in Sedona. The two closest trails to the town center are Brins Mesa Trail and Soldier Pass, which together form a 5.5 mile loop. The hike can start either way, but we started our hike on the Brins Mesa trail.
Brins Mesa Trail
The trail begins right at the edge of the town of Sedona and is as picturesque as it is convenient. The first section of the road climbs up to an elevation of 600 feet. There are lots of stair and stepping rocks, so attempting this hike when the temperatures are high may be difficult. At the top of Brins Mesa the two trails merge and the road down continues on Soldier Pass Trailhead.
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. There are plenty of great views over the town and the hills of the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.
Soldiers Pass Trail is a moderate hike down, although very dusty. The trail rolls through a number of arroyos and past the Devil’s Kitchen – Arizona’s largest sinkhole. The hole was formed by a series of catastrophic geological events and continues to grow over time. Arizona Geological Survey considers the area unstable and hazardous, so the sinkhole is not safe to explore beyond the trail. However, there are a few spots from where you can get a good lock inside the hole.
Directions from Flagstaff: drive 27 miles south on US 89A to Sedona and turn west (right) on Jordan road. Follow it about a mile to the trailhead. Or continue through Sedona to Dry Creek Road, turn north about a mile to Vultee Arch Road (FR 152) and north about 2.5 miles to the Soldier’s Pass trailhead. It’s a mile and half hike to the Brins Mesa Trail intersection. The last 1/4 mile of Jordan Road and all 3 miles of FR 152 can be a bit rough.
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.