Hiking Arizona – Brins Mesa and Soldier Pass

So many great hiking trails around Sedona, so little time…

It was challenging to choose just one hike, but we eventually opted for the 8 km (5 mile) loop comprised of a long section of the Brins Mesa, Soldier Pass, Jordan Road and Cibola Pass trails. Arriving in Sedona shortly after midday on a Saturday, we were grateful to find a parking spot in the crowded lot at the very end of Jordan Road. After topping off our water bladders and purchasing a parking pass, we headed out to hike the loop counter-clockwise.


We had originally planned to meet some friends at the trailhead mid-morning, but they got held up in Phoenix, so we determined to come away with photos to show them what they’d missed – and to inspire them to take a day-trip to Sedona when their work schedule allowed.


Since we usually hike with our friends in the Canadian Rockies, for us the red rock and dust, contrasted with the many shades of green, was a unique aspect of this hike.


The trails are in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness area in the Coconino National Forest. And while it might once have been secret, that’s no longer the case if the many folks we encountered that first Saturday in February 2020 is any indication. We had to take advantage of breaks in the oncoming foot traffic to grab shots when we could. And we wondered, based on the number of people hiking clockwise, whether we should have hiked the loop in the other direction.


Approaching the turn off to the Soldier Pass leg of our route, Mr GeoK paused long enough to compose a panorama showcasing the stunning scenery to the north.


Speaking of Soldier Pass, we’re still not clear whether it’s Soldiers Pass (as per the trail sign) or Soldier Pass (as per AllTrails and other online hiking resources).


We thought the vegetation changed a bit as we hiked along Soldier(s) Pass. We spotted lots more Agave Americana plants (aka Century plants), including some that had flowered.


We also noticed a couple of hanging arches, including this one along the steep base of Brins Mesa.


And I kept looking back towards Sedona, where a crescent moon hung over what I think is Steamboat Rock.


A lot of folks stopped at the U-shaped corner on Soldier(s) Pass – the natural rock ledges are a great place to enjoy a snack or picnic lunch.


We followed a boot-beaten path up to a ledge overlooking the unofficial picnic area, where we enjoyed stunning, panorama views towards Sedona and to the north.


After enjoying the scenery, a hearty snack and downing about one-third of our water, we headed back down to the main trail, back towards Sedona.

Our next stop was the Seven Sacred Pools.


The amount of litter and debris floating in the murky water made me sad. The upper pool in this shot had several gum wrappers along the near edge, which I screened out by moving a little ways off to compose my shot.


Near the Seven Sacred Pools, I spotted a lone tree, seemingly growing straight out of the rock.


By this time, we were getting pretty hot and at least a couple of hours had passed, so I was glad when we reached the Devil’s Kitchen, knowing there was just the leg east back towards the parking lot to go. It was, however, demoralizing when a young man drove his 4×4 (complete with his date in the passenger seat) right up to the edge of the sinkhole, effortlessly reaching the spot we’d expended considerable time and energy to see.


The arrival of the Jeep spurred us to take off along the Jordan Road trail at a good clip, soon reaching the Cibola Pass Trail sign. It was around this point that Mr GeoK started wondering if I really knew the way back to the parking lot. 😉


Fortunately, much of this trail was shaded (so maybe counterclockwise was the better choice of direction, after all). We did pause once, to photograph an interesting rock formation (later learned it’s called The Mitten).


The much emptier parking lot was a sight for tired eyes when it came into view a good few hours after we left. As soon as we refilled our water bottles, we carefully navigated the pot-holed end of Jordan Road into Sedona and then headed south to Phoenix, where our friends had a delicious BBQ chicken supper waiting for us.



Total distance = 8 km
Elevation gain = 255 m
Time = 3-4 hours

This was a moderate hike, made more challenging because we’re unaccustomed to such heat! But the amazing views, wide variety of vegetation, Seven Sacred Pools, Devil’s Kitchen and other striking rock formations made it well worth the effort.

NOTE: We traveled to California, Nevada and Arizona in late January/early February 2020, many weeks before WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. For me, one way of coping with the potential overwhelm of 24/7 “more bad news” coverage is to spend time every day focusing on something else – like writing, a photography project or something else that occupies mind and hands. For once, the usual time lag between being on vacation and writing about it is a plus – a ready-made backlog of new posts to write. 🙂

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  1. Pingback: Out & About with the GeoKs - Las Vegas to Phoenix Vacation

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