I hope you’re not afraid of heights. The caves in Sedona are typically on the mountainsides of the red rocks, so trails can become steep and narrow. These are fun hikes and ideal for getting out of the desert sun. Plus, they make for pretty awesome photos.
There are more caves in Sedona than listed below, however please stick to the trail. There are a couple off-trail caves that have gotten massive notoriety on social media lately. As a response, the forest service has put up signs near these caves as a reminder to not wander off the trail because of the environmental impact. They’ve also set up logs to try to block the unofficial path to those caves. As a strong advocate of preserving public spaces, I only write about caves on well-trekked trails.
- Robber’s Roost (also known as Shaman’s Cave or Hide Out Cave)
This cave is believed to have originally been used by Native chiefs and shamans to perform ceremonies then later used as a hideout for outlaws. On Google Maps, this location is known as the “Hide Out Cave” and the trail lead to it is called “Robber’s Roost”. Be aware that the Forest Road 525 that you must take to get to the trailhead is gravel, pavement. I came from downtown Sedona and driving on ten miles of gravel road was kind of annoying.
Once you turn off Forest Road 525C, park your car at this lot. If you have a high clearance 4×4 vehicle, you can continue driving to the official trailhead per google map instructions. I drove an old sedan so I parked at the first lot. It’s a 3 mile hike from the first lot and about a 1 mile hike from the upper lot.
The main trail splits about halfway up the mesa. Make sure to stay left where the trail turns into red rock and becomes narrow. The cave is a couple hundred feet away at this point. You’ll immediately see the cave once you round the bend. There wasn’t anyone at the cave when I arrived so I was able to get several fun shots.
There’s another lesser known wide mouth cave on the other side of the mesa. I only saw it on my return hike and there was a family there. My guess is if you return to where the trail splits, try finding a trail that veers right. This cave was tall and shallow so it looked more like a curved rock overhang. The views from this cave aren’t as good as Shaman’s Cave.
- Sedona Caves (I’m not sure of it’s official name)
Oh my goodness. Parking here is competitive and I have not been lucky enough to grab a spot yet! I love researching trails and hikes before I go so here are some tips for this one. To get here from downtown Sedona, drive south on Highway 179 towards Oak Creek Village. There’s a dirt turnoff on the right after Oak Creek Cliffs Drive. If you pass Mallard Drive, you’ve gone too far. This turnoff does not load on Google Maps. Parking is limited here, maybe 4 cars at most.
The hike is only half a mile but the entrance to the caves are easily missed. Be sure to turn right at the sign saying it’s illegal to deface rocks. You’ll have to climb up some rocks to get in, out, and between each cave. This part of the trail might be tricky if you’re afraid of heights. After you’re done exploring the caves, you have the option to walk to the creek below and cool off.
- Lava River Cave at Flagstaff
This cave is unique compared to the first two because the Lava River Cave is underground. The drive here is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes from Sedona, but it’s worth it. I recommend this hike to those who travel to Sedona in the summer but have a difficult time getting up early to beat the heat.
The last 7 miles of the trip is on a dirt road. A sedan will be able to drive on it but a SUV would be easier. Parking was easy and the walk to the cave entrance was less than half a mile. There’s a bit of a scramble to climb down the cave entrance. The cave floor is where lava once flowed so it’s hard and uneven.There are loose rocks on the ground and wet areas too. Be sure to have closed-toed shoes with traction; running shoes should work fine.
One thing I noticed immediately once I was inside the cave was the temperature drop. Because this cave is underground, it stays cool year-round. The temperature can get to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) inside. Bring a light jacket for this hike.
While I warned those afraid of heights on doing the first two caves, those claustrophobic or afraid of the dark should be wary of this one. You’ll want to bring a flashlight or headlamp and not rely solely on your cellphone flashlight. I also recommend a backup light in case the first one fails.
You’ll have to crouch down in some areas. Feel free to roam about and walk as deep as you want to. I think the length of this cave is about a mile. Definitely don’t feel obligated to make it to the end. Personally I was uncomfortable with staying in the dark for that long. Once you reach the end of the main cave, you’ll come to a smaller cave that’s just tall enough to crawl in.
- BONUS underground cavern experience
I know many visitors stop by Sedona on the way to the Grand Canyon so I want to pass along this bit of knowledge. There is a restaurant in a cave near the Hualapai Indian Reservation that sits 21 stories below the Earth’s surface. It’s called Cavern Grotto. Menu prices are reasonable; burgers are about $12 and dinner entrees are around $19. Yes, it’s touristy but I’m a tourist! You can also book a tour of this cave.