Subway Cave Sedona, also known popularly as the Boynton Canyon, is one of the top hikes in Sedona and one of the famous trails loved by outdoor lovers and nature enthusiasts visiting Arizona.
Although Boynton Canyon Trail is an incredibly popular hike in Sedona and needs no introduction, one of the landmarks that highlight the trail is Subway Cave, one of the top caves in Sedona.
It is one of the most photographed landmarks in Arizona today, earlier a secret cave, thanks to the gorgeous pictures and videos on social media that began drawing more and more visitors each year, increasing its popularity.
WHERE AND WHAT IS SUBWAY CAVE SEDONA?
You can access the Subway Cave by hiking the famous Boynton Canyon Trail, which is primarily flat and an easy trail with some portions sheltered from the sun.
If you continue the trail to its end, you will reach the back of the canyon, where a short climb takes you up to a viewpoint offering sweeping views of Boynton Canyon.
Along the trail, there are two detours, and one will lead you to the stunning views over the Enchantment Resort and the red rocks of Sedona.
Another detour will take you to Subway Cave and Sinagua ruins, one of the top things to do in Sedona.
Boynton Canyon is also the location of one of the four major Sedona vortexes. However, it is believed that there are plenty of vortexes that remain to be discovered throughout this trail.
Is the Subway Cave Sedona hard to find?
On the Boynton Canyon, you must take a diversion to continue your hike to arrive at the not-so-secret Subway Cave in Sedona. Most people hike the Boynton Canyon trail to visit Subway Cave, but quite often, many get lost as there are no clear signboards, and it is easy to miss the path to Subway Cave Sedona if you blink!
Entering the cave can also be tricky, especially if you are new to hiking in Sedona.
If you wonder how to hike the Subway Cave Sedona, in this post, we’ll share an easy guide to hiking Boynton Canyon to explore the gorgeous Subway Cave and Sinagua ruins without getting lost, leaving the trail intact and practising the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
Let’s hike to the Subway Cave Sedona on the Boynton Canyon Trail in Arizona and check out the details of the pass you need, the variations of the trail, the best time to hike, and valuable tips to have a fantastic day out in the wilderness.
BEST TIME TO HIKE THE SUBWAY CAVE AND BOYNTON CANYON TRAIL
Thanks to its immense popularity, Subway Cave and Boynton Canyon trail, in general, is crowded throughout the day, especially during the peak seasons. Except for during the winter, the best time to hike the Subway Cave is at sunrise, as it is one of the top spots for watching a spectacular sunrise in Sedona.
Since the Subway Cave is East and Southeast facing, the subway tunnel formations are filled with perfect light conditions offering gorgeous views around sunrise.
If you want ideal light conditions for capturing the best shots of Subway Cave Sedona, it is best to visit during the first half of the day until the afternoon, as the Boynton Canyon Trail’s Subway Cave has its best light inside.
Hiking around sunrise during spring and fall months not only offers spectacular views, but you can also get a parking slot quickly and hike with fewer visitors.
If you enjoy stargazing, love adventure, or want to shoot the night sky, nighttime offers some spectacular views of the star-studded skies in the Subway Cave Sedona.
No matter when you visit, avoiding weekends, holidays and the peak morning and afternoon hours is best.
Season – Best Months
Spring and Fall months are the most popular times when maximum crowds arrive at Sedona. The weather is excellent, and the landscapes look magical, with wildflower desert blooms and splendid fall foliage.
The downside would be many crowds unless you start your hikes around sunrise. It will also be challenging to secure a parking spot, and hiking during the peak months may not be a quiet experience.
Winter and Summer are offbeat months to visit Sedona, although the temperatures will not be the best. If you are okay with some snow and chill weather, winter is the next best season, while summer is the least preferred.
QUICK INFO AND HIKING DETAILS OF THE SUBWAY CAVE AND BOYNTON TRAILS
BOYNTON CANYON ONLY(WITHOUT THE SUBWAY CAVE OR THE VORTEXES SITES)
- Distance – 6.3 miles round trip
- Difficulty – Moderate
- Duration – 3 to 4 hours
- Type – Out and Back
- Elevation Gain – 700 feet
- Dogs Allowed – Yes
- Trailhead – Boynton Canyon Trailhead
- Entry Fees – Red Rock Pass or America The Beautiful
- Permit – No permit is required
- Best Time – April to June, Sept-Oct
BOYNTON CANYON + THE SUBWAY CAVE
- Distance – 7.1 miles
- Elevation Gain – 1,100 feet
- Difficulty – Moderate
- Duration – 4 to 6 hours
- Permit – No permit is required
BOYNTON CANYON + THE SUBWAY CAVE + BOYNTON CANYON VISTA TRAIL(COMPLETE)
- Distance – 7.5 miles
- Elevation Gain – 1,200 feet
- Difficulty – Moderate
- Duration – 5 to 7 hours
IS THERE AN ENTRY FEE TO HIKE THE SUBWAY CAVE SEDONA?
You will need a Red Rock Pass or an America the Beautiful Pass to park at the trailhead lot and do this hike. The pass costs $5 per day or $15 for one week, or $20 for one month.
You can buy a Red Rocks Pass on the machine at the trailhead(credit cards only) or purchase online with your license plate number. One Red Rocks Pass is good for multiple areas and parking lots for the validity of your pass.
Alternatively, if you have an America the Beautiful Pass, you can use this rather than purchasing a Red Rock Pass.
Recommended – A Complete Guide To Soldiers Pass Trail In Sedona
HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD AND WHERE TO PARK?
The Boynton Canyon Trailhead is located about 15 minutes from Sedona. Take West Arizona 89a West from town and turn right on Dry Creek Road. Follow this road for two miles and turn left on Boynton Pass Road.
After driving for about 2.5 miles, turn right on Boynton Pass Road, near the intersection with Boynton Pass Road, and you will see parking on the right sometime after you take the turn.
As you drive into the parking lot, you will see the trailhead in the main parking lot, and it is easy as you will find signage on your left.
This parking lot can hold about 25 vehicles, and it is typically filled by 7 AM. in the busier monthsThere is a vault toilet in this parking lot.
Apart from this main parking lot, another overflow parking is located on Boynton Pass Road, west of the intersection with Boynton Canyon Road. Here, you will park on the side of the road as there is no slot.
But note that you will still need to display a Red Rock Pass or the National Park Access Pass in your vehicle if you park here.
HOW TO HIKE THE SUBWAY CAVE SEDONA AND BOYNTON CANYON(STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE)
Now that you know the basic details, getting to the trailhead and where to park, let us walk you through the step-by-step guide to the Subway Cave on the Boynton Canyon trail.
1. FINDING ON THE RIGHT TRAIL
The Boynton Canyon Trail’s main trail has two spurs, one for the Boynton Vista trail and the other for the Subway Cave. Please continue reading to know how to find both of them.
Since it is an out-and-back trail, you have the option of hiking the entire Boynton Canyon trail and doing both or just hiking the portion of the Boynton Canyon trail that leads to the Subway Cave or taking the Vista Spur trail.
Most people get on this trail only to hike the Subway Cave, but we highly recommend you do both, as you will come across two beautiful vortexes and stunning views on the other.
If you are making only the Boynton Canyon Trail, it is a 6.1 miles round trip and takes about 3-6 hours to complete. If you are doing the Subway Cave Sedona, it will take 7.1 miles in total, taking about 4 to 6 hours. Doing all three(including seeing the vortexes) will take about 5 to 7 hours to complete 7.5 miles round trip.
Add this Boyton Canyon Trail to your GPS that will lead you to the correct location to begin the hike. Download this for offline use. You can also find the trail on Alltrails.
2. GETTING ON THE TRAIL
Follow the GPS by clicking on the map link above to get to the trailhead, which is very close to the entrance of the parking lot across the kiosk, to buy day passes.
Once you see the sign, make sure you go right. It is best to take a photo of the trailhead map for reference.
There will be a little incline over a rocky path at the start of the hike, but it is easier to walk.
3. LOOK FOR SIGNAGE TO STAY ON THE BOYNTON CANYON TRAIL
About 200 meters from this trailhead you started, you will find another signage pointing to take a left to the Boynton Canyon Trail and another to the right, leading you to Deadman’s Pass. You must take left to continue your hike to the Subway Cave Sedona.
Continue on this left side following this signage to arrive at your next signage at the fork. The left continues into Boyton Canyon Trail(this is where you will want to go) and the right goes to Boyton Vortex Trail, which will take you to the vortexes. It is best to do this later as Subway Cave becomes crowded later.
The first mile through Boynton Canyon is beautiful as you will pass through stunning massive sandstone cliffs tower overhead to your right and the Enchantment Resort to your left.
4. PASS BY A RESIDENTIAL AREA
You will know that you are on the right trail if you have kept to the left after both the signages, after which you will pass by a residential area on the next part of this trail.
Here, you will gain a little elevation, and pass through short, shrubby trees and towering red rocks in the distance.
5. MAKING THE TURN FOR THE SUBWAY CAVE
This one is the important stepyou need to look out for to head to the Subway Cave.
As you continue to hike on Boyton Canyon trail for about two miles, you’ll eventually come across a pretty big tree on your left, which is nicknamed the Crocodile tree or the Aligator tree as its barks look like the scales of a crocodile.
It is best to take a photo and remember this tree in detail. It will be the only tree of its kind in the area, and this tree marks the exact place you need to turn right.
Many people get confused looking for this Crocodile tree as there are a few trees, but the critical difference is that the other trees are all smaller. At the same time, this one stands out due to its size, and the surrounding foliage is primarily short and bushy.
Also, you will know you are looking at the right tree if you arrive after two miles in the hike.
At this point, if you go to the left again, you will continue to go into Boyton Canyon, but it will take you to the other sites but not the cave. So here, turn right.
Once you enter the new path, you’ll see a sign on a tree indicating you’re entering wilderness areas. The trail gets slightly narrower than the main Boynton Canyon Trail, and this trail is 0.4 miles, one-way, and will lead you to the Subway Cave.
Continuing on this path, you will pass through the forest and gradually climb up to the red cliffs. This trail will take you close to a creek. Continue following the path where the initial uphill climb begins about 10 minutes, after which you will see some parts of the Subway Cave Sedona.
6. MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE SUBWAY CAVE
If you follow this trail until so far, the Subway Cave is only a few minutes away, and you are on the right track. By this time, you would see fellow hikers or hear them as the Subway Cave is not far off.
How to know if you need to be on the right trail?
If you miss the turn-off near the Crocodile tree and take a left instead of the right, you know you have gone too far if you are surrounded by tall pine trees as the landscapes slightly change here, which is noticeable compared to the first two miles of your hike.
As you hike to the cave, you will pass the sign indicating that you are heading to a sacred and preserved site. From the ground, the Subway Cave looks like a narrow slit in the sandstone walls.
It is best to wear sturdy hiking shoes as there are many rocks, and some parts can be slippery as you make your way to the opening of the cave. You need to climb or scramble up on a slanted sandstone rock to enter the cave, which ends at the back of the cave.
Enjoy the stunning cave from the top, but as expected, be prepared for crowds. You will have to wait for your turn to take photos; sometimes, the wait can be longer.
The most stunning views are from inside the cave, looking out onto the Canyon, which looks like a picture-perfect postcard view, typical of the rugged Arizona wilderness.
If you fear heights, it is best not to walk beyond the back of the cave, as you will have to walk on a narrow ledge with a drop-off on one side to walk out to the end of the cave and continue to the ruins.
7. CHECK OUT THE RUINS OF THE CAVE DWELLINGS OF SINAGUA
The easier way to head to the ruins of the cave dwellings is to walk out onto the ledge on the right side once you are at the top and continue around the bend as the trail continues along the canyon wall.
The Sinagua native Americans once inhabited these ancient cliff dwellings, and the entire area is considered sacred by them. So make sure to respect the land, and do not take anything, move any rocks, or disturb the walls.
8. MAKE YOUR WAY BACK TO THE TRAILHEAD
When you are ready to leave, head back the way you came, hiking down the incline at the mouth of the cave. You can return to the parking lot or head to the Vista spur trail on your way around, which will take another hour or so.
Boyton Canyon Trail is also known for its powerful vortexes, which are points of energy said to have healing powers. You can see two vortexes along this vista trail.
If you have time, it is worth completing the whole hike, including checking out the vortexes.
9. TO BOYNTON CANYON OVERLOOK AND THE VORTEXES
If you wish to make the vista trail, once you are back on the Boynton Canyon Trail, turn right to continue the hike to the end of Boynton Canyon for a mile.
The last mile of the trail is challenging as it slowly and steadily continues its climb to the back of the Canyon, especially the last half-mile is the steepest to reach the final viewpoint.
You will pass through the forest packed with pine trees, and as you begin to climb, the maple and oak trees carpet the landscapes, and the views get better and more beautiful.
The trail ends at a broad plateau from where you can admire the gorgeous views of the Canyon. Also, at the end of the trail, experience the feminine vortex, Kachina, and the masculine vortex knoll. Get back on the same way to arrive at the parking lot.
TIPS FOR HIKING THE SUBWAY CAVE SEDONA
Start the hike early
As mentioned earlier, it is best to start the hike early in the morning, ideally around or right after sunrise. Apart from being able to secure parking spaces, you can hike without crowds and enjoy photographing and exploring the trail and the cave peacefully.
Keep track of your path while hiking
Keep looking at the GPS and track your trail once you begin your hike to know your trail and to ensure that you can periodically check in and see you’re on the right path.
RESPECT THE LAND
The Boynton Canyon and the surrounding areas, including the Sedona Subway Cave, are of spiritual significance and sacred sites to the Native Americans that should be respected at all times. Do not remove anything from the area, make rock piles, or move the rocks or graffiti rocks.
Leave No Trace
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace when hiking, which means packing out what you bring to the hiking trail, being considerate of other hikers, staying on the trail, minimising campfire impacts, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
If you are specifically planning to do photography of Subway Cave Sedona, it is best to go in the morning or afternoon when there is sufficient light in the cave premises. But these times will be crowded as the cave has become a popular hiking destination in Sedona, so you will have to wait for your turn.
Alternative parking options
If the parking lot at Boynton trail is complete, you have the other nearby options of Fay Canyon trailhead and walking Aerie Trail.
Follow the trail
The last part of arriving at the cave involves climbing. Take the bank climb and not the rock climb as it is steeper and more strenuous.
FAQS ABOUT SUBWAY CAVE SEDONA
HOW LONG IS THE HIKE TO THE SUBWAY CAVE IN SEDONA?
On the main Boynton Canyon Trail to the Subway Cave, the hike is around 7.1 miles, without including the Boynton vista trail. Once you reach the spur, it is over half a mile to get to the Subway Cave Sedona.
If you want to include the Subway Cave in the complete Boynton Canyon Trail, including the Boynton Canyon Vortex site, it will e about 7.5 miles in total.
IS BOYNTON CANYON TRAIL EASY?
Except for the final half mile of the trail on both leading to the Subway Cave as well as the vista point, Boynton Canyon Trail is easy and relatively flat. In the end, there is a steep climb up stone steps to reach a viewpoint.
The Subway Cave spur trail is also on a flat path and easy, but to enter the cave, you must tackle a steep scramble and ledge.
HOW HARD IS SUBWAY CAVE SEDONA?
Except for entering the cave, which is moderate due to the scrambling up a steep rock involved, the Boynton Canyon trail, which you will access to hike to the Subway Cave in Sedona, is pretty straightforward.
Although you will have to climb a steep bank to enter the Subway Cave, it is perfectly doable.
DO YOU NEED A PASS TO HIKE THE SUBWAY CAVE IN SEDONA?
You need a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass for your hike along Boynton Canyon and the Subway Cave in Sedona.
HOW DO YOU REACH THE BOYNTON CANYON VERTEX?
If you want to check out the vortexes, you need to take the Boynton Canyon vista trail, which is only a half-mile hike from the Boynton Canyon trailhead parking lot.
At the fork, follow the Boynton Canyon Trail until to the right, when you see the sign for “Vista Point”, which will lead you to the viewpoint and the vortexes after a short climb.
IS THE SUBWAY CAVE DOG-FRIENDLY?
Yes, Boynton Canyon Trail is a dog-friendly hike in Sedona; if the dogs are kept on a short leash, they can accompany you to explore, including the vortex site and Subway Cave.
IS THE BOYNTON CANYON TRAIL WORTH IT?
Boynton Canyon Trail is one of the top hikes in Sedona for a reason. It is one of the excellent hiking trails in Arizona worth including on your Sedona itinerary, especially hiking the Subway Cave and vortex sites are a must.
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