Hiking Boynton Canyon in Sedona takes you to the spectacular Subway Cave, Kachina Cave, two sets of ancient ruins and an energy vortex
An out-and-back hike takes you to an energy vortex, and two ‘caves’ The Subway and Kachina Cave with a couple of small ruins sites, the trail dead ends to a non-interesting area on slickrock.
The spur trail to Kachina Cave is strenuous, requires route finding and has exposure.
The Subway Cave is one of the most popular hikes due to the unique photogenic nature of the ‘cave’. Most people on this hike will be trying to find the Subway Cave.
Dogs okay on leash, but will be very hard on dogs due to the steep sections
Trailhead ( 34.907291, -111.848412 )
Boynton Canyon Trailhead
$5 cost for the Red Rock Pass for parking. The America the Beautiful National Park Pass is also a valid parking pass.
4.5 miles total out and back, with 200 feet of elevation gain – Subway Cave
6.0 miles total out and back, with 400 feet of elevation gain – End of trail
Kachina Cave spur adds 0.75 miles total out and back
From the trailhead follow the well-worn path, at 0.3 miles at the trail junction, the path to the right takes you uphill to an interesting rock formation called the Boynton Spire and the location of an energy vortex. It is a 0.5 mile round trip up the spire and back and 85 feet in elevation.
The spire and up in front of it is the energy vortex
Continuing from the junction, or returning back to the junction after hiking up the spur trail to the spire and vortex, continue on the main trail. At 1.3 miles from the trailhead at ( 34.920639, -111.855694) look for an unmarked trail on your left. This hard-to-recognize trail may have tree branches across it.
Exiting the main trail From there you will walk through toward the canyon wall. When you come to a tree with a white sign on it you are on the right track.
There is a distinctive rock spire to use to help you navigate you will want to keep it to your right as you’re approaching the canyon walls
Keep walking through the bottom of a small, narrow, rocky brush choked ravine like wash, watch for a side trail to your right heading up the loose rock to a slickrock ledge trail with a good view of the spire to your right
After a minute or two You will soon cross the top of the narrow ravine you were in while heading to your left away from the spire, then up and back toward the rocks again, the spire is to your right and behind you as you continue up hill on rocks, the trail becomes much more vertical, as you continue up you will be on level with the base of the spire a continuing higher to the first ruin.
The trail leads you up to the first ruin under a large overhang
Look for pottery sherds found and set on a stone
Follow along the wall behind 1st ruin the faint path will eventually start a very steep and rocky climb up about 150 feet. At the top of this climb go to your left and down to a large undercut ledge to reach the 2nd and more interesting ruin under a bigger overhang.
You are above the spire now
After you’ve explored the 2nd ruin, double back the way you got there and head back uphill. but go even higher than you were before and follow the trail around to the mouth of the cave
Looking up to your right you should see the mouth of the ‘cave’. You can start to see it is not really a cave but formed by overhanging rock.
The cave is at ( 34.91993, -111.85941 ).
The Kachina cave is unique for having a single lone tree standing beyond the chamber that is lit by the sun around mid-morning between 9 am and 11 am. You can go through the other side of the ‘cave’ and follow ledges for quite a ways and there are nice views over Boynton Canyon. Eventually, you will want to head back the way you came to the main trail again.
Back on the main trail. At around the 2.0-mile point from the trailhead, look for a large black and grey burned tree on the trail at ( 34.927642, -111.861864 ), this is the unmarked turnoff to the Subway Cave. There may be tree limbs laying along the side of the main trail here to make you think not to go this way, but this is the way, look to the right and you’ll see a wide opening leading to a dry creek. From here it is 0.3 miles mostly uphill to the cave with about 200 feet of elevation.
Note – this is the back side of the tree after you pass it, it is really only distinctive from the backside
Keep following the many social trails always heading toward the cliffs. As you get close to the cliff bottom look up to your left, you should see some ruins. The ruins are on a ledge that connects to the Subway Cave. There are two ways to get into the ‘cave’. You can take the direct way up the steep ramp of rock at the base of the cave. The alternative is to stand at the base of the ramp and look to your left, go in that direction and you will find the trail up to the ruins and then once done with the ruins, head to the left and follow the ledges back over to the cave. The ledges are actually quite wide and relatively flat, the worst part is a small section after you are in the cave to get off the ledges and into the large open flat area of the cave.
Looking up at the subway cave from below, ruins are to the left
The ruins to the left of the Subway Cave
Once you make it into the Subway Cave you can get to either side of the opening from the back of the cave.
This can be the scene in the cave, it’s rare to have it to yourself
The view from the ledges between the Subway Cave and the ruins
Once you’ve explored enough head back the way you came to the main trail. If you want to continue to the end of the trail, it is another 1.0 mile to the end, the final stretch of the hike takes you up a rise at the end of the canyon with nothing much to see.