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If you are looking for the best tips to hike the Boynton Canyon trail, know that I am already so excited for you. Boynton Canyon was my absolute favorite hike that I did in Sedona, largely because of its beauty, its hidden surprises (a subway cave!!), and its vortex site, all of which you will read about in this post.

I’m convinced there’s nowhere on Earth like Sedona. The spiritual energy you get from simply just being here is unreal, but tack on a solid day of hiking, and you are ZEN. It’s the wellness for me. When I did this hike, I really felt like I was able to be in the moment and take in all of the wonder that Sedona offers.

In this post, I talk about things you need to bring on your hike, a couple detours you need to make, where to park, how to plan your day, and more. Ready to discover one of the most beautiful, epic hikes in Sedona, AZ? Keep reading!

The view from the other side of the subway cave on the Boynton Canyon trail
The view from the other side of the subway cave on the Boynton Canyon trail

Hiking Etiquette: Leave No Trace

Sedona’s beauty is hard to match, and that is largely due to proper hiking etiquette and following the Leave No Trace principles implemented by the city. These guidelines help to keep nature and the outdoors in the most preserved, pristine conditions possible. Before hiking and/or visiting, check out 7 of Sedona’s Leave No Trace principles here.


Website Disclaimer: I most recently visited Sedona in April 2023. Although everything is accurate as of the publication of this post, it is important to keep in mind that prices, attractions, and other things may change with time.


Boynton Canyon Trail - Sedona, AZ
Boynton Canyon Trail – Sedona, AZ

7 Tips for Hiking the Boynton Canyon Trail in Sedona, AZ

1. Get a Red Rocks Pass

In order to park at most trails in Sedona, you will need to purchase a Red Rocks Pass (an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass will also suffice). This pass needs to be displayed on the windshield of the vehicle, or it can be purchased online using the vehicle’s corresponding license plate number.

Luckily, if you forget your pass, you ARE able to purchase a Red Rocks Pass at the Boynton Canyon trailhead!

You are able to purchase a pass for 1 day, 1 week, or annually using the link above. Click here for more information about the Red Rocks Pass program.

2. Know Where to Park at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead

Like many trailhead parking lots in Sedona, this one has a limited number of spaces. It is usually advised to get to the trailhead by 7am at the latest to secure a spot. If you are a hardcore hiker, that is what I suggest you should do. I am a hardcore breakfast person, so I got to the trailhead around 10am, after eating pancakes. /shrugs

To find the trailhead, simply type “Boynton Canyon Trailhead” into Google Maps, and it should take you directly there. The drive to the trailhead is absolutely stunning. I’ll never forget driving down Boynton Pass Rd and feeling this intense rush of excitement because of how beautiful everything was. If the drive down was this gorgeous, I couldn’t even imagine what the hike would be like.

If there are no spots available at the trailhead, you are able to park on the road close-by and walk. When you come to the end of Boynton Pass Road, you will reach an intersection where you can either turn left or right. The trailhead will be to the RIGHT, but I ended up having to turn left and park on the side of the road a little further up. My walk ended up being less than half a mile. Not to mention, the pancakes I had for breakfast kept me full throughout the entire hike, so I really felt like I was winning.

  • Pro Tip: After talking to some of the locals, I learned that 7am, 12pm, and 4pm were good times to be able to potentially secure a parking spot in a lot of the trails.
  • (Another) Pro Tip: There ARE bathrooms at the Boynton Canyon trailhead

3. How Long Does It Take to Hike Boynton Canyon?

Boynton Canyon Trail Stats

ROUTEDISTANCETIME TO HIKE
Boynton Canyon Trail, no detours6.3 miles out-and-back2.5 – 4 hours
Boynton Canyon Trail with subway cave detour7.1 miles out-and-back4 – 6 hours
Boynton Canyon Trail with subway cave AND vortex detour7.5 miles out-and-back5.5 – 6.5 hours

The Boynton Canyon hike is a bit long if you plan on hiking the whole thing: about 6.3 miles out and back. If you decided to see the subway cave AND finish the hike, you’re looking at closer to 7-7.5 miles total. I should mention that I set out on this hike with the intention of finding the subway cave, NOT completing the entire trail like it was designed. I also made another stop at the Boynton Canyon vortex site on my way back to the trailhead, which I mention further down in this post.

If you also intend on seeing the subway cave during this hike, keep in mind that doing so will take you off the beaten path a ways. Not to mention, that doesn’t even include the time you will spend once you get up in the cave (I probably spent a good half-hour to an hour inside the cave, either taking pictures, talking to other hikers, or just taking it all in!)

Views from the subway cave

All in all, this trail took me roughly 5-5 & 1/2 hours, but I made a lot of stops. (I’m gonna say it again: the pancakes I ate for breakfast reeeeally helped keep my energy up.) If you hike the trail as it was designed and don’t take any detours, it should take you around 2.5 hours. If you do this hike later in the day, be mindful of time and when the sun is setting.

I would suggest devoting an entire day to this hike: taking the detours to the subway cave and the vortex site, and then having a chill evening. At the end of my hike, I was exhausted, but so emotionally fulfilled and happy.

4. Things to Bring With You When Hiking Boynton Canyon

No matter what trail you hike, it’s smart to carry a backpack and bring a few essentials with you. I brought the following things with me on my Boynton Canyon hike:

  • Plenty of water (I brought 2 large bottles; this is a long hike!)
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Protein bar (I always pack 2, just in case)
  • Chapstick (I love my Burts Bees!)
  • Cell phone + portable cell phone charger
  • Hiking poles (I actually did NOT bring these, but I know they are a “must” for many hikers!)

5. AllTrails: The Must-Have Hiking App

Before going on your hike, make sure you download the AllTrails app. If you have never used AllTrails before, it is basically Google maps except for hiking. You are able to type in the trail you want to go on, hit “Navigate,” and it gives you a guided route that lets you see where you are walking on the trail.

In my post where I talk about how to find the subway cave on the Boyton Canyon trail, I included screenshots of my AllTrails route that will make it easier for you to find the cave during your hike.

  • Pro Tip: AllTrails has a free and a paid version ($35.99/year), but I found the free version to be sufficient for what I needed!

6. Find the Boynton Canyon Vortex Site via the Boynton Vista Trail

Boynton Canyon has a well-known Vortex site close to the start of the trail. The path to get to it is called the Boynton Vista trail. Many people – myself included – love visiting vortex sites because the energy is supposed to enhance self-discovery, emotional strength, and spiritual growth.

To get to the Vortex site, when you get to the start of the trail, simply go straight at the sign that says “Vista” instead of going left to hike Boynton Canyon (see photo below).

Boynton Canyon Trail - Sedona, AZ

Once you follow this trail for a bit, you will see a flat landing spot with a large rock formation. This is the Boynton Canyon vortex site. Many people say they are able to feel an intense pull of energy when they are here, and some say the higher they climb on the rock formation, the stronger the energy pull.

Boynton Canyon vortex site - Sedona, AZ
  • Pro Tip: Taking this detour will take you roughly an extra 30 minutes. I decided to check out this detour at the end of my hike, after visiting the subway cave and walking back!

7. Discover the Hidden Subway Cave

You’ve heard me rave about it this entire post, now I’m finally showing you what you’ve been waiting for. Seeing the Boynton Canyon subway cave was hands down my favorite part of the trail and the initial reason I did this hike in the first place. It was absolutely unreal to see this epic work of (natural) art in real life.

This cave is referred to as the “hidden” subway cave because it is off the beaten path of the hike. You will have to know where to turn off the trail in order to find it.

In recent years, this cave has become not-so-hidden thanks to the Internet and the amount of people who are equally as obsessed with it as I am. If seeing the subway cave is also your goal, click this link to read How to Find the Boynton Canyon Subway Cave in Sedona, AZ.

The subway cave on the Boynton Canyon trail in Sedona, AZ
The secret subway cave on Boynton Canyon trail

Seeeee? You love it already, I can tell. I will never forget climbing up the gap inside this part of the cave and hearing a man that was already sitting at the top say to me, “turn around.” This was my view ⬆️. It was freaking wild.

The views of Sedona from this cave were absolutely magnificent. You were able to walk around to the other side and even see a space carved out in the rock where someone – at some point – must have lived(??).

Someone’s….house??

Overall, I cannot recommend this hike enough. If I brought someone to Sedona, this is 100% a hike I would take them on. To read about my other favorite hikes and things to do in Sedona, click on the links below:

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