The Hike To This Hidden Rock Cave May Be Even More Gorgeous Than The Destination

When you're on the hunt for a vacation destination where you can enjoy easy access to nearly year-round sunshine, fantastic dining options, and spiritual landmarks, Sedona, Arizona, checks every item on the list. Almost 3 million tourists visit Sedona each year, according to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, and while many come for a relaxing getaway in the name of wellness, others arrive intent on elevating their adventures. Sedona is an outdoor enthusiast's playground sitting in the high desert, just under the southwestern rim of the Colorado Plateau. The red sandstone rocks that define the landscape here host pictographs and petroglyphs left behind by ancient tribes, and they're also home to mysterious hidden rock caves. Among the most alluring that beckon adventurous visitors to come and explore is the cave at Merry-Go-Round Rock.

This off-the-beaten-path destination isn't very easy to reach, but for many Sedona-bound travelers, that's half the fun. The process of getting to the Merry-Go-Round Rock cave is even more appealing when you consider the scenic trail that leads you to your final destination. There are options to access the cave at Merry-Go-Round Rock by jeep, but then you'd miss out on savoring the scenery along the way. To enjoy a trip to the cave that might be even more gorgeous than the location itself, you're going to want to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trail.

Enjoy a beautiful trek to Merry-Go-Round Rock

You'll set off on your quest to the cave at Merry-Go-Round Rock at the Munds Wagon Trail. This is a former cattle route that's been transformed into a scenic pathway leading to the hidden cave. Setting out as early in the day as possible is recommended as the trail hosts limited parking options. It's good to keep in mind that you'll need to obtain a Red Rock Pass or an America the Beautiful Pass to park at the trailhead.

When you're ready to explore, you can count on a 6.5-mile out-and-back trail experience. The pathway itself isn't particularly challenging, as AllTrails rated it moderately difficult. The route is shared among cyclists, walkers, and runners and is open all year long. If you're hiking with your dog, they're more than welcome to enjoy the journey as long as they're always leashed. While an out-and-back trip typically takes around three hours, you're going to want to set aside extra time to stop and enjoy the view. Hikers can savor the sights of Mitten Ridge to the North as well as impressive views out over Mogollon Rim. The surrounding and towering red rock formations are best seen once you reach a place on the trail well above the canyon floor. If you want a comfortable place to take in the scenery and grab photos, wait until you come across one of the Arizona cypresses along the trail and make the most of time in the shade.

Explore a captivating and challenging rock cave

When you've reached the end of the Munds Wagon Trail, you'll find yourself standing near an area referred to as the lower level of the Merry-Go-Round Rock stack. This is where the challenge begins, because locating the entrance to the hidden cave is no simple task. It's extremely easy to miss if you're not orienting yourself with the bridge in the distance that's visible from the pathway, as Out of the Van suggests. Once you find what you're looking for, you'll hike off the road toward the cave entrance, which sits just under a rock ledge.

Arriving at the entrance deserves a photo or two, but if you want to see what it's like inside for yourself, it's going to require some careful navigation. The entrance to the cave is surrounded by loose rocks as well as an exposed ledge that comes with inherent risks to visitors. Entering the cave is advisable only if you're sure of your footing and well-prepared for the physical challenge.

If you decide not to enter the cave when you're visiting Arizona, you'll still have an amazing opportunity to admire this hidden gem from alternative angles that are just as impressive in person and on camera. No matter how you choose to enjoy sightseeing, you'll want to make sure to have everything you need for the trek out and back. Always wear quality hiking boots and pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks to enjoy a fun, safe, and successful journey in Sedona.