Post summary: How to find the Birthing Cave and how to hike to this hidden cave in Sedona, Arizona
Although still one of the lesser-known hikes in Sedona, the Birthing Cave on Mescal Mountain is one of the caves in Sedona, Arizona that is quickly gaining popularity, especially on social media.
It’s a hike that shouldn’t be missed if you’re visiting the Sedona area, since it’s short, easy, and close to so many other popular Sedona hikes.
The Birthing Cave is one of the easiest caves to get to in Sedona. The hike to the Birthing Cave is relatively easy, at only 2 miles round trip without much elevation gain, and stunning views at the end.
However, there are a few tips and tricks you’ll want to know, including how to find the trail, what to pack, and how to photograph the entrance to this hidden Arizona cave.
Keep reading for all the info you’ll need to find this hidden cave in Sedona:
BIRTHING CAVE TRAIL OVERVIEW
Distance: 2.0 miles round trip
Birthing Cave Trailhead Location: Long Canyon Trailhead
GPS Coordinates of the Birthing Cave: 34.91309, -111.83618
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Total Hike Time: Approximately 1.5 – 2.0 hours
Trail Rating: Easy to moderate
Red Rocks Pass Required: No
REMEMBER TO LEAVE NO TRACE
It’s no secret that outdoor spaces continue to suffer the negative impacts of exposure on social media (and the internet in general). The trail to the Birthing Cave is especially vulnerable since it’s not an established trail.
Although well trodden, the trail to the Birthing Cave is actually a herd path, which veers off the main trail. The path is surrounded by sensitive vegetation, and venturing off the path risks endangering delicate habit.
The Birthing Cave is also a sacred cultural site, holding significance to some people who visit. Please be quiet and respectful during your time there, and always remember to leave all wild places better than you found them by practicing the Principles of Leave No Trace.
The Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles are built on scientific research, aiming to minimize human impact through respectful, responsible and sustainable outdoor practices. The Principles include:
- Plan ahead and be prepared
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Always stay on the trail!
- Carry out all of your trash (that includes apple cores, orange peels, etc.)
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect all wildlife (don’t feed or harass them)
- Be considerate of other visitors
- Leave what you find. Take only pictures
- Minimize geotagging on social media
For additional information, please review the new Social Media Guidelines for Leave No Trace.
ABOUT THE BIRTHING CAVE
The Birthing Cave is a site of sacred cultural significance to the native Hopi people, as well as anyone looking to tap into a sense of spiritual rebirth and embrace their inner feminine/sexual energy.
The Hopi, who are native to the Red Rock Region of Sedona, believe that their people were born from the center of the Earth. So, due to its strong resemblance of a women’s womb, the Hopi sent pregnant women to the Birthing Cave to give birth. The women would climb into the cave just before going into labor, where they would then sit and pray until their child was born.
This area is also thought to be a vortex area.
Why It’s Called The Birthing Cave
You can probably guess how the Birthing Cave got its name. It’s called the Birthing Cave because the Indigenous Hopi people used to give birth inside the cave. But if you also look up at it from the canyon floor, you’ll be able to notice anatomic similarities to the female reproductive system.
The cave is actually part of a landmark on Mescal Mountain known as “the mother”. If you look up at the mother from the canyon floor, you might notice anatomic similarities to the female reproductive system around the outside of the cave. The actual Birthing Cave is the part that resembles the womb, which makes it pretty easy to see why it’s so highly regarded as a place of (literal) birth and spiritual rebirth.
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HIKE TO THE HIDDEN BIRTHING CAVE IN SEDONA, ARIZONA
The hike to the Birthing Cave is approximately 2 miles out and back. I suggest budgeting around 2 hours for this hike if you want to enjoy the views for awhile, but it only takes around 20 minutes to get there if you’re waking at a moderate pace.
The hike is pretty easy, since most of the trail is flat. The only real elevation gain is the final push into the cave.
And don’t worry about leaving your dog at home! The Birthing Cave is a dog friendly Sedona hike. We saw a few dogs in the Birthing Cave, but it did look like they had a hard time walking around the inside, since the rock is slippery in spots.
Getting to the trailhead
The Birthing Cave is located about 15 minutes outside Sedona, near a lot of other popular Sedona hikes. The trailhead to the cave is accessed via the Long Canyon Trail.
I read a few blogs that said the trailhead would be tricky to find. However, I found that Google Maps actually was really simple to follow. I plugged in the “Birthing Cave Trailhead” and the directions took us straight there. You can also use the “Long Canyon Trailhead”. It brings you to the same place.
You won’t have service once you get there though, so I suggest downloading offline Google Maps of the area before you go. To learn how to download offline Google Maps, visit my blog post on How To Plan Your Road Trip Using Google Maps
There’s no official parking lot at the Birthing Cave trailhead, but you’ll see the cars parked in an unmarked dirt lot next to the trailhead on the left as you approach.
The parking area is pretty small, with enough room for just a handful of cars. The Long Canyon trail is heavily trafficked, so the parking area may be full when you get there. If it’s full, just continue down the road a bit. There are a few more dirt parking areas off the side of the road. Alternatively, you can try the Mescal Trailhead, located around the corner.
There are no facilities at this trailhead, so a Red Rocks Pass is not required to hike to the Birthing Cave.
AllTrails trail map of the Birthing Cave Trail, located off the Long Canyon Trail
.The hike to the Birth Cave begins on the Long Canyon Trail.
The trail entrance is located right next to the parking area on the side of the road. The Long Canyon Trail is wide and well maintained, so its super easy to follow. Keep an eye out for mountain bikers!
Follow the Long Canyon trail for about 0.6 miles, where you’ll reach a fork in the path.
At the fork, the Long Canyon trail continues past a fence to the right, and the Birthing Cave Trail goes to the left.
The trail to the Birthing Cave is unmarked and will probably be blocked by a pile of sticks and some brush. Step over the sticks/brush and follow the trail to the left to walk to the Birthing Cave.
It’s helpful to download AllTrails offline maps, so you don’t miss this turn.
Follow the unmarked path for 0.3 miles. The trail is well worn and heads straight for the red cliffs in the distance, so it’s not hard to follow. But there are a lot of side trails branching off, so pay attention to make sure you stay on the right one.
Remember to stay on the trail, so you don’t risk stepping on sensitive desert vegetation!
As you approach the base of the cliffs, look up. You might be able to spot the heart shaped indent in the cliff wall. That’s the Birthing Cave.
Personally, it wasn’t super obvious to me as we approached, so I was happy to have downloaded the offline AllTrails maps and GPS Coordinates of the Birthing Cave (34.91309, -111.83618). But on a busy day, you’ll know you’re close because you’ll be able to hear people talking inside.
The trail will eventually bend slightly to the right and head straight up into the entrance of the Birthing Cave. Up until this point, the trail is flat. The final push up into the cave is the only real elevation gain. The footing can be slippery, so keep an eye out for people coming down.
Inside The Birthing Cave
So, the Birthing Cave actually looks nothing like the photos you see on Instagram. Photos make it seem a bit like a tunnel, but it’s actually super shallow and open at the top. It really resembles more of a depression in the rock than an actual cave.
In fact, didn’t even know we were there, until we turned around and instantly recognized the stunning view of the Sedona Vista.
The red rock walls inside of the cave are steep and the rock is rippled, creating ledges that you can climb on. There’s not a whole lot of room to explore inside, but you can walk (or crawl) along the ledges to find the best view.
This might go without saying, but the grippier your boots, the easier of a time you’ll have getting up onto the ledges (especially in areas where the rock is worn smooth).
Climb a few feet up the walls for the best vantage point of the Sedona Vista. You don’t have to climb high. Just a few feet will do, in order for you to get above the shrubs blocking the entrance. Just be mindful of others wanting a turn on the ledge :)
You’ll also notice a depression in the back of the Birthing Cave, called “The Belly Button”. This is where everyone takes the IG famous photos of the cave entrance. Keep reading for more info.
HOW TO TAKE PHOTOS INSIDE THE BIRTHING CAVE
Contrary to what Instagram has lead you to believe, the Birthing Cave is not nearly as deep as it appears. It’s actually more like a sideways bowl with an open top.
So, you need a super wide angle lens to capture the entire cave entrance, like in the photo above. The best lens is somewhere around 10-16mm. You can also use a GoPro or the vertical pano on your phone.
However, the widest lens we had was a 32mm, which didn’t come close to capturing the grandeur of the cave. Instead, we used the tripod and took 13 photos around the cave. That means that the photo above is actually 9 separate photos that I pieced together using the merge feature in Lightroom. I mean, whatever works, amirite?
Anyway, the best place to get the Insta-worthy shot of the “portal” is from the perch in the Belly Button at the back of the cave. The rock leading up to the Belly Button is really slippery, so you need super grippy boots to climb up in there.
The other Instagram worthy spots are along the ledges on either side of the cave (no wide angle lens required)
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE BIRTHING CAVE
The best time to visit the birthing cave is at any time of year. However, the Birthing Cave is growing in popularity, thanks to social media. Therefore, you’re pretty unlikely to have it to yourself in peak season (March-June and September – November). Visit in the off season to have the greatest chance of having the birthing cave all to yourself (winter and mid-summer).
The best time of day to visit the birthing cave is just after sunrise or before sunset. Visit for sunrise for fewer crowds and cooler temperatures. Visit for sunset for the best color over the Sedona Vista. The cave opening faces southeast, so the light is most even inside cave in the afternoon. Our photos were taken around 2pm.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING THE BIRTHING CAVE
Here are my top tips for visiting this hidden cave in Sedona:
- Bring a wide angle lens! You need a lens around 16mm to capture the entire entrance of the Birthing Cave. You can also use a GoPro or the vertical pano on your phone. I’m not sure how well the wide angle on the newest iPhones would work, but I imagine that would also be sufficient (don’t quote me on that, though).
- Pack plenty of water. This is a MUST. Even though the hike to the cave is only 1 mile, there’s absolutely no shade until you get into the cave.
- Arrive early. The earlier you arrive, the better chance you have of finding a parking spot at the Long Canyon Trailhead.
- Download offline Google and AllTrails maps. I highly suggest downloading offline maps before you hike to the Birthing Cave because you won’t have service once you get there.
- Wear grippy hiking boots. The hike to the cave is short, but don’t underestimate it! Proper hiking boots are definitely necessary for both the scramble into the cave and to explore the cave once you’re inside. If you’re wearing sneakers or sandals, you’ll likely just slide right down the rock.
- Watch for wildlife. Rattlesnakes and javalinas frequent the areas around Sedona hiking trails. In fact, we passed a rattlesnake sunning itself right next to the trail as soon as we started our hike to the Birthing Cave. Keep your eyes (and ears) peeled, stay on the worn trail, and always give wildlife the proper space and respect they deserve.
- Leave No Trace. Always remember to follow the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace and aim to leave wild places better than you found them. The Birthing Cave is a sacred and special place in Sedona, so please be respectful at all times.
POPULAR SEDONA HIKES NEARBY
Not ready to leave yet? Can’t say I blame you. Luckily the Birthing Cave is only a short drive from all of these other popular Sedona Hikes:
Soliders Pass: The Soldier’s Pass trail is a 4.5 mile loop, which features caverns, caves, and vista views.
Cathedral Rock: Cathedral Rock is a Sedona classic, especially for sunset. Although its only 1.4 miles round trip, Cathedral Rock is more of a climb than a hike. But this was one of our favorite hikes while we were in Sedona!
Bell Rock: This super short 1 mile hike is a perfect addition to your hike to the Birthing Cave. The hike up Bell Rock is a bit of scramble, but its short and sweet, and the views are incredible.
Devils Bridge: You’ve definitely seen photos of the natural sandstone arch, called Devil’s Bridge. This 3.9 mile round trip hike is a must-do if you’re in the area, but only if you arrive around sunrise. Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck in line to take photo on the bridge.
Is a hike to the hidden Birthing Cave in Sedona Arizona on your travel wishlist? Have you been there before? Let me know in the comments! I love to hear from you!
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