And it was.
I can't say that I had the same vivid experience as some others, but there was a very special feeling to this place and there was a moment, sitting quietly, where I clearly received a very simple message I needed to hear.
I had promised one of the volunteer rangers at the Forest Service Visitors' Center -- who had never been to the cave (also known as Robbers' Roost), but always wanted to -- that I'd send her information on my experience. I've also been asked to share by a number of folks I've spoken with since, many of whom would suddenly start talking about Sedona, prompting me to share my story. And giving me a nudge as well...
So -- on the anniversary of my trip -- in case you also feel called to Shaman's Cave :) -- here's my report.
Hi Kathy. Mike here. I was in the Visitor's Center a little more than a week ago asking about Robber's Roost and you said you'd never been but weren't sure if your car could make it. As promised, here's my report. :)
Thanks for your help. Happy Trails.
SHAMAN'S CAVE/ROBBERS ROOST
This is definitely not a hike I'd advertise for all, but if someone asks, here's my take.
First, you can do it without a high-clearance vehicle. I had a rental car (some sort of Kia thing). As I mention below, a low-clearance vehicle gets you within about a 30-minute walk from the trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle gets you within about 5-10 minutes of the trailhead. You just have to go slow. Once I left 89A, I kept it under 25 MPH pretty much the whole way. I would definitely not go if it's been raining. There were a number of dry stream beds I had to cross that would likely be unpassable. There was just one spot where I really had to crawl along one side of the road to avoid some rocks and ruts, but it was totally do-able. I didn't feel I was pushing things. Going at that slow pace, the drive from 89A to the parking spot I mention below took about 45 minutes.
I've tried to give directions below, but I would strongly suggest you pick up the Forest Service's "Motor Vehicle Use Map" for Coconino National at the Visitor's Center. It's free. If you don't get one, I've taken a pic of the relevant portion of the trail. It's good piece of mind.
Take 89A south of the “Y,” approximately 9.5 miles, just before Mile Marker 364, and turn right on Red Canyon Rd. (FR 525). Continue ahead apx. 2.25 miles, then turn left onto FR 525C; drive for quite some time (I would guess about 25 minutes). You'll pass a horse corral on the right (around FR 9551); continue apx. .5 mile until you see a road marked FR 9530.
Some cars continued on FR 9530 to the parking area at the top of the hill, but if you have a low clearance vehicle, I would park at the bottom. You could probably do it if you went really, really, really slow, but I parked in the turnout at the bottom and walked about 30 minutes up a fairly gentle uphill road to the trailmarker (some modest sized rock cairns -- no official signs).
A Red Rock Pass is required for parking, which you can pick up at the visitor's center when driving into Sedona from the Interstate.
Once you're on the trail, you'll head down a bit into a depression before heading back up to the big "rock" (it's more than a rock; I'm sure there is a name for it) in which the cave is located. If you know where you're going, it's probably only about a 20-minute hike. Unfortunately, you'll probably not know where you're going the first time if you're by yourself. And the trail is not esp. well marked after a point so get there with plenty of light and time to spare. The cave is on the opposite side from the trailhead and you won't see it until you're almost upon it. So once you make your way up to the midpoint of the rock (the trail is pretty clear to that point) you'll need to make your way around the side of it until you find the cave. Some people go right (I did -- after losing the trail going left.) That "trail" sucks and can get a bit dicey (definitely not a trail for kids). You should go to the left (the northeast side of rock). If you lose the trail going horizontal and you need to climb up towards the top, do so until you see an easier path. The left path -- once you figure it out -- is actually not too bad. Coming down -- when I knew where I was going -- was a breeze.
The cave is worth a trip. It is a sacred site for Native Americans and others. Lots of lore -- and lots of reported "stuff."
See, e.g.: http://spiritlibrary.com/earth-keeper/earth-keeper-chronicles/sacred-sedona-the-stargate-of-shamans-dome
I spent the Summer Solstice there by myself (well, not exactly by myself -- I had a number of bat and cockroach friends as company.) It's a night I'll always remember. A beautiful sunset, moonrise, stars and sunrise....