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Robber’s Roost is also known as Shaman’s Cave, though there is no evidence to suggest the cliff dwelling was ever used for ceremonial purposes. The reference to Shamanism came from the New Age community in Sedona, who wanted to promote this location as a spiritual destination.
It is easy to see why Robber’s Roost stirs feelings of reverence in many people. The view here is expansive and the silence is deafening. The natural window makes an appealing spot for a portrait photo.
Robber's Roost is reached via a social trail, from the parking area on FR 9530. The trail drops down about 200 feet, followed by a short but steep uphill section, then walk across a high ledge that is definitely not for those afraid of heights.
From the parking area follow the trail down and then up, going toward the left side of the butte and a low spot between the butte and the hill (visible in the photo above).
The only place you might lose this trail (shown above) is at the top of the hill as it begins to wrap around to the east side of the butte. One reason people lose the trail is because they don't think it crosses the ledge shown below. They don't want to take the risk of walking out there without knowing this is the right way.
It's the way most people go to reach the cave, but it's not the ONLY way to get there. Just around the corner the ledge gets a little wider, and the hiker below will come a great view of the cave.
To get on this ledge follow the trail to the low spot between the butte and the hill northwest of it. From there go uphill another 70 ft before attempting to wrap around to the east facing side.
If you don't go uphill far enough the false trails made by others will dead end at an impassable cliff face. If you go too far uphill you'll come out on top of the butte, where it's still possible to access the cave, you'll just come in from the other side and climb through the window.
THE "OTHER" ROUTE
On top of the butte you'll find natural pockets in the rock that can hold water for many weeks after a good rain (shown below). This is most likely where the native people who occupied the cave got their water. One way to get up here is to climb "though the window" and follow the same ledge beyond the cave. There is an easy break in the cliff that provides access to the top of the butte.
You'll also find big views of Sycamore Pass and the Verde Valley on top of the butte. The view would have given local bandits early warning of any posse coming after them. According to local legend this is how Robber's Roost got it's name.
Even though there is no evidence of ceremonial use to support the New Age name ("Shaman's Cave") it's clear Native Americans occupied this cave for a very long period of time. Inside the there are several grinding pads where the native occupants crushed seeds to process food (shown below). The same view that attracted "robbers" would have attracted the Sinagua as well, not only for defense, but also for hunting and long distance signaling between villages in the Verde Valley.
FINDING THE TRAILHEAD
A high clearance vehicle is not absolutely necessary in order to reach Robber’s Roost, but not having one will add approximately 1 mile to the hike in both directions, plus 350 ft of elevation gain.
From West Sedona take Highway 89A west toward Cottonwoood. From the last stop light in Sedona (at the High School on Upper Red Rock Loop Rd) it is 5.27 miles to a right turn on Forest Road 525. This road is usually washboarded but can be driven end to end in a regular passenger car.
From the highway it is another 2.72 miles to a left turn on FR 525C. From the turn it is another 6.27 miles to FR 9530. If you do not have a high clearance vehicle park here. FR 9530 is rough and rocky, but it will get you 1 mile closer and about 350 ft higher. If you drive up FR 9530 the parking area is on the left, the trailhead is on the right. No pass is required to park at either location.
A high clearance vehicle is recommended, and required in order to drive the last mile. The pond visible from Robber's Roost today (see map below) is actually a stock tank that was added by ranchers.
RATED: Easy, but not for those afraid of heights
1.1 miles out and back
EST. HIKING TIME
1 hour round trip from the
closest parking area
BEST TIME TO GO
No. Please do not visit ruins with your pet.