Sedona Hiking Trails: Visitor Guide to the Cathedral Rock Trail

    Sedona Hiking Trails: Visitor Guide to the Cathedral Rock Trail

    For many first-time visitors, the northern part of Arizona is a surprise: it’s not a desert, as they expected. Nor is it boiling hot like the rest of the state. Areas like the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and Sedona actually enjoy a temperate climate which is why they are great travel destinations year round.

    One of the beautiful red rock formations in Sedona

    Sedona is known for it’s magnificent scenery, arts and culture and especially for its beautiful hiking trails. So if you ever plan a road trip in the Southwest, make sure to include the this beautiful town into your itinerary. 

    What to expect on Cathedral Rock Trail

    One of the most scenic hikes in Sedona is the Cathedral Rock Trail. This stunningly beautiful track located on the south side of Sedona, takes you through a group of red buttes and offers amazing views from the top. The trail one of Sedona’s most popular hiking trails, thus is almost always crowded.

    Walking on the Cathedral Rock Trail

    The trail starts with a set of dirt steps, passing through an area with more vegetation. Then it continues to base of the Cathedral Rock. Once you reach this area, you can actually see this grandiose rock formation rising majestically from its red sandstone base. 

    Cathedral Rock viewed from the Red Rock Crossing
    Cathedral Rock viewed from the Red Rock Crossing

    Besides its visual attributes, Cathedral Rock is believed to contain a source of magnetic energy, a vortex power. In New Age thinking, a vortex supposedly is a whirling fluid of energy produced by the earth and which can be felt in certain locations. Sedona is believed to have at least four such vortexes. Now, whether you believe in spiritual energy and metaphysics that’s another story, but Cathedral Rock surely is an idyllic oasis of peace and quiet.

    View of the surrounding mountains from Cathedral Rock Trail
    View of the surrounding mountains from Cathedral Rock Trail

    Hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail

    The trek is about 1.5 miles long and is more of a rock climb than a hike. It requires some climbing abilities and a lot of determination to make it to the top of the Rock. The trail is quite steep and difficult in some places. The mid section has a near vertical segment where you have to climb using your hands and feet. 

    View from the Cathedral Rock Trail

    As you start the hike, the Cathedral Rock is hidden from the view for the first part of the trail, but after a short walk the monumental, almost vertical rock appears in front of you.

    Other hiking options around the Cathedral Rock

    For those less interested in testing their athletic abilities, there are several other options to admire the stunning views of the area around and still brag they hiked the Cathedral Rock Trail. One is the Easy Breezy trail, a mostly level walk around the base. The other trail leads you to the base of the Rock, up a few hills. At this point you still have the option to climb up to the Cathedral Rock. Or you can take the other part of the trail that goes around it for a couple of miles. This trail is primarily used for hiking & mountain biking and is accessible year-round. There are wonderful views all along, but the most spectacular ones are definitely from the top.

    View of the Cathedral Rock from the base of the trail
    View of the Cathedral Rock from the base of the trail

    Cathedral Rock inspires awe and fascination in every visitor, especially when viewed from the Red Rock Crossing. This rock formation is one of the most photographed spots in Arizona. It is THE rock that photographers have made the symbol of Sedona.

    How to get to Cathedral Rock Trail

    Finding the trailhead was the trickiest part of this hike. Google maps originally lead us one round about further than necessary, so while heading south just make sure to turn right onto Back O’ Beyond to get there. Parking is very limited, so come early morning or late afternoon.

    Tips for hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail

    • Start early in the morning. You have more chances of finding a parking spot and the trail will be less crowded.
    • Dress up in layers. No matter what the season, you may need to take off or put on clothes
    • Carry a light backpack in which you can load with all you need for a day hike
    • Wear a good pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes. I prefer the boots because they hold my ankles 
    • Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, at least 1 liter of water and a snack
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    Below are a few of my recommendations for items that I personally use on my hikes:

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