So you’re thinking of visiting Sedona? You’re about to go on an incredible journey. The red pillars are among the most spectacular sights I’ve seen while hiking. It’s one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen. One of the best things to do in Sedona is hike Cathedral Rock which is why it made our Top 6 Hikes in Sedona.
Sedona is a place where you simply must go outside. Cathedral Rock Trail is one of my favorite Sedona hikes due to it’s challenges.
Everything you need to know about climbing Cathedral Rock in Sedona is right here!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HIKE THE CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL?
The greatest time to hike Cathedral Rock Trail is without a doubt in the hours leading up to dusk. There are great views of Sedona from the top, and it is even more magical at sunset.
If you plan on lingering at the summit until sunset, carry a headlamp to assist you in descending the trail. You’ll need your hands to get down the trail’s steeper sections.
The best time of year to hike cathedral rock is fall to early spring for cooler temps and less crowds.
HOW TO GET TO THE CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAILHEAD IN SEDONA
Cathedral Rock is one of the most popular Sedona hikes. There are multiple trailheads that lead to Cathedral Rock but we found Cathedral Rock Trailhead No. 170 to be the closest.
Cathedral Rock Trail Head Coordinates: 34°49’30.7″N 111°47’18.3″W
The parking lot is a lot busier during the more popular hiking times. Typically, the earlier you are there, the easier parking will be.
There is overflow parking further down on Back O’Beyond Road.
DIRECTIONS TO THE CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAILHEAD
Head south on the junction of 89A and 179. Drive 179 south for about 3.5 miles until you reach Back O’ Beyond Road on the right. Then go approximately .6 miles. The parking lot turnout is on the left.
Note: There is a $5 cost for the Red Rock Pass for parking. The America the Beautiful Pass is also a valid parking pass.
CATHEDRAL ROCK VIA THE BALDWIN TRAILHEAD
There is an alternate way to get to Cathedral Rock if you want a longer and more scenic hike. It starts from the Baldwin Trailhead. The trail is 3.7 miles round trip, and it takes about 1.5 hours to get to the top of Cathedral Rock.
This route will have wonderful views of the west side of Cathedral Rock as you start your hike.
CATHEDRAL ROCK HIKE
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HIKE CATHEDRAL ROCK IN SEDONA?
Cathedral Rock in Sedona will take 30-40 minutes if you hike at a moderate to fast pace. It will take roughly 60 minutes to hike to the top if you hike slower, if you are hiking with children, if you take some breaks along the route, or if you stop to take photos.
I would recommend planning for about 3-4 hours for the entire adventure.
TRAIL STATS –
- Length: 1.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 744 feet
- Route Type: Out & Back
- Difficulty: Moderate
CLIMBING CATHEDRAL ROCK IN SEDONA
In general, the Cathedral Rock route is simple to follow. Along the trail, there are basket cairns packed with rocks to direct you. The trail begins with a dried-up creek, followed by a short ascent to a plateau.
The plateau region offers stunning views over the Sedona area and is an excellent location for photographing Cathedral Rock in the background.
You’ll climb up through the scramble from there. It’s a little crag that you’ll have to climb on your hands and knees to get to. This is the most difficult section of the hike, but if you go slow and steady, you’ll be OK. The crack is about 40 feet long and has a 45-degree incline.
After the scramble, you’ll come to another plateau, which is an excellent area to pause and snap photos if you want to. You’ll continue climbing Cathedral Rock from there. There are few stone steps at the summit that will lead you to the top.
The end of the trail has a sign saying, “End of Trail”, but the views alone will tell you that you are there!
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE CATHEDRAL ROCK HIKE?
Although the hike to the summit of Cathedral Rock is short, it does include some steep sections. The Cathedral Rock Trail has certain sections where you must scramble over the rocks using your hands and feet.
For most people, it is not too much of a challenge to climb over the boulders, but this could be difficult depending on the physical abilities of those you are hiking with. The trail is well broken in with places for hand and footholds in the rock making the climb a little easier. Make sure you are wearing sturdy shoes or even better —> CHACOS!!!
AT THE TOP
At the summit, there is a ledge that wraps around the top making a lot of places to explore and room for everyone. There is a very large drop-off at the top, but the ledge is pretty wide to have safe places for kids to sit.
The highlight and favorite viewpoint is off to the far right after you have reached the summit viewing area. There is a fun ledge that is a great place to take pictures and enjoy the views. It is known by some as the Edge of the World. There is a high and steep drop-off here so be careful.
HEADING DOWN THE TRAIL
There are some spots you will need to slide down on the rocks, but overall, the hike down is pretty easy going and simple to follow – just keep an eye out for the baslets of rocks that you passed by on the way up.
As you head down Cathedral Rock be sure to notice the beautiful views in the distance. Courthouse Butte will be visible as well as Sedona.
SEDONA GUIDED TOURS
Sedona is a lovely destination with plenty of options for independent exploration. However, with so many energy vortexes and gorgeous sites to visit, it can be tough to determine where to spend your time and easy to overlook many of Sedona’s unique attractions.
If you want the best Sedona tour with a lot of flexibility, I suggest booking a guided tour with Sedona Spirit Journeys.
During this highly recommended tour, an experienced guide will teach about the area’s sacred nature and energy vortexes as well as the history and geology of the area. This is a great way to see everything Sedona has to offer.
The best part of it all? You pick your stops and then sit back and relax!
HIKING TIPS FOR CATHEDRAL ROCK IN SEDONA
- PLAN TO HIKE EARLY IN THE MORNING OR AT SUNSET – These two times of day will give you the best lighting and will help you beat the crowds.
- CHECK WHAT TIME SUNSET IS – Check to see what time sunset is expected for that day if you want to be there for sunset. To reach to the summit, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time. Depending on how quickly you hike, it normally takes 30-60 minutes.
- If you are planning on staying at the top of Cathedral Rock until sunset, make sure to bring some sort of flashlight to get down. Headlamps are the best so you can have your hands-free climbing down the rock.
- USE YOUR AMERICAN THE BEAUTIFUL ANNUAL PASS – The American the Beautiful Pass is honored for the daily pass for parking for all the Sedona trails. If you do not have a pass, you can purchase a pass for $5.00 at the fee machines at designated trailheads.
- BE PREPARED – This includes sunscreen, plenty of water, and snacks. Don’t be fooled into thinking the hike is only a mile. The pathway is steep and narrow in places making it more difficult. There is also little to no shade on the trail.
CAN YOU SEE CATHEDRAL ROCK IN SEDONA WITHOUT HIKING?
Whether you can see Cathedral Rock without hiking depends on what you are wanting to see. You can see the Cathedral Rock formation from below. Hikers will not be able to see the panoramic valley views or cradle of Cathedral Rock. You can only get to those by hiking to the top.
If you want to see Cathedral Rock from a distance, the Templeton Trail is a good alternative. Also, you can climb to the first plateau for a great picture area without making the steep ascent through the crack.
IS CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL DOG FRIENDLY?
Cathedral Rock is dog-friendly if the dogs are kept on a leash. There are some big steps and boulders to climb through, so it is recommended that your dog have hiking experience. In my opinion, once you get to the rock-climbing portion it really is not an ideal hike for dogs unless your dog has a high level of physical abilities.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE VORTEX
Sedona is a lovely destination to visit where you can easily connect with nature. Some visitors travel to Sedona in search of powerful vortex encounters. Cathedral Rock is said to be one of Sedona’s four vortexes.
This vortex energy is one of many reasons why people hike the Cathedral Rock Trail. This energy is meant to calm, inspire and ground you.
No matter what your beliefs, Cathedral Rock is a place that will make you feel something. Whether it is outer-worldly spirits or awe and appreciation for the beautiful world we live in, a climb to the top is well worth your time.
OTHER HIKING TRAILS IN SEDONA
Hiking Cathedral Rock in Sedona is my favorite trails in the area but there is still plenty of other fun and beautiful hikes to explore in the area. We recommend picking a hike or two every day because it is such a beautiful area to enjoy.
- Hiking the Birthing Cave in Sedona is another family-friendly hike that we enjoyed. The trail is pretty flat until the final descent into the cave. The cave is a fun place to play and has beautiful views of the Sedona area. Be sure to download the coordinates of the cave before heading out before cell coverage is limited.
BELL ROCK TRAIL
- This is a fun area to explore, especially if you’re hiking with kids in Sedona. The Bell Rock Loop is about a mile long with lots of fun places to explore along the way. You can climb all over Bell Rock with great views of the Sedona area.
- The Devils Bridge hike is another great and popular photo opportunity in Sedona. It is a natural sandstone bridge with great views of Sedona. The trailhead is easy to access with an easy hiking trail. The only downside is the trail is about 4.2 miles roundtrip.
- This is a relatively easy trail until the final descent into the cave. It is a heavily trafficked trail with plenty to see along the way like the Seven Sacred Pools and sinkhole. This is a popular hike for families.
MORE TO SEE!
Also, don’t forget that Sedona is only a two-hour drive to the Grand Canyon. You could easily add this in as a day trip during your time in Sedona! Visiting the Grand Canyon is a must-see in Arizona!
If you are going to be exploring the area around Sedona, Page is a fun city to visit. The Horseshoe Bend overlook and Antelope Canyon are fun places to explore.
How to Visit Horseshoe Bend in Arizona
Lower Antelope Canyon – Visiting the Famous Slot Canyon
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