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Hiking Cathedral Rock Sedona is one of the top activities, and it is no surprise that it is popular.
The hike is short and sweet and offers fantastic views of the Red Rocks’ landscapes dominating the rugged desert landscapes.
The Cathedral Rock trail in Sedona is also one of the most popular hikes in Sedona for enjoying stunning sunset views, as it offers the best spots to watch the sunset in Sedona.
In this post, we’ll share details of the trails, ways to access Cathedral Rock Sedona, the best time to visit, and parking information.
WHAT IS CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA?
Cathedral Rock Sedona is one of the most famous landmarks in Arizona and comprises a distinct formation of red sandstone rocks towering over the desert landscapes in the Red Rocks Park area located in Coconino National Forest.
The unique spire-shaped rock formations make it one of the popular hikes in Sedona.
From the top of Cathedral Rock Sedona, you can view many other attractions and landmarks, including the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Pyramid Mountain and the Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock on the far side of AZ 179.
Cathedral Rock Sedona gets its name from the massive red rock formations that resemble a cathedral. It is believed that Cathedral Rock is a vortex site and is considered to be a sacred energy spot.
OTHER RECOMMENDED HIKING TRAILS IN SEDONA FOR YOU
BEST TIME TO HIKE CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA
Spring and fall are the most popular months in Sedona, as these months offer the best weather conditions, beautiful landscapes and the ideal time to be outdoors.
March to May and October and November are the best months to hike the Cathedral Rock Sedona.
But this means that the attractions and famous landmarks get crowded during these months, accommodation can be expensive, and securing parking is a challenge if you get there early in the morning.
The temperatures in Sedona in the winter, from December through February, are cold, but hiking is more enjoyable with fewer tourists and cooler weather.
Accommodations are also less expensive in winter.
The best time of the day to hike the Cathedral Rock Sedona is around sunset, as it is one of the favourite Sedona Sunset spots among hikers.
For the gorgeous sunset spectacle of colours, hike during fall or spring.
QUICK INFO AND HIKING DETAILS OF CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA
- Distance – 2.5 miles round trip
- Type – Out and back
- Duration – 2 to 3 hours
- Trailhead – Cathedral Rock Trailhead
- Elevation Gain – 775 feet
- Hike Difficulty – Moderate
- Parking – Limited parking
- Best Time – Morning to afternoon
- Pass Required – Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass is needed
IS A PERMIT REQUIRED TO HIKE CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL SEDONA?
You need to display a Red Rock Pass or America National Parks Pass to access the Cathedral Rock trail in Sedona. You can buy the day pass for $5 at the entrance.
RED ROCK PASS
If you plan to do multiple hikes in Sedona, we recommend getting a Red Rock Pass, as many trailheads and roads require a permit, and you can save a few bucks by having this pass handy.
1-Day Red Rock Pass costs $5, $15 per week and $20 for one year. You can get the Red Rock Pass at recreation.gov.
HOW TO REACH THE TRAILHEAD OF CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA?
Cathedral Rock is located about four miles north of Sedona, and takes only about 10 minutes to reach.
After you leave Sedona, take Highway 179 past Oak Creek Village for about 3.5 miles, where you will reach the Back O’ Beyond Road.
Take a left here and keep heading for about a mile. You will reach the trailhead and it will be on your left. There is overflow parking further down on Back O Beyond Road.
WHERE TO PARK?
The main parking is at the Cathedral Rock Trailhead, located on Back O Beyond Road.
There are two lots here, and although there is enough space to accommodate about 50 cars, due to its immense popularity, the parking lot gets filled up quite early, around sunrise and sunset.
You need a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful National Parks Pass to park at this lot.
For sunrise hikes, you need to be there very early if you intend to park here. There is a restroom and a machine to buy the Red Rock Pass.
If it’s too packed and you don’t mind adding a few more miles to your hike, there are two more options for parking, one is the Verde Valley School Road and the other is at the Baldwin Trail Trailhead lot.
If you want to avoid the problem of waiting for parking, one of the best ways to reach the trailhead of Cathedral Rock Sedona is by taking the Sedona Shuttle, a free shuttle system that takes visitors to Cathedral Rock Trail and runs Thursday through Sunday, year-round.
Sedona shuttle runs between North SR-179 and Cathedral Rock trailhead, and you need to take bus number 15 or the Orange line, which runs every 15 minutes from 8 AM through 5:30 PM and takes about 10 minutes to reach.
HOW TO HIKE THE CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA
There are many trails intertwined, which lead to Cathedral Rock Sedona, so there is more than one way to access the trail that will lead to the summit.
All the trails listed above lead to a crossroads marking the beginning of the climb to the summit of Cathedral Rock. You can access these trails from various parts of Sedona.
Also, the trailheads, which can be reached via different paths from Sedona, are located about 20 to 30 minutes from each other, and you need to take that journey time and work out the parking before you start the hike.
Depending on the season, your difficulty preference and the time of day, whether you plan to make it for the sunset or sunrise, below are the trails.
CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA VIA THE CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL – THE BEST ROUTE
The shortest and hence the most popular trail to reach the top of Cathedral Rock Sedona is via the Cathedral Rock trail. The trail begins off of Back O’ Beyond Road.
The total distance is only a mile, and the first part of this route is straightforward, with a well-marked trail and some rock staircases to help you.
You will pass through Basket cairns, or the large wire baskets of rocks, which is the best marker reference to keep track of your trail.
After a short while, you will come across a plateau just before the Templeton Trail and Cathedral Rock Trail juncture.
Spend some time here admiring the sweeping view of Sedona, and head next for the climbing up part.
You will arrive at the base of a cleft in the rock rising for about 50 feet high, from where you need to scramble.
Although it is possible to get to the top going on all fours, it may be challenging if you are scared of heights.
There is plenty of hands and footholds on the ascent, and it is best to be careful and take it slow, fear of heights or not.
Though the incline is not very steep, the elevation gain is still significant and it makes the hike fun and adventurous as well.
You’ll reach a second plateau area, the point to stop and rest and enjoy the stunning landscapes halfway down below.
After you have made it to this second plateau, the hardest part of the hike is behind you, and you will only need a short time to make it to the summit.
The final ascent involves hiking through some zig-zag path up a steep rock face with scattered rocks. By this time, you will have other hikers on the way following the trail.
After a short while on this path, you will come across a huge Juniper tree with its branches scattered all across the trail.
Passing by this, you will reach the summit, marked by an “End of Trail” sign, as you approach a saddle surrounded by giant sandstone spires.
From here, you can enjoy fantastic 360° views of the landscapes, including major landmarks.
You have some space to walk around, sit, and admire the incredible views. You can walk a fit further for some fantastic photo opportunities. On one side, there is a huge drop-off though, so watch your steps.
There is a second summit that you can attempt if you are up for some more hiking and more fascinating views.
At the end of the trail sign on the saddle, you must turn left, passing behind the rock on a narrow trail.
Walk here for a while and turn left again that leads to a steep incline that you need to climb for another summit.
The ground here is not very wide, so take care of your steps, but do not forget to enjoy the fantastic views from here, one of the Cathedral rock towering in front of you, with the rest of the beautiful panorama against it.
To complete the hike, retrace your steps back to your vehicle. Exercise extreme caution on your way down as there might be others climbing up and going down as well.
CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA VIA BALDWIN TRAIL – THE BEST ALTERNATIVE
- Distance – 4 miles roundtrip
- Elevation – 1000 ft
- Trailhead – Baldwin Trailhead
- Duration – 2 to 4 hours
- Route – Baldwin Trail > Templeton Trail > Cathedral Rock Trail > Cathedral Rock
If you cannot hike from the Cathedral Rock trailhead because of no parking availability, the next best trail to hike to the Cathedral Rock Sedona is the Baldwin trailhead, located on Verde Valley School Road in Oak Creek village.
From the Back O Beyond road lot, drive for about 9 miles to arrive at Baldwin trailhead.
There are plenty of parking options at this trailhead, and you can use the same Red Rock or America the Beautiful Pass here. There is a restroom on the premises.
From the Baldwin Trailhead, start the hike on the Baldwin trail Sedona following the signs to arrive at the steep inclination to reach the top of Cathedral Rock.
Recommended – A Guide To Hiking The Baldwin Trail In Sedona
CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA VIA THE RED ROCK CROSSING TRAIL
- Distance – 4 miles roundtrip
- Elevation – 1000 ft
- Trailhead – Crescent Moon Picnic Site
- Duration – 2 to 4 hours
- Route – Templeton Trail > Cathedral Rock Trail > Cathedral Rock
Red Rock Crossing Trail is another way to access the Cathedral Rock Sedona, and it is fun as you need to cross Oak Creek on this trail.
If you are going to do the hike via the Red Crossing trail, parking is available at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site.
You can use the same Big Three Pass if you plan to hike West Fork Trail, one of the popular hikes near Sedona.
But note that to access this parking space, the Red Rock Pass or the America National Parks Pass do not work.
You need to purchase another pass – Big Three Pass to enter Crescent Moon Picnic Site, which can be purchased at the machine near the entry.
Since you need to drive for about 10 miles from Back O Beyond Road to reach the Red Crossing trail at Crescent Moon Picnic Site, the best time to do the hike on this trail is in the afternoon, as the western part of Cathedral Rock offers beautiful glowing views in the afternoon sun.
Follow the trail and cross the creek, which usually has lower water levels in spring and fall.
After crossing Oak Creek, follow along the creek, heading toward Cathedral Rock. The hike is flat until the climb is needed on the last part.
Note that this trail then is called the Templeton Trail( it is a Red Crossing trail but the trail changes names). This path eventually joins the Cathedral Rock Trail.
YAVAPAI VISTA POINT
- Distance – 6 miles roundtrip
- Elevation – 1100 ft
- Trailhead – Yavapai Vista Point
- Duration – 2 to 4 hours
- Route – Yavapai Vista Point > Hermit Trail > Templeton Trail > Cathedral Rock Trail > Cathedral Rock
Yavapai Vista Point, also known as the Templeton Trail is one of the longer hikes to reach Cathedral Rock Sedona.
An early morning hike for sunrise is the best if you plan to hike from this trail as the early morning sun casts beautiful light making Cathedral Rock’s eastern parts glow.
Yavapai Vista Point is located on Highway 179, and you need to drive for about 3 miles if you are arriving from Back O Beyond Road.
Yavapai Vista Point parking lot is larger, but since it shares with Bell Rock trail, on busy days, getting a parking spot can be challenging here, so you need to get early if you plan to be here for sunrise
The trail runs for around 3.5 miles in total, passing Cathedral Rock Trail to the North and continuing West until it ends where Red Rock Crossing Trail and Baldwin Trail meet.
From the Yavapai Vista parking lot, take the Hermit trail that joins Templeton Trail and leads finally to Cathedral Rock.
This hike, mostly flat until you reach Cathedral Rock, is 6 miles roundtrip and takes about 3 hours or more.
You can also take the Slim Shady Trail from the Yavapai Vista parking lot, which also connects to the Templeton Trail and then to Cathedral Rock.
Although it is six miles roundtrip, there is slightly more elevation gain on the Slim Shady Trail.
TIPS FOR HIKING CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA
START THE HIKE EARLY
As parking fills most of the time quickly, starting the hike early in the morning is best, ideally around or right after sunrise.
Apart from securing parking spaces, you can hike without crowds and enjoy photographing and peacefully exploring the trail and cave.
WEAR GOOD HIKING SHOES
A portion of the hike is very steep, almost vertical, and it requires you to scramble. It is best to wear sturdy hiking shoes with great grip as the rocks can be slippery after and around rain.
HIKE AROUND SUNSET OR SUNRISE
While sunset is the popular time for hiking the Cathedral Rock Sedona, it can be crowded thanks to its popularity.
If you want to avoid crowds and love getting up early, we recommend walking around sunrise.
If you plan to hike around sunset, carry a headlamp or a torch to help you safely get back down in the dark.
If you choose to hike Cathedral Rock from the Baldwin trailhead, Red Rock Crossing, or the Crescent Moon Picnic Site, the best time is in the afternoon for the best light conditions.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR PATH WHILE HIKING
Keep looking at the GPS and track your trail once you begin your hike to know your route and to ensure that you can periodically check in and see you’re on the right path.
RESPECT THE LAND
The Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona and the surrounding areas, including the Sedona Subway Cave, are spiritual significance and sacred sites to the Native Americans that should be respected at all times.
Do not remove anything from the area, make rock piles, or move the rocks or graffiti rocks.
Also, Cathedral Rock Sedona is known for its vortex energy. Whether you believe in vortexes or not, respect the idea and treat the land as such.
CARRY SNACKS AND WATER
It is better to carry some snacks and water if you plan to stay there for a while to wait for the sunset or sunrise.
The Cathedral Rock Sedona may be a short hike, but it can be moderately complex, mainly due to the scramble involved. Some snacks will surely help you.
LEAVE NO TRACE
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace when hiking:
- Packing out what you bring to the hiking trail.
- Being considerate of other hikers.
- Staying on the course.
- Minimising campfire impacts.
- Not approaching or feeding wildlife.
If you are specifically planning to do photography of the Cathedral Rock Sedona, it is best to go in the morning or late afternoon around sunset for stunning views.
But these times will be crowded as the cave has become a popular hiking destination in Sedona, so you will have to wait for your turn.
Expect a waiting period of at least 30 minutes to one hour here.
FOLLOW THE TRAIL
The last part of arriving at the cave involves climbing. Take the bank climb, not the rock climb, as it is steeper and more strenuous.
ALTERNATIVE PARKING AND TRAILHEAD
If you cannot park in one of the two designated lots for the Cathedral Rock trail in Sedona, consider the overflow parking at the Yavapai Point Parking Lot, about two miles south on Highway 179.
But note that Yavapai Point also has limited parking space, and parking here means it adds almost 4 miles one way to your hike via the Templeton Trail.
Consider this into account if you plan to park here.
Wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses along with keeping yourself hydrated as there is no shade and the trail is in the open.
FAQS ABOUT CATHEDRAL ROCK SEDONA
How long does the Cathedral Rock Sedona hike take?
The Cathedral Rock hike in Sedona takes about 2 to 6 hours depending on your chosen trail.
Is Cathedral Rock Trail Sedona Hard?
Although the distance is short at over a mile, Cathedral Rock Sedona is a moderate hike due to a steep incline gradient and some scrambling involved.
Why is Cathedral Rock famous?
Cathedral Rock Sedona is famous for its distinct giant red spire rocks towering over the desert landscapes.
It is also known for its vortex energy and splendid views from the top, especially during sunset and sunrise.
What Is The Elevation Of Cathedral Rock?
The elevation of the Cathedral Rock summit is about 5000ft above sea level. There is an elevation gain of about 600 feet from the trailhead to the summit.
Is Cathedral Rock A Vortex?
Yes, Cathedral Rock is considered an up-flow vortex and is a sacred site to the native people
Is Cathedral Rock Hike Dog Friendly?
Yes, the Cathedral Rock Trail hike in Sedona is pet-friendly, but dogs must be kept on a short leash at all times.