Distance: 1.4 miles (out and back)
Elevation Gain: 608 ft
Trail Head: There is a parking area off of Back O’ Beyond Road
Click here for Trail Map…It’s basically just a straight line.
If cruising around the red rock formations in a pink jeep sounds too much like a tourist trap, then you’re better off traversing the lunar landscape on your own two feet…which also happens to be free. Cathedral Rock is one of the most popular trails in the area and is only a ten minute drive south of downtown Sedona.
It’s a short hike that you can easily do in a morning or afternoon, but it’s fairly steep and since the first section of the trail has no tree cover, there is complete exposure to the Arizona sun, which is so hot that they named a basketball team after it (not a good basketball team, but that’s neither here nor there). It’s actually advisable to do this hike in the afternoon, since the trail ascends the eastern slope of Cathedral Rock, thus giving you some shade if you go later in the day.
There is a small parking lot off of Back O’ Beyond Road that provides access to the trail head. From the get-go, you have views looking up at the saddle points of Cathedral Rock, so your destination is never out of sight. The first stretch of the trail is fairly flat as you approach the base of Cathedral Rock where it starts to get a bit steeper. After 0.3 miles you’ll reach a junction with Templeton Trail…it should come as no surprise that, if you’re hoping to reach Cathedral Rock, you should continue on Cathedral Rock Trail. As you continue the ascent, the trail starts to get quite steep. Luckily it’s a short hike so the steep section doesn’t last long, not to mention you have fantastic views for the duration of the hike.
The trail ends at the northern saddle of Cathederal Rock and the views in all directions are spectacular. There’s no shortage of photo ops once you reach the end of the trail, including a sign that eliminates any doubt that you are in fact at the “end of [the] trail”. There’s also a rocky ledge that many people, including ourselves, were walking out onto. The drop is precipitous but the view in the background is stunning and totally worth risking your life for.
If you can only do one hike when you’re in Sedona, you can’t go wrong with Cathedral Rock. Devil’s Bridge is another popular one, and if you’re willing to commit a full day to hiking, you can do both hikes in the same day.