I can’t believe I’ve never done the Cathedral Rock Trail until last weekend. It was so awesome and right up my alley. I wish it was a tad longer but it’s still super worth it regardless.
Of course we went on a holiday weekend. Holiday weekend plus perfect weather in Sedona always = packed. But, this trail was not nearly as busy as some others and we had no issue making the hike up.
Round-trip this hike was about 1.32 miles (give or take a bit since you can go a couple of different lines up/down) and has an elevation gain of about 733 feet. This hike isn’t made for people afraid of heights, slipping, or those who are unsure of their footing. It consists of scrambling up the rocks until you make your way to the top (and of course the same coming down!). The pictures below give a good idea of how far up the hike takes you. It’s from the first spot where you can decide to turn around and go back or continue on to the actual end of the trail. The first photo is zoomed out to capture the surroundings and if you look closely, there is a group of mountain bikers spread out in the middle of the photo. The second picture is zoomed in on the mountain bikers as far as my camera would allow without a better lens…
The rocks aren’t super slippery but in some spots there is a light layer of dirt that you need to watch out for and it will definitely require your attention so as not to slip when climbing up/down a couple of cracks in the rocks. (Tip: when you scramble down on a hike like this, it’s actually much easier to turn around and come down facing the rocks rather than with your back to them. Seems counterintuitive but it’s MUCH easier and you have the ability to use the same hand and footholds you used when you climbed up.)
Here’s the profile of our hike from my Garmin vivoactive (which I LOVE):
As always, make sure you’re hydrated and bring water!! Although it was an absolutely gorgeous weather day and it was not a high-degree day by any means– we still saw folks who were in need of water and actually offered water to one person. Dress appropriately in activewear and wear sunscreen if you’re likely to burn– this is an exposed hike until you get closer to the top. Wear shoes with tread and leave the chuck taylor’s at home!
I wouldn’t personally recommend this hike to beginners and it’s probably not the best for little kids, either. (Doesn’t mean they can’t complete it- just might be a bit more challenging than a more experienced adult hiker).
If you like scrambling up rocks/boulders, are confident in your footing, and don’t mind a moderate to hard hike depending upon your view of the hike, Cathedral Rock Trail is an amazing hike. If you’re still getting comfortable with some of these things– just take your time and be careful if you go. While this is not a hard hike for myself or my husband, this is rated as “moderate” on alltrails.com.
There’s a spot where you can stop on the way up to kind of wander a little bit and take in some pretty great views if you don’t want to go all the way to the end. If you continue to the end of the trail, which ends up in the saddle of the rocks, you will be doing yourself a huge favor. You will be able to get an amazingly beautiful view of the red rocks of Sedona (while being on one of the famous ones!). If you look south once at the top, you can even spot the town of Jerome off in the distance.
There is even this huge flat boulder at the top of the trail (just to the side of the “end of trail” sign that has a couple of flat smaller boulders right next to it forming a rock table and rock bench. It’s kind of the perfect spot to sit and have a snack or two and take in the surrounding views.
Definitely do the Cathedral Rock Trail if you’re looking for a short hike that will get your heart rate up and provide you amazing views of Sedona. (Tip: there are two parking lots to park in that you’ll need to get a red rock pass for when you park and there’s some street parking. But, you should NOT park beyond the signs that tell you there’s a $180 fine. You will likely get a ticket because this IS enforced).
This Friday is REI’s “OptOutside” push, so if you’re in the area of Sedona, this would be a great way to opt outside instead of opting to shop on Black Friday.