Planning a hike to Cathedral Rock, Sedona? This handy guide has all practical tips and insider info you need before taking on this scenic trek.

Hiking to Cathedral Rock is one of the most sought-after things to do in Sedona, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Picture this: a dramatically-shaped natural sandstone butte towering over the Sedona skyline with sweeping views of the red county at the top. What’s there not to love?

Cathedral Rock is a popular hike among nature and travel photographers, and people even go to take their wedding pictures here, so don’t expect solitude during your trek. But you can expect stunning views of Sedona from the top and, perhaps, a spiritual awakening at the vortex — more about that later.

Convinced yet? Read on to learn all you need to know before tackling the hike to Cathedral Rock in Arizona.

Hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail: In Detail

The Cathedral Rock Trailhead

Before you get going, you’ll first need to find the Cathedral Rock trailhead; luckily, it’s pretty easy to get to. 

From Sedona, you’ll take Highway 179 toward Red Rock State Park. Then take the offramp into Back O’ Beyond Road.

Keep driving until you see the Cathedral Rock Trail parking lot — it’s actually two parking lots sitting side by side, and together accommodate roughly about 45 cars. It’s worth noting that the Back O’ Beyond Road parking lots close between 7 am and 5:30 pm from Thursday to Sunday. During this time, visitors will need to use the Sedona Shuttle Service.

The Cathedral Rock Hike

Cathedral Rock Trail

Now that you’ve located the trailhead, it’s time to take on one of the most stunning hikes in Arizona. This is a relatively short hike, with a length of 1.2 miles out and back, and takes about one to two hours to complete. But that’s not to say it is easy.

You see, trekking to Cathedral Rock is more of a climb than a hike. Although it’s a short route, the path almost immediately starts gaining elevation, and you’ll have to scramble up and climb several boulders to get to the summit. 

Follow the large wire baskets of rocks that mark the trail or the line of people in front of you to get to the top of Cathedral Rock. The trail ends at a wide saddle between two sandstone spires, where you’ll get sweeping views of the surrounding red-rock landscape.

Top tip: this route is unshaded, so don’t forget your sunscreen and water bottle. 

The Cathedral Rock Summit

Once you reach the top, you’ll soon discover that the Cathedral Rock view is worth the huffing and puffing it took to get there. Views from the summit are especially stunning during sunset or sunrise.

You’ll find a ledge that wraps around the top of Cathedral Rock, giving you space to roam around and get 360-degree views. The ledge is about five feet wide, so you’ll have enough room to explore, but the drop-off is quite steep, so it’s best to stay away from the edges, especially if you’re afraid of heights.

Top Tip: Check the sunrise and sunset time at Cathedral Rock, Sedona and ensure you get there about 30-45 minutes before to get a great spot. I’m not kidding when I say the views are incredible at these times.

The Cathedral Rock, Sedona Vortex

Oak Creek and Cathedral Rock, Sedona Arizona

Aside from the scenic views you’ll get atop Cathedral Rock, would you believe me if I said there’s something even more intriguing? That’s the Cathedral Rock Vortex, one of four in the city and a big reason why people add this hike to their Sedona itinerary

The vortex energy is said to be calming, inspiring and grounding. Whether you are spiritual or not, there is no denying that this special place will leave you awestruck. 

To reach the vortex, take a left turn at the summit and follow the rocky trail until you reach a hidden pillar.

The Cathedral Rock Alternative Route

You can use two alternative routes to get to Cathedral Rock from within the Red Rock State Park — Red Rock Crossing Trail and Baldwin Trailhead.

The Red Rock Crossing Trail starts at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site, where you’ll have to cross a body of water – Oak Creek – to access the Red Crossing Trailhead. Keep walking until this path merges with the Baldwin Trail to become the Templeton Trail. 

Continue along the path until you reach the Cathedral Rock Trail. This route is about 4.3 miles and takes two to four hours to complete. This is a popular alternative route as it has scenic views of Oak Creek with backdrops of Cathedral Rock.

The second route to hike to Cathedral Rock is the Baldwin Trail. You can access this path from Verde Valley School Road. 

Head north along the Baldwin Trail towards the Red Rock Crossing Trail. From here, you’ll follow the Templeton Trail to Cathedral Rock. This 3.7-mile out-and-back route takes two to three hours to complete.

Practical Tips for Hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona

  • Timing is everything, so make sure you read up on the best time to visit Sedona to get an optimal experience of Cathedral Rock.
  • The hike to Cathedral Rock is mainly climbing and scrambling up slippery slickrock, so wear durable and comfortable hiking shoes. Check out my review of the Tropicfeel shoes – these are ideal for this hike.
  • Like I’ve mentioned, the path has no shade, so bring a sun hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun. Also, remember to bring lots of water and snacks to avoid dehydration.
  • The Cathedral Rock sunset is a must-see, so arrive early enough to get a good spot in the parking lot and at the summit. You can opt for the Cathedral Rock sunrise instead, but you’ll need to arrive early.

The Cathedral Rock Hike, Sedona: FAQs

Cathedral Rock Trail Map

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