Cathedral Rock Trail Fast Facts
Length: ~1 mile
Elevation gain: 775 ft.
Type: Out and Back
Dogs: Yes, on a leash
Approximate time to hike: 1.5-2 hours
Red Rock Pass: Required.
Parking: Cathedral Rock Trailhead
Local tip: Try and time your trip so that you can see the sunrise or sunset from the top!
About the Cathedral Rock Trail Hike
One of the most photographed landscape sights in all of Western America, Cathedral Rock is among Sedona’s most heavily trafficked trails – and for good reason. The views at the top of the trail are second to none, and the trail isn’t actually all that hard to hike. Expect a relatively short and steep hike, with plenty of minor obstacles.
Cathedral Rock Trail isn’t an “easy” hike, but it’s not a particularly challenging hike either. Considering the views at the top and how quick of a trek iit can be, hiking Cathedral Rock is something everyone visiting Sedona should consider. We recommend arriving a little early, around 7:00 a.m., to find parking as the trail tends to get busier around 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Be sure to pack sunscreen and water as well, because there’s not much shade on this trail.
How to Hike to Cathedral Rock in Sedona
After parking in the parking lots near the trailhead, make your way to the start of the 1.3 mile out and back trail. Once you’re actually on the trail, you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as much of a “trail” as it is a scramble. The beginning of the trail requires you hike across some rocky terrain before arriving at the ascent. The first climb is fairly simple with a clear path marked by basket cairns and rock staircases, and leads to a plateau just before the Templeton Trail and Cathedral Rock Trail juncture.
About midway through the hike you’ll come across a crevasse in the rock formation. This is the point where many hikers decide to turn around, but if you can scramble up the rock the views at the top are more than worth your effort. There are plenty of hand and footholds on the ascent which rises at a 45-degree angle for about 40 ft., though it may be too much for hikers who are afraid of heights. Please be careful when scrambling up this portion of rock, as they can be very slippery at night or after rainfall.
Once you’ve climbed to the top of the crevasse, you still have quite a bit of elevation to go – though the path is not as steep. You’re not out of the woods yet though, as there are some more challenging parts of the path where the rock formations offer fewer hand and footholds. If you’re ever unsure of the best way to move forward, we recommend taking a second to look ahead at what the other hikers are doing. One of the plus-sides of choosing a more trafficked trail is that you can learn from others as you go! Once you make it to the top you’ll find another plateau where many hikers stop and rest before making their final ascent to the summit that is now just within reach.
With the hardest parts of the trail behind you, the final ascent to the top of Cathedral Rock is the actually the easiest part of the day. All that’s left is a steady trail with a rocky staircase before you reach a sign that reads “End of Trail” – as if the stunning views weren’t enough to let you know that you made it!
Be careful on your way back down the hike, as there will be other hikers ascending as you are descending the rock formations. We recommend wearing pants that you don’t mind getting roughed up, as you might spend some time crab walking on your way down.
Quick Tips to Hike Cathedral Rock Trail
- Bring sunscreen and water as there is little shade, if any, on this trail.
- Red Rock Passes are required to hike this trail, and a daily pass can be purchased for $5 at the Cathedral Rock Trailhead (machine accepts credit cards only).
- Plan ahead for parking, as it is very limited at Cathedral Rock. There are two designated lots near the trailhead that fill up very quickly. Keep in mind that turnover of these spots can also be quick, as the trail doesn’t take all that long to complete.
- Remember to bring a camera (or cellphone) with you – you’ll want pictures at the end!