Cathedral Rock Trail In Sedona, AZ.

(2024) Cathedral Rock Trail Guide: All You Need To Know

One of the most iconic landmarks to visit in Sedona, Arizona is Cathedral Rock. The summit sits just less that 5000 feet high and requires a short yet steep hike to take in the views. The Cathedral Rock Trail is popular for engagement photos and elopements during sunset and sunrise when the sun casts a beautiful glow on the surrounding rocks.

This is the perfect hiking trail in Sedona for visitors seeking a short hike to view the iconic Red Rock landscape Sedona is famous for!

In this guide we’ll cover how to get to the trailhead, when the best time to hike is, and all important trail details. Sedona has implemented a shuttle system which makes reaching the trailhead a bit more difficult than it used to be. Let’s get started!

Cathedral Rock Trail Stats

  • Hiking Distance | 1.2 miles RT
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Elevation Gain | 556 feet
  • Total Time | 1-2 hours
  • Permits/Fees | Red Rock Pass or National Parks Pass
  • Trailhead | Cathedral Rock Trailhead
  • Road Conditions | Paved, 2WD.
  • Dog Friendly | Yes.

Below is a map of the route along Cathedral Rock Trail.

Cathedral Rock Trailhead In Sedona, Arizona | Map.

There are a few different trails that lead to Cathedral Rock but in this guide we’re going to cover the most popular and direct route. There is one section that proves difficult for some to scramble due to the slick rock. The Trail can also be difficult to follow at times as it traverses exposed rock. You’ll have to follow the rock cages when the trail isn’t obvious.

We’ll cover all of these details in this guide. But first, how do you get to Cathedral Rock Trailhead?

Getting To Cathedral Rock Trailhead

Cathedral Rock Trail is easily accessible from the city which makes it a popular destination so parking fills up fast. You can map it with Google Maps or follow directions below.

Take Hwy 179 south towards the Village Of Oak Creek. Turn right onto Back O Beyond Road at one of the roundabouts and travel down this road a little ways. You’ll see the trailhead parking on the left. This parking lot is small and fills up fast so you’ll want to arrive early.

If the main parking lot is full there is another small one just down the road, also on the left. If you park here you’ll still need to buy a Red Rock Pass and the station to purchase it is at the main parking lot. If you have an America The Beautiful or National Parks Pass you can display that in your window in place of the Red Rock Pass.

There is a groomed trail connecting the parking lots so you don’t have to walk in the road. Cathedral Rock Trail starts directly off of the main parking lot and is easy to find!

Sedona Shuttle

The city of Sedona has implemented a free public shuttle that runs year round in order to mitigate the over crowding on trails and roads. It runs Thursday-Sunday and services a number of popular trailheads throughout the city including Cathedral Rock.

If the Sedona Shuttle services a trailhead you are not able to drive to that trailhead during operating hours– you are required to use the shuttle. For more information visit the Sedona Shuttle website.

When To Hike Cathedral Rock Trail

With this being such a popular hike you’ll want to start either very early in the morning, maybe for sunrise, or at least before 8 a.m. on the weekends. You could also hike in the evening during dinner time or for sunset to miss the crowds. Cathedral Rock is definitely one of the best sunset hikes in Sedona and I highly suggest it.

Sedona is very hot in the summer and although this hike is short, it makes you work for it and leaves you completely exposed to the sun. I’d only hike this one in the summer if you plan on getting a very early start.

Spring, fall, and winter are the best times to dodge the heat and hike comfortably in Sedona, especially if you aren’t used to desert heat!

Hiking Cathedral Rock Trail

The hike to Cathedral Rock begins on a leveled dirt path marked well with signs. In roughly 0.3 miles the trail will intersect with the Templeton Trail. Continue straight. From here on out the trail becomes steep, making you put in the work for the reward.

There are sections of Cathedral Rock Trail that are easier than others. Some sections are very steep and may require you to use your hands for balance as you scramble up the slick rock. Be sure to have shoes with good grip because this rock is a bit slippery, especially when wet.

Cathedral Rock Trail In Sedona.
Cathedral Rock Trail, Sedona.

Along the way you’ll most likely ‘lose’ the trail since most of it is traversing across exposed rock sections. No need to worry! Rock cages were built (pictured above) and strategically placed to help you find your way. Not every single one has a sign accompanying it, so keep a look out for these if you seem to have lost your way.

It is only 0.6 miles to the top so the hike will quickly become either moderate or difficult, depending on your skill level. There is one very steep and slick scramble up a narrow crevice in the rock, pictured below. There is no way to bypass this section and I promise it isn’t as scary as it looks- don’t let this deter you from reaching the saddle!

Climbing up Cathedral Rock Trail.

The rest of the way is steep but there are plenty of areas to stop to catch your breath while you take in the views.A lot of groups meet on the flat rock areas near the base of Cathedral Rock to meditate or do yoga while taking in the vortex’s energy.

As you begin to approach the saddle at the top the views grow more and more beautiful. You’ll have great vantage points to stop and look out behind you to see part of the city of Sedona. The lighting in the morning is beautiful but I almost prefer it near sunset. The photos in this post are from my sunset hike, and as you can see the orange is already beginning to cast an orange glow where we’re headed.

Cathedral Rock Trail | Best Sedona Sunset Hike.

Sooner than you think you’ll be at the top and can finally relax! Depending on the time of day there won’t be much shade here. If you still have energy after the climb you can explore around the area. There is another little trail that leads off to the left to a less populated view between the rocks.

To the right of the saddle is the popularly photographed ledge called Cathedral Rock viewpoint! This is the spot (pictured below) where everyone takes their photography shots.

Every time I’ve been to Cathedral Rock the other hikers have been considerate and helpful when taking photos. There are many stunning angles you can get here in order to capture the sun peeking around the rocks.

Cathedral Rock At Sunset | Best Sedona Sunset Hike.
Cathedral Rock Trail At Sunset | Best Sedona Sunset Hike.

Once you’ve explored the area and gotten your fill of the views just retrace your steps back to the trailhead. If you are hiking at sunset just go slow and take careful steps. Don’t forget a headlamp because once the sun goes down the desert grows very dark very fast!

Other Great Sedona Hikes

While you’re in the area you might as well check out a couple- if not all- of these other epic Sedona hikes! These are all easily accessible from the city and ones you won’t want to miss!

  • Soldier Pass Cave One of the most unique caves in the area to climb up in. Along the way you’ll hike past Devil’s Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools, two other very unique points of interest.
  • Devil’s Bridge You’ll get to hike out onto the largest natural sandstone arch in the area. Another iconic Sedona landmark that must be visited!
  • Birthing Cave- A short hike to a very interesting cave. This one will make you work strategically in order to photograph it.

Final thoughts on Cathedral Rock

I’m a sucker for a good climb and rewarding views so Cathedral Rock will always be fun for me to photograph. I’ve visited once in the early morning and once for sunset. I have to say sunset is stunning when sitting at the viewpoint.

Although it can gain heavy foot traffic, Cathedral Rock is worth hiking to if you’re visiting the area. Especially since it is such a short hike! If you’re a photographer you’ll love this one.

As always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.

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8 thoughts on “(2024) Cathedral Rock Trail Guide: All You Need To Know

  1. Vitaliy Gershfeld says:

    Hi Kara great seeing your experiences with the Cathedral Rock! Just wanted to share my personal experiences with this trail too and possibly some additional stuff I found interesting when I went:

    I personally had over 700 feet of elevation gain when I reached the top, plus there’s another 50+ if you want to see a place called the 3 Sisters which is close to the Cathedral Rock summit/overlook. Both summits are incredible and I inadvertently went around sunset which turned out to be an awesome experience too (it was also during winter so there weren’t many people at the summit).

    Just curious if you also did this hike around that time and also saw those 3 sisters area?

    • Kara says:

      Hi! Thank you for reading and sharing your experience. I actually still need to explore more of the little areas around Cathedral Rock including 3 Sisters, not just the main saddle! I’d love to return and do more exploring. Hopefully I can soon 🙂

  2. James says:

    Hello Kara,
    There is an great loop hike that goes up the regular Cathedral Saddle, then proceeds up to the “male” saddle,
    then down that saddle and eventually down a somewhat challenging wash/canyon. You can return via the
    south side of Templeton back to the Cathedral trail or continue down the wash and end up at the parking
    lot. Some scrambling but highly recommended.

    • Kara says:

      Hi James! I’ve heard of this “other way to hike” Cathedral Rock before but your description gave me a better idea of it. I’ll have to look it up, I’d love to do it one day 🙂 Thank so much for sharing and for reading my post!

  3. Aranda says:

    Absolutely love your blog! Your photos at Cathedral Rock are fantastic. I’ve always wanted to travel to Arizona but it’s on my list of places to see and I’m not sure we will get there any time soon. I’ll bookmark this page though in case we get the chance. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Kara says:

      Thank you for reading, Aranda! I hope you get to make it to Arizona some day for it is truly a special place. Whenever you get the chance to start planning your trip I’m always here to help with rec’s 🙂

  4. Donna Garrison says:

    Your photos are stunning, Cathedral Rock is such a beautiful area. I am not sure I would want to get that close to the cliff edge. I’m feeling nervous just looking at that photo. Though it does make for a great memory of the hike.

    • Kara says:

      Thank you so much, Donna! Being that close to the edge gets me a little queasy even so I don’t blame you. I’m always slow and sure of my footing when approaching 🙂

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