Cathedral Rock

Distance.88 mi*
Elevation Gain203 feet
*I wasn’t able to finish this hike so my numbers are lower
My Time32 minutes*
DifficultyModerate
Nearest TownSedona
Food NearbyWildflower

Cathedral Rock

I really have to hand it to the people of Sedona. I was only there for a night and wanted to wake up early and do a sunrise hike. Cathedral Rock was near my hotel and seemed like it would be a great hike for the sunrise. Unfortunately, it seemed like the whole town showed up at 6 am on weekday too! It was really beautiful but I wasn’t able to finish as I will explain below.

Getting Started

The main trailhead for Cathedral rock is located in a neighborhood on Back O Beyond Road. There is only room for about 15 cars and when I pulled up it was pretty much full. Even from the parking lot you could tell this was going to be a special hike so that made sense.

Cathedral Rock standing tall in the morning light from the beginning of the the trail

The trail leads from the parking lot for about a tenth of a mile through a dirt/clay trail to get to the base of the cathedral rock ascent. From here it is about another tenth of a mile of walking on some big rocks to get to kind of the base camp of the hike. This “base camp” is a wide flat area that intersects with the Templeton Trail. At this point you will have cleared the trees at the beginning of the hike and have full view of the surroundings.

A couple of large rock formations in the sunrise from about half way up the Cathedral Rock Trail

The Climb

After this little landing is when the climb begins. The climb isn’t that bad although some of the grades get into the mid 30% range. You will also be walking mostly on large boulders from here on and just following cairns. So it is important to have shoes that have good grip on the flat rocks.

As I started up this trail I quickly realized that I would not be able to complete it because it required putting hands down for balance. Due to a pretty serious shoulder injury, I can’t do any hikes requiring me to use my hands. While I was looking at the people ahead of me, most of them seemed to reach down on all fours at some point on the ascent so I decided to back off. I did stay about half way up the rock and just enjoy the amazing views of the sun rising over Sedona.

The early morning light hitting the tops of distant rock formations around Sedona from the Cathedral Rock trail.

As I was hanging out on the rocks and watching the sunlight hit more and more of the surrounding area I realized why so many people were at this hike in the early morning.

More sunrise pictures of the rocks surrounding the Cathedral Rock Hike.

Even with so many people around on this hike and the low buzz of early morning conversations rising with the sun, the large rocks had a calming effect. This was really a special place to see a sunrise even if I didn’t make it all the way to the top.

The Cathedral rock fully in sun with shadows on the lower cliffs from the Cathedral Rock Trail.

Elevation and Distance

This one comes with a caveat as I did not finish…If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around .88 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 203 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 4,256 feet. I was also moving for a total of 32 minutes.

Effort

This one was a bit tricky as it is a short hike but can get steep. It is almost exclusively walking on the large rocks and gets to a bit of a crawl up the rocks. I didn’t get to finish this one because of the scrambling but here is the step count from my Fitbit.

The step count from the Cathedral Trail was 2,445 steps.

Terrain

Most of this hike are walking on top of large rock formations and there is a bit of scrambling which made me have to stop. I would suggest a pair of hiking shoes that have some good grip to be able to walk up the rocks.

Access

The Cathedral Rock Trailhead was really busy even at 6 am. I got one of the last spots even that early on a weekday. The trailhead is located on Back O Beyond road in a neighborhood and there is no street parking allowed so be careful of the signs. There is an automated pay station and a $5 daily park pass for the area trail uses. The parking lot has room for about 10 cars and there are pit toilet facilities available.

Wrapping up Cathedral Rock trail.

I was so disappointed that I couldn’t finish this trail. It looked so amazing to get to the top and it was a short hike so I knew I could have made it. It just wasn’t worth the risk of getting in a bad spot without a good arm to protect myself.

Even without being able to finish I really enjoyed my time here. Watching that sunrise was majestic around the large limestone cliffs of Sedona. I can’t give a ton of advice on making it to the top but even if you go here and just make it half way I think you will be really impressed with the amazing views.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

5 thoughts on “Cathedral Rock”

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