Hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona

Hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona

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Of all the wonderful things to do in Sedona, Arizona, one of the most popular activities is trekking up the Cathedral Rock Trail.  This trail is no secret-hundreds of adventure seekers hike here every day, even in the heat of the summer.  However, there’s a reason why so many people do-the hike is fairly short (though a bit steep in spots), has great views during the majority of the hike and has a wonderful overlook and even a bit of shade on the top of the trail!

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, ArizonaWhile this hike is not for everyone and does have a significant amount of sun exposure, it is perfect for active families with kids that can stand to walk and scramble up the side of the canyon walls and don’t mind using their hands to help support themselves while doing so. 
We highly recommend this hike, and are confident that you’ll like it as well!


  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 1.2 miles (round-trip)
  • Trail: Out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 740 feet
  • Peak elevation reached: 4,842 feet
  • Best time of year to hike: Fall through spring
  • To beat the crowds: Arrive before 7:30 am or after 4:00 pm
  • Footwear: Hiking boots
  • Watch out for: Sun exposure
  • Restrooms: Located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Time needed: 1 hour


Cathedral Rock Trailhead parking area

The Cathedral Rock Trailhead is located about 4.3 miles south of the town of Sedona, which is reached by traveling south on Highway 179.  When reaching the 5th traffic circle (after getting on 179), take a right (west) on the Back O Beyond Road.  After just over 0.5 miles, the Cathedral Rock Trailhead is on your left.


There are about 40 parking spots between two adjacent parking lots.  There is room to park on Back O Beyond Road, but only a little.  Make sure you check the signs around the lots to verify that it’s legal to park in your chosen spot, or the hike could turn into a bit of a longer “adventure” than you initially signed up for!

If there isn’t a parking spot available when you arrive, you may have to wait a bit.  Spots open up about once every 3-5 minutes, depending on the time of day (it will be longer if it is in the morning when people are just making their way out on the trail).

Many trails in Sedona require a Red Rock Pass or an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass, and Cathedral Rock is one of those.  You can purchase it right at the trailhead.

There are restrooms available at the trailhead, but there are none while out on the trail.


We can’t emphasize enough the importance of being prepared prior to heading out on this trail.  There are a few things that you’ll want to make sure you bring:

  • It’s hot and dry out here.  Even when the weather is relatively cool in the winter (it can snow here), it is very dry.  Make sure you prepare yourself by bringing a large water bottle or a hydration pack.
  • Sun Protection. We wear sunscreen and hats when we hike typically, and out here on this trail you are exposed for most of the hike.  
  • Trail Map. Ahead of your hike you’ll likely want to have a local trail map.  There is a trail map at the beginning of the hike (which you can take a photo of).  Finally, and the one that we recommend, is to grab a copy of the Sedona area hiking map from National Geographic.  It’s highly detailed, tear resistant and has great information about the area.
  • Many hikes in the Sedona area require only sneakers (or in some cases water shoes).  Some can even be done in flip-flops.  Not this hike.  For the Cathedral Rock Trail, we recommend wearing boots, or at least sturdy hiking shoes.  Either way, you’ll want something with good grip to handle the steepness of the trail and the relatively smooth rockface.  You also may even want something with ankle support, particularly when going down.



Cathedral Rock Trail map


Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

The trail begins on the southwest side of the parking area, and it really easy to find.  The first 0.2-miles is a breeze, gaining only about one hundred feet as it heads across a flat trail leading to the red rocks.  It’s here that the trail starts to gain in elevation a bit more aggressively. 

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

This incline continues for about 0.4 miles and includes an area of “one-way” only traffic through a narrow path (crevasse) between two rocks.  It was here that we had to use both our hands and feet to get up.  Our kids had no problem navigating the trail, though we ended up hiking a bit slower as we were more cautious!

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

The rest of the way up to Cathedral Rock, you start to get a taste of the view that you’ll have from the top.  Since the trail is exposed, the views the entire way up are great. 

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

The hike ends at the Cathedral Rock Overlook.  This incredible plateau sits between two large spires that bookend the viewpoint.  From here you can see Courthouse Rock, but also absolutely amazing views to the west.  The trail doesn’t actually climb the entire way up Cathedral Rock, so don’t expect to have to climb the entire way up!

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

Amy enjoyed walking over to a great photo spot on the right side of the overlook-it was too daring for me to head over there!  I just enjoyed taking photos and living to see another day hiking!

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

The hike down went quickly-the kids hiked down fast and since we got an early start we ended up meeting a lot of people on the way up.  There was a bit of a jam at the crevasse, but otherwise it went very smoothly. 

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

The entire hike was a about 1.2 miles (round-trip) and had 740 feet in total elevation gain.


If you have a bit of extra time on your hands and are looking for a bit more of a longer adventure, start at the end of Red Rock Crossing Road (or at the end of Verde Valley School Road, accessed via the town of Oak Creek to the south) and hike on the Red Rock Crossing Trail to the Baldwin and Templeton Trails.  The trail follows the Oak Creek for the majority of the hike.

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

After 1.6 miles, the trail will meet up with the Cathedral Rock Trail.  From here it is about 0.5 miles to the overlook. 

This trail has a total elevation gain of just over 1,000 feet, with most of the elevation gain happening on the Cathedral Rock Trail.

Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona



  • We hiked several trail in Sedona, and this happened to be the first. By all means, it was well worth the time!  This is one of the best trails in Sedona if you are looking for something short with a great payoff.
  • We ended up getting to the trail around 7:15 am and were glad that we did. We hiked in the summer, and this allowed us to almost beat the heat and definitely beat the crowds.  This is one of the top-rated hikes in the area and you’ll definitely want to arrive early (or in the evening).
  • This hike is a great place to view sunsets, but if you do make sure you bring a good headlamp to help you get down easily!


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Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona, Arizona

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About Just Go Travel Studios

We are Amy & Pete Brahan. Very simply, we are passionate about our National Parks and Public Lands and explore them with our three kids whenever we can.

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