ArizonaHiking GuidesSedona

Cathedral Rock Hiking Guide

Cathedral Rock near Sedona, Arizona


Cathedral Rock is an oft-photographed butte near Sedona. It is quite popular and deservedly so, given the rock formation’s striking beauty. To get a good view of it and the surrounding landscape, pay a visit to Red Rock Crossing or Red Rock State Park. If you are interested in a more intimate experience with Cathedral Rock, read further.

There is a short but steep trail you can take to the saddle of Cathedral Rock, where imposing views of its red sandstone pillars can be enjoyed up close. It’s only 1 1/2 miles out and back with 600 feet elevation gain, but after the first quarter mile, the dirt footpath gives way to a slick rock scramble. The hike is non-technical, the route is well-marked by cairns, and it is sure to get your heart rate up.

Cathedral Rock's sandstone spires during golden hour
Cathedral Rock’s sandstone spires during golden hour. March 2017

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1.5 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 600 feet
  • Fee: Free, but Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass are required to park
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate


If you have read about or spent any time in Sedona, then you have probably heard about “vortexes”, defined as specific locations where energy inspires self-healing and good feelings.

I do not lay claim to any mystical knowledge about vortexes, but I can tell you that Cathedral Rock is a special place; if only for its heavenly views, colorful sandstone palette, and the way its rocks contour delightfully against magical skies.

This is a fantastic hike at sunrise, sunset, and even at night – for star gazing or astrophotography. If you happen to go here at night, be sure to bring a headlamp as it is difficult to follow the route down, even with one.

Prickly pear cactus at Cathedral Rock
A prickly pear cactus creeps along a ledge at Cathedral Rock


From Sedona, turn onto Arizona State Route 179 and head south. Turn right onto Back o’ Beyond Road, continue 0.6 miles then turn right at Cathedral Rock Trailhead.

Cathedral Rock is located within the Red Rock District of Coconino National Forest, just a few miles from Sedona.

Get Directions




Topographic Maps


Cathedral Rock
Another great view of Cathedral Rock. December 2019

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock from Baldwin Trail
Cathedral Rock from Baldwin Trail. February 2019
Looking west from the saddle at Cathedral Rock
Looking west from the saddle at Cathedral Rock. March 2017
Courthouse Rock (left) and Bell Rock (right) from Cathedral Rock
Courthouse Rock (left) and Bell Rock (right) from Cathedral Rock. March 2017
Cathedral Rock is comprised of colorful sandstone spires
Cathedral Rock is comprised of colorful sandstone spires. January 2018
At sunset, the rocks light up in a myriad of ways at Cathedral Rock
At sunset, the rocks light up in a myriad of ways at Cathedral Rock. March 2017

One comment

  1. […] After dinner, we headed straight back to the hotel and called it a night. Unlike our college days I now need my beauty rest if I plan to function in the morning. Rarely on a trip and I slamming on the alarm clock at 6AM, but if you are planning to hike in the desert, the morning is your friend. With hesitation, I strapped on my hiking boots, and headed over to the iconic Cathedral Rock. […]

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