If you are into beautiful red rock landscapes, or you are looking to experience the energy of the vortexes around Sedona, Arizona, then the Cathedral Rock hike should be on your bucket list. But if you’re planning, you may be wondering: how long does it take to hike Cathedral Rock?
The Cathedral Rock hike in Sedona, Arizona, is approximately 1.2 miles out and back, yet due to the steep terrain, it takes between one and a half and two hours to complete. It is advisable to budget extra time to find parking at the trailhead due to the popularity of this trail.
With magnificent views across the surrounding landscape, getting to the top of Cathedral Rock is well worth it. We provide the information you need to get to the top and make the most out of your trip to Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Why Does It Take Two Hours To Hike Cathedral Rock?
The Cathedral Rock hike is only 0.6 miles from the trailhead to the summit of Cathedral Rock, yet more than half of hikers who begin don’t even make it the whole distance to the summit, giving up along the way.
The terrain is steep (700 feet of elevation gain over those 0.6 miles), and the rock is smooth. The terrain has always been steep; the rock has worn smooth due to the high volume of hikers utilizing this popular trail.
It takes around two hours to hike Cathedral Rock. Some people have hiked this route in around one and a half hours, but this doesn’t allow much time to rest at the summit and enjoy the spectacular views.
Some hikers have estimated that it takes around 40-60 minutes for the ascent and slightly less for the descent. One of the factors that will affect how long you take is how many other people are on the trail.
Some people take a bit longer than two hours, as the route is quite a scramble, and one’s fitness level plays a role in how long it will take. It is worth picking one’s way carefully over the rocks, and we highly recommend budgeting time to enjoy being at the summit.
There are also a couple of short side trails at the top, and exploring these is worthwhile. One gives a view of an exposed lava dike. Doing so will add to your time on the hike, so factor this in.
The Cathedral Rock Route And Longer Alternatives
The route up Cathedral Rock begins with a short but challenging hike over rough terrain before the first ascent, marked by basket cairns and hand- and footholds.
At the quarter-mile mark, you emerge onto a broad ledge, Courthouse Butte Vista, which offers good views northward toward Sedona and the mountains beyond. Many people stop at this point and don’t complete the entire hike to the Cathedral Rock viewpoint.
A steep ascent over bare rock follows. There are holds in the rock on the more vertical sections. Basket cairns mark the way across several ledges and a river bed. Take care not to turn onto the Templeton Trail crossing.
A final moderately steep climb leads to a saddle between two spires, the last lookout point of the Cathedral Rock trail. It is marked with an ‘End of Trail’ sign.
Return by the same route.
You can also park at the Crescent Moon picnic site and follow the Red Rock Crossing trail. It becomes the Templeton Trail, joining the Cathedral Rock trail. This hike is a 4-mile round trip, has 1000 feet of elevation gain, and takes two to four hours.
You can access this trail from the Baldwin trailhead on Verde Valley School Road in Oak Creek.
Another way to get to the Cathedral Rock viewpoint is to hike from Yavapai Vista Point using the Hermit Trail or Slim Shady Trail to reach the Templeton trail and then continue as above. This route will give you a 6 mile round trip with around 1,100 feet of elevation gain.
Tips For A Hike To Cathedral Rock
We recommend that you hike in May, September, or October, as temperatures are at their most equitable (around 73-84 degrees Fahrenheit by day and 45-58 degrees at night).
We do not recommend that you hike in the middle of the day in summer, as temperatures reach around 90 degrees. However, you will experience lower crowds in summer than in spring or fall.
The longer summer days are conducive to hiking at sunrise or sunset, and you will be rewarded with spectacular light across the landscape. You may also see hot-air balloonists flying their crafts if you hike at dawn.
Winter brings lower crowds, but temperatures can get below freezing. Winter also brings possible snow. While snow on the red rock landscapes is picturesque, it makes the already smooth rock more slippery than ever.
Due to the slip factor, we do not recommend hiking Cathedral Rock any time that it has been snowing or raining. Your hike will take a lot longer; at worst, you risk injury from slipping on the smooth rocks.
You can hike Cathedral Rock at night, but it will take longer due to the need to pick your way carefully. Remember to bring headlamps for night hiking: you will need light to find your way and your hands free!
Other Information You Will Need About Hiking Cathedral Rock
Park in the Cathedral Rock trailhead parking lot on Back O Beyond Road to access the trail. Due to this hike’s popularity, you may struggle to get parking; we recommend that you budget extra time to find parking.
You will need a Red Rock Pass (sold at the trailhead) or an America the Beautiful Pass to park in this parking lot.
This hike is in the desert, so protect yourself against the sun and carry plenty of water.
The shortest route to the Cathedral Rock viewpoint is from the Cathedral Rock trailhead parking lot on Back O Beyond Road. This route is a 1.2-mile round trip that will take around two hours due to the steepness of the terrain.
However, because this is a highly popular trail, you may struggle to get parking at this parking lot. You can take alternative routes, which will take longer (two hours longer or more).