Hiking to the top of Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ should be on everyone’s bucket list. The hike can be done in a day, but it will leave a lasting impression.
The red rocks, green trees, and blue and white sky along the hike make for spectacular long-range views, rewarding hikers for the switchbacks and scrambling.
Not to mention the serene rewards of walking along the rivers of clear water and smoothed stones that flow through the valley at the foot of the climb.
We carried our kids up Cathedral Rock, which was pretty challenging in the final climb to the top.
I’m super proud of our three year old, Jane, who did most of the climbing in the last half mile by herself.
There are a few ways to hike up Cathedral Rock. Here’s the trail we took up Cathedral Rock, and we highly recommend it.
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Hike Up Cathedral Rock from Crescent Moon Ranch State Park
From this parking lot, hiking to Cathedral Rock is a five mile round trip. You start in the valley, crossing the river on stepping stones or wading through the water.
The trail follows the river at first, and you get glimpses of Cathedral Rock towering above you as you hike towards it.
The trail starts to climb, and you will hike through a series of switchbacks. The slope is only moderately steep, and every few turns you are rewarded with a higher and higher view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
If you hike early in the morning, you’re likely to see very few people on the first two miles of the trail.
About a half mile from the top of Cathedral Rock, you will run into many more people though.
There is a parking lot a half mile below the summit, so you will see all sorts of people once you reach this point.
However, the last half mile is by far the best stretch.
It’s a long scramble up steep rocky slope. There are steep, narrow cracks to hike as you make your way up the mountain. Sections of smooth slope make for difficult and slow climbing.
As you climb higher and higher, the towering red steeples of Cathedral Rock draw closer until finally you stand in their shadows.
The views from the top of the trail are outstanding. Have a snack. Enjoy the view, and then start the 2.5 miles trek back to the car.
Here are some of our pictures from hiking to the top of Cathedral Rock.
Helpful Tips for Hiking Cathedral Rock
Start at Crescent Moon Ranch State Park, shown on the map below. When you get there, you can buy a trail map at the park entrance for $1. This map will show you the hiking route to the top of Cathedral Rock.
Other Tips for Hiking Cathedral Rock
You will likely get wet crossing Oak Creek at Crescent Moon State Park. From what I can tell, getting wet is unavoidable, though the map shows stepping stones. Be prepared to remove your shoes or carry water shoes to cross the shallow but wide creek.
Water is available at Crescent Moon Park, but I did not see water anywhere else along the way to Cathedral Rock.