Best sunset view in Sedona, the Cathedral Rock hike
Best sunset hike in Sedona - Cathedral Rock
A challenge that is worth the effort and preparation
The Cathedral Rock trail is more of a scramble, it's just over .6 miles long but over 700 feet of elevation gain along that distance. At points along the trail you will have to use your hands and careful foot placement to scramble up the slick red rocks and upwards towards your destination. The work to get there makes this trek a lot of fun, but it's the reward at the top that is what we work for. The westward facing views provide some of the best sunsets you can find in Sedona.
About halfway up is the toughest scramble up along a crack in the sandstone. There is only one way up and down here, so be patient as it can get bottlenecked and crowded here. While the climbing here requires hands, feet, and technique, there is minimal exposure: meaning if you slipped or fell you would only drop a few feet at most. Take your time, and you'll be rewarded with views like these about halfway up:
This is a good spot to take a breather and take in the views to the south and the east. Take your time and observe the gargantuan, twisted juniper trees, the different types of cactus, and whatever flowers are in bloom. Some say this area is a powerful energetic vortex. I personally feel tons of energy from the amazing vistas, natural beauty, and magnetic red rocks. There are many side trails in this area and most lead to some really interesting and secluded spots. Be careful and know that the main trail always leads UP!
Check out Alltrails Cathedral Rock guide for a downloadable map of the hike.
As far as I know, It's near impossible to get to the true summit of Cathedral Rock. When the trail ends, you actually are at the saddle, and you will likely be joined by a lot of other people. This is a popular hike, but if you carefully walk to the south, you will discover a few trails that lead to two much more secluded saddles where you can capture great photos and enjoy the sunset away from the crowds.
The x-factor in creating a unique sunset is clouds. For that reason, going up here on a cloudy day or after a rain storm can be the best for photographs. I find that as the sun lowers along the horizon, it breaks up the cloud cover and creates brilliant contrast and color. All of these photos were taken with my old Samsung phone and are unedited. As you see below, the clouds broke up and created some startling visions!
Visit the Arizona Photography section of my website for my professional shots from Cathedral
Some of my best photos and most memorable evenings have been spent up here. When a friend comes in from out of town, this is the sunset hike I want to take them on. I think the hard work in climbing to the top releases some major energy within your body and soul and the reward is a beautiful cosmic experience, whether you believe it or not.
There are more challenges here than just the climb. It can be crowded, and Thursday-Sunday require a shuttle to get to the trailhead as Sedona shuts down the parking area. It usually reopens in the evening so if you're going for sunset you can park at the trailhead, but I have found the scheduling of all of this to be inconsistent. The latest info on the trailhead and shuttles can be found here.
All hikes in the desert require lots of water and layers of clothing. You will be hot in the sun, working your way up but you will be chilly in the shade up top and on the trek down. Another factor to consider is coming down in the dark. Bring a headlamp and take your time. This is where the downloadable map from Alltrails can really help or use a tracker for your route on the way up. There are many side trails and it can be confusing!
Have a great journey to the top and be sure to take pictures and enjoy the view! Let me know if you have any questions below, and if you want some professional pictures taken of you in Sedona, shoot me a message. I also have great wall art photos for sale on my website of Cathedral Rock and many other scenic locations.