Cathedral Rock (Sedona, Arizona) 14-Jan-2022

A long, long time ago, my friend Carol and I were among a group of mountaineers centered in Los Angeles. We did a few climbs together in the Sierra Nevada and at Joshua Tree. Then life took her one way and me another. We’ve kept in touch over the years with very occasional visits – the last being during a 2017 train trip to Washington DC (where Carol was working at the time).

Mostly we exchanged Christmas cards – Carol was renowned for having hers arrive by Fourth of July of the following year ๐Ÿ™„. Until her 2020 card arrived – suspiciously before Christmas – we thought she’d retired to the Delaware coast. She had but then she decided Sedona was a better deal (and closer to her daughters), so she moved. We found this out just in time to add a visit with her to this year’s Arizona trip. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Judging from the well-used trails and its often full parking lot, the hike/scramble to the saddle at Cathedral Rock is the signature outing between Sedona and Oak Creek. So we drove up from Scottsdale to spend the day with Carol doing this hike.

The closest trailhead off Highway 179 was already full and closed when we arrived, so we went around to the dirt parking lot near Baldwins Crossing for the start of a slightly longer (and less crowded) approach to Cathedral.

From the parking area, we hiked the Baldwin Trail (#191) for a short distance to its junction with the Templeton Trail (#156), then followed that trail past Oak Creek and up to a junction with the Cathedral Rock Trail (#170).

On the Baldwin Trail
A sycamore in winter
Cathedral Rock comes into view
Along Oak Creek
Oak Creek
Carol and The LovedOne at Oak Creek
Oak Creek
On the Templeton Trail with Lee Mountain (L) and Courthouse Butte (R) in the distance

We encountered other hikers along the way but many more appeared when we reached the #170. This trail is basically a line of basket cairns going up the slickrock. Cathedral Rock is actually two buttes (Point 4964 and Point 5246) separated by a narrow saddle. Following the cairns to this saddle involved some fun scrambling and picking out the “official” trail from among the use trails.

Starting up the scramble part of the #170
Carol scrambling the narrow section
Back on the trail
Almost to the saddle

Our reward for this scrambling was spectacular views the whole way, capped off by the amazing view from the ledge at the saddle.

On the saddle
View to the northeast
Sunset over Point 5246
Carol and The LovedOne go out on the ledge

The controlled parking at the closest trailhead probably holds down the crowds, but at the start of this 3-day weekend, the saddle was a busy place hiker-wise. We hung around just long enough to get the obligatory “standing on the ledge” shot and then started back.

On the way back
Other hikers making their way down the scramble section
Back on the Templeton Trail
On the Templeton just before it descends to Oak Creek
Almost back to Oak Creek
Oak Creek
Almost back to the trailhead

Our route to Cathedral’s saddle came to 3.7 miles (5.9 km) round-trip with 860 feet (262 m) of elevation gain, with almost all of the up on the #170. This was a less crowded approach plus we got to see Oak Creek. We got back in time for Carol to serve us an early dinner (homemade lasagna! ๐Ÿคฉ) before we drove down to Scottsdale. It was wonderful to connect again with Carol and spend some time with her on a hike to a truly amazing destination. This last minute addition to our Arizona adventure was a win-win all around! ๐Ÿ˜

Our “backdoor” route (purple) to Cathedral Rock and the #170 (red) coming up from its trailhead on Highway 179

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