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1. Cathedral Rock

Sedona’s Cathedral Rock at sunset
If you time your hike right, you’ll see the sandstone’s deep colors enhanced by the sunset’s glow. Photo by Dan Costin licensed under CC BY 2.0

A sandstone shrine worthy of reverence

Cathedral Rock is a sandstone butte commanding the skyline in the southern part of Sedona. Just one look at its red-tinged cliffs is enough to make your heart race. Many tourists opt for a one-hour trip to the top to snap their photos as soon as possible, but I like to take clients on a more scenic tour. This includes a side trip to Oak Creek Village’s swimming hole for a refreshing dip, which adds a few hours and plenty of sights others often miss.

Making your way through the juniper and pinyon pines, you reach the bottom of Cathedral Rock. Here a dry wash marks a noticeable change in the terrain. The sandstone under your feet, worn out from the onslaught of tourist traffic, suddenly turns slippery. Then the toughest stretch: head up a steep cracked boulder and scramble over loose rock. This is the section where some beginners start to get discouraged. Luckily, the last push is rewarded with one of the most inspiring (and Instagrammable) views in the entire Southwest.

There’s another way of enjoying the beauty of Cathedral Rock: admiring it from the nearby Baldwin Loop Trail. This 3-mile hike explores the less-seen “backside,” an option for communing with the scenery away from crowds.

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