Holy smokes, you guys, this is one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever been on! Hiking the Cathedral trail is not for those afraid of heights, lemme start with that!
The trail is only 1.5 miles long but don’t let that fool you. In total it took us about 2 hours to complete and there was definitely a moment when I thought “Yuuup, today sure might be the day I die”
Good news! I didn’t die.
The Initial Climb
The Cathedral trail begins with a climb up some steep, smooth boulders that had me on my knees on several occasions. I still haven’t made the investment in some decent hiking shoes and conquered the trail with my trusty adidas sneakers. But if you are planning on hiking the Cathedral trail, I would recommend bringing a pair of boots that offer some good traction.
Once we ascended up the mischievous boulders, it’s time to climb! This bit is very intimidating but once you get pass the first step (which is probably the most difficult climb up that can easily discourage you at the beginning – but don’t let it!), it’s not so bad. In fact, this was my favorite part!!
There’s two small plateaus where you can stop and wait for other hikers coming down. We waited a bit to let everyone through which made the climb up less stressful since I generally don’t care for an audience when I do anything. However, even if you do end up with people waiting on you, don’t mind anyone and take your time. This isn’t where you want to slip and fall… and die.
You’re basically climbing a crack created by two boulders leaning against each other, so at one point all you have to rely on, is the tight crack itself where you squeeze your foot and kind of balance on that because there isn’t anything to grab onto with your hands other than steep, smooth boulders. Other parts are more shaped into steps and what appear to be little handles for you to grab.
Towards the top of the climb it gets a bit more difficult and you really have to get your foot up high and even use your knees as there isn’t much to grab and pull yourself up. I feel like I’m making this sound terrifying but it really was a lot of fun!
With that said I suggest wearing pants that won’t restrain you from flexible movement but are also sturdy because the way down is done easiest sliding on your butt!
You get rewarded with a beautiful view and a place to sit and rest, before you continue, because no, this isn’t the end!
A very smart move we made was a bit of a warm up the day prior to hiking the Cathedral trail and hiked a different less difficult trail. If you’re not someone who hikes a lot and maybe aren’t in the best of shapes (like meee) I highly suggest warming up!
While hiking the Cathedral trail we came across fellow hikers as this trail is quite busy. Though this trail is rated difficult, there were families with small children and dogs so don’t sell yourself short!
You can do it!
But hiking alongside other hikers can be a little deceiving as you might be tempted to follow in their steps. On several occasions I found it better to break away from the trend and take a path less traveled by which actually offered more options in leverage and stepping opportunities instead of going straight against the slippery boulders. But don’t wander off too far because there is still the whole dying thing and we don’t want.
I completed the hike with my backpack on and had to stow away my camera in fear of banging it against rocks. (It drove me nuts as I really wanted to photograph everything!) My backpack did throw me off balance a couple of times so I’d suggest bringing something small and having it strapped tightly to your back so that it won’t be tempted to flop around every time you bend over. And yes, you’ll be doing a whole lot of that!
All the effort is well worth the view you get at the very top!
Important Side Note
Sadly, prior to our hike in Sedona we visited Horseshoe Bend where just days before a 14 year-old girl ended up falling and dying, which stuck in my head during my trip throughout Arizona. Though these trails offer so many breath taking views, push and challenge us physically it only takes a few seconds to turn an amazing adventure into what can be the worst day of your life. Though I try to keep my articles light and somewhat entertaining, I do not take safety as a joke. With that said whether it’s this trail or a different one, in Arizona or anywhere in the world, stay safe to live on and tell others about your adventure!
I'm Sandra, creator of Whispers of Adventure.
I'm a crazy dreamer with a love for adventure and new experiences. With my passion for writing and capturing the moment with a lens, I hope to inspire you for your next adventure!