From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Hwy 179 (exit 298). Turn left onto 179 and follow it past the Village of Oak Creek, past Bell rock and into the residential area. Look for a large sign that reads “Back O’ Beyond.” There will be a large roundabout and the sign/road is to the left. Go around the roundabout and onto Back O’ Beyond Road. If you miss it don’t worry – just go to the roundabout at Chapel Road and turn back around.
Once on Back O’ Beyond, go a little over half a mile where you will see a parking area on the left.There is additional parking just down the road. Walk across the dry wash and follow the cairns (piles of stones in wire mesh) all the way to the top. When you reach one, stop, and look for the next before proceeding. Go slowly and carefully if you are not used to hiking, and bring some water.
Easy to moderate, if you are an experienced hiker. Strenuous if you’re not accustomed to exercising. The trail is about 3/4 mile and rises 600 feet. It is steep but well-marked.
Things to bring:
Wear hiking shoes with decent traction and bring a water bottle. If you plan to stay for sunset anytime except summer, bring a jacket. If you go at sunrise during cooler weather you may want to wear a few layers that you can peel off once the sun rises. Otherwise, nothing much is needed except a camera, a journal, snacks, lunch, and plenty of time to enjoy the view!
Fees: Check with the US Forest Service for pass and fee information before your trip. A Red Rock Pass is required for parking in most locations.
March, 1999 – First time up Cathedral Rock! I’ve passed this trail so many times, I can’t believe I haven’t hiked here before.
The trail is amazing. It rises steadily up red rock mesas until I reach a spot where I have to climb up a steep incline in a crevice wedged between huge boulders. Steps have been carved out and I feel perfectly safe. Up and up I go until I am met with a view that takes my breath away. I can barely believe the glory of nature that lies before me. I stand on a narrow ledge looking out over the valley. Oak creek meanders far beneath me. Behind me, the red rock cliffs and unspoiled valleys of Sedona seem to go on forever. Up here, in what feels very close to heaven on earth, the rocks are turning a golden orange in the waning afternoon light.
On the west side of the saddle, to my left as I reach the top, another short but steep climb takes me to a ledge perched between two towering spires. The ravens circle overhead, their cries echoing like laughter. Swallows whoosh in between the cliffs, swooping so quickly they make the wind seem slow. As the sun sinks even deeper I pray, asking for balance, stamina, and the courage to follow my path. I feel the spirit of nature so strongly here. The energy is palpable. I am buzzing with life, and deeply moved.
Sunset is another delicious feast for the senses. I sit on the ledge and watch our glowing star melt like liquid gold seeping into the horizon. The creek below turns to slivers of silver and the sky fades from sapphire to an electric periwinkle. A night breeze rushes up the cliffs as the birds sing a sunset serenade. I pick my way slowly and carefully down the trail, giving thanks all the way down. My soul is filled to the brim.
I cannot resist waking up early the next morning to climb Cathedral once again. Alone, I greet the sun and pray for blessings in this new year of my life. I sing my prayers aloud and shiver until the light bursts over the horizon to the east, illuminating the few clouds with a passionate pink and turning the silver sky into the palest of blues. The air is cool, the colors brilliant, and the silence so very embracing.
This is pure magic. I am grateful to be alive.