Cathedral Rock from Many Angles

April 28, 2023

By Lora Ellis

Cathedral Rock is iconic, yet different from every angle. Here the Dogies look up from the flank to see the very distinct spires that are hidden from other directions.

I am the Dogies hike boss for the Westerners and let me tell you about this winter weather!   Don't get me wrong, I am always grateful for the moisture, but I think the weather gods are messing with my managerial decisionmaking!   As hike boss I have the responsibility of deciding whether to cancel a hike due to weather conditions.  If I cancel and the weather is unhikeable with active rain, snow, etc, I'm a hero.   If I cancel and the 6" all-day snow forecast turns out to be nothing but sunshine, I'm a dog!  (Note: I have "hero envy" and want to get this decision right.)

It's been tricky this winter with rain and snow, and with the cold temperatures, there's the "ice" factor.  Sedona has lots of rock and those north faces have kept that white stuff much longer than I ever remember.  (Ok, I've only been here three winters, but you know what I mean.)  Up to this point, there have been six Dogies hikes cancelled... and now another storm was brewing.

We hike on Tuesdays.  I check my weather app. It says 80% SNOW ALL DAY.  I'm cancelling the hike. But if I'm going to be a hero, I must "trust but verify", so I try a different app.  10% snow on Tuesday.   90% snow on Wednesday.  It's official:  I now trust NO weather apps!  So now I am now forced to wait... watch... wake up very early Tuesday... and call it.  I rise to an early 6:00 a.m. alarm and check my app.  10% chance of snow up to mid-day. We are hiking, but not our originally scheduled hike, the Fin Loop.  That hike risks icy conditions, so with the hike leaders Guenther and Annette Pollack, we sneak in a last minute replacement hike called Cathedral Rock Circumnavigation.

Like ice cream, everyone loves Cathedral Rock.  In all its routes, it never gets old.  Guenther and Annette launched us in two groups clockwise from the Baldwin Trailhead parking lot.   In minutes we are enjoying the sycamores and cottonwoods lining Oak Creek to our left.  Like our pace on this level terrain, the creek is moving fast and we find ourselves passing Buddha Beach.  Certainly not today, but a great place to soak your feet on warmer days.

We switchback up Templeton to the promontory of Cathedral Rock. It's cloudy, but we're thrilled to be out. After a short respite of level hiking on the slick rock, we approach Cathedral trail.  It is Cathedral Trail that takes you to the saddle of Cathedral and the coveted vortex, and it is that same Cathedral trail that unfortunately for many out-of-towners, has been closed for trail maintenance from early February through March.   A yellow tape across the trail and a big sign stating TRAIL CLOSURE greet any hikers who attempt to forge ahead. 

But wait:   The yellow tape across the trail has been knocked down.   Wind?  Unlawful vortex seekers?  We see no sign of perpetrators so we re-tie the tape to its post and continue on.   Many of us Westerners, along with the Friends of the Forest, have volunteered doubling as trail rangers and docents to help hikers navigate alternative trails in the Cathedral area.   We're the ones sporting the fashionable green vest and ranger hat! 

After our jaunt around the side of Cathedral we make our way down the Hi-Line and back to Baldwin trail.  Hi-line is a favorite for the uber-aggressive mountain bicyclists.  The Sedona Mountain Bike festival was in 3 days and slated to bring in hundreds of cyclists.  Up to 10 inches of snow was in the forecast for the next day. And I thought I had decision-making stress!

We finished up back at the Trailhead after a wonderful excursion.  Everyone agreed it was great to get out and get some much-needed exercise.  I got to practice, once again this season, patience and flexibility as the weather tried to thwart yet another Westerner hike. This time, however, I got to show Mother Nature who was the real boss.

The Sedona Westerners always welcome new members.  We have hikes multiple days of the week for all abilities. If you are interested in joining the club, please visit our website at  You will find an interesting history, the whole seasons list of planned hikes, and a handy membership link. It only takes five minutes to sign up and start your new adventures here in the Red Rocks.

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