Circumnavigation of Cathedral Rock via the Hi-line Trail

February 5, 2016

Wayne Lopez
by Wayne Lopez

How about a picture perfect January day in Sedona when it was just cool enough for gloves and an extra layer. Sedona Westerner hikers packed their camera, a liter of water and some nuts and an orange, and maybe a peanut butter sandwich and a chocolate bar for later. They headed out State Route 179 to the Yavapai Overlook with a few friends where there was the Sedona Westerners hike for the day. The hikers were evenly divided into two groups to abide by National Forest rules, were then on the trail to an awesome hiking experience.

Cathedral Rock in all it's beauty with the snow caped mountains in the distance

After leaving the parking lot to the left onto a double diamond biking trail called the Hi-line trail was an early steep elevation gain in the cool shade of some small Arizona Cypress trees. The trail got their hearts pumping well and led to the first stop for a layer removal in full sun. A little further along, hikers reached the height of land with a steep drop off before them. It was a perfect snack spot on the rim of slick rock for those peanut butter crackers and taking in another marvelous panorama. Hikers found the view was outstanding with the snow covered peaks of the Mingus range in the southwest, to the right the magnificent Cathedral rocks with the snow tipped red rocks of the Mogollon Rim in the distance, and the Red Rock State Park to the left.

The hikers then started the trail down. They found they had to carefully navigate it because there was much black ice. This part of the trail was the northern side of a difficult bike trail and the chutes were icy. However, they did not see any bikes that day probably because of these slippery conditions. Eventually, as the trail flattened out, they came into the Baldwin trail and saw their first fellow hikers as they continued to head right toward Oak Creek.

When they arrived at Oak Creek they saw the river was flowing hard over its banks from the recent rains and snows, but the hike leaders found a comfortable dry sunny spot amongst the massive towering Cottonwoods to take a break. Here they relaxed, ate their lunch and enjoyed friends and conversation. Some just spread out on the perfect shaped tree branch and listened in on the neighboring rapids. This writer/hiker thought it would be a tough day to get across this raging stream even further downstream at the Crossings, but wisely this was not on their agenda that day.

After a peaceful relaxing break, the hikers continued the hike and soon intersected the Templeton Trail and headed up for their second wind sprint on the day. But since this is the Tuesday Dogie moderate hiking group, their leader allowed for some breaks in the action, and no insurrection of the ranks occurred. They then plateaued out on a path on the slick rock as they were heading east. Here, they crossed many other hikers who were hiking up to the higher points of Cathedral Rock, which was then to the south side. But alas, Cathedral Rock was a hike for another day. On this day the plan was to circumnavigate this massive set of red rock. Fortunately the trail was wider to accommodate both hikers and mountain bikers who by then were out in full force. This was a good, fairly safe trail for such exploits that this writer/hiker had pursued in the not too distant past. It wound back and forth on the slick rock with lots of sun, which still felt just right on this January afternoon.

To top off this hike, the Sedona Westerner hiking group experienced the views of Courthouse Butte directly in front of them. They continued to cut across on one of the many paths in the area, as their hike leaders got them safely back to their vehicles. The trip was a little over 8 miles the GPS experts told them, and took around 5 hours. Some commented that there was then even enough time and energy for 9 holes of golf.


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