Visiting these most impressive Sedona red rock formations, scores highly in our list of top “Things to do in Sedona.”
Cathedral Rock rises majestically from the desert floor between Sedona and the adjacent Village of Oak Creek, culminating in a series of spectacular spires suggesting, from a certain perspective, fingers stretching victoriously skyward. This towering rock formation is another “must see”site in Sedona AZ – and it is among the top hikes to be done in this area.
According to the old cowboy stories of the area, Cathedral Rock wasn´t always a cathedral. Back in the days when cattle and horse thieves had to pay for their crimes with their lives, this was where public hangings were held. The rock formation was thus dubbed Courthouse Butte, and the original Cathedral Rock lay to the southeast of it, adjacent to Bell Rock. But then a cartographer not originally from the area confused the names of Courthouse Butte and Cathedral Rock on a map. And so it has been ever since.
Today, Cathedral Rock has shed its bleak history to become one of the favorite wedding destinations in Sedona. Countless couples have sealed their bond for life in a ceremony celebrating the stunning backdrop of Cathedral Rock´s imposing spires.
They are several options for visiting Cathedral Rock – and be aware that this formation, like all others in and around Sedona, will appear a little different from the various angles you can it approach it from. Hikers will want to approach it from Highway 179. About three miles outside of Sedona, Back O´Beyond Road takes off to the right, and after following it for about a mile, you will reach the small parking area to your left that marks the trailhead. You can either climb up to the saddle – a sometimes steep and challenging hike with a fantastic payoff at the top between the spires – or take the Templeton trail around the north side and down to Red Rock Crossing.
The classic and most popular view of Cathedral Rock is to be found at Red Rock Crossing, one of the most popular things to do in Sedona AZ. Red Rock Crossing offers you a grandiose view of one of the most photographed scenes in the southwest: the commanding spires of Cathedral Rock reflecting in the waters of Oak Creek, framed by willow trees alongside the creek and the eternally blue Arizona skies. The picnic areas of Red Rock Crossing are amongst the most idyllic recreation sites in the Sedona area, and a hiking trail offers a leisurely stroll upstream along the creek. People come here to fish, swim, and wade in the creek, as well as to picnic and photograph the scenery. You can also try your hand at rock art: Half a mile upstream from the picnic area, the trail takes you past an impromptu rock garden with impossibly balanced river boulders, stacked up by visitors and passers-by.
Because of its idyllic splendor, Red Rock Crossing can become quite crowded, and in the afternoons, dozens of photographers can sometimes be found elbowing for the best position to score a sunset shot of Cathedral Rock. But if you come early in the morning or on a weekday, you might just have the serene beauty of Red Rock Crossing all to yourself.
Directions: Drive west from Sedona on US 89A. Just outside town, turn south on FR 216 (Upper Red Rock Loop Road). Drive about 1.5 miles and follow the signs to Red Rock Crossing. All roads except the short segment leading from Red Rock Crossing Road to the picnic area are paved.
For many visitors, Bell Rock is a first stop and unmissable photo opportunity on their way to Sedona. Highway 179, which connects I-17 and Sedona, is considered the scenic road by which to get to Sedona and winds right past Bell Rock´s base. Several newly constructed scenic overlooks along the highway offer visitors a chance to take in the landscape´s breathtaking beauty in more than just passing. Take your time, make a stop, walk a few steps – and feel welcome in Sedona´s fabled Red Rock country!
Bell Rock is one of Sedona´s most well-known “Sedona Red Rocks” landmarks. Rising 550 feet into Arizona´s blue skies a mere five miles (eight kilometers) outside Sedona´s city limits, it is an eyecatching marker that signals your arrival in the area´s fantastic red rock landscape. A visit to Bell Rock should be included on your “Things to do in Sedona” list.
The towering, bell-shaped red rock guarding the entrance of the Village of Oak Creek can be seen from several miles away and is a favorite among hikers, because it is comprised of several interconnected terraces of naked rock that are fairly easy to navigate. On the rough Sedona red rock sandstone surface, hikers find a sturdy grip for their boots and a breathtaking view across the Sedona and Village of Oak Creek vicinity.
There are several clearly marked hiking trails around Bell Rock that range from easy to moderate. The main hiking trail around bell rock is gentle and flat; however, to complete the entire loop is approximately five miles (eight kilometers). Bring your hiking poles – or a picnic basket for the whole family!
During monsoon season from July to September, visitors are well-advised to postpone a hike on the then slick rocks and instead marvel at the formation from below, as several waterfalls can be seen forming on Bell Rock during the typically short but torrential rains of the summer season. Don´t miss this summer desert spectacle!
Bell Rock is also believed to be one of Sedona's spiritual "vortex sites". These sites were first charted in the 1980s by a California psychic named Page Bryant. Ms. Bryant claimed that electromagnetic energy emanating there in a spiral or vortex pattern could be used as a means for re-energizing, for honing psychic abilities and for healing energetic imbalances. Countless people have since been drawn to this impressive monolith to satisfy their curiosity about the special powers it is said to possess.
Many of the red rock formations in and around Sedona seem to evoke more than one moniker, and many indeed do go by more than just one designation. However, the name for this red rock structure is so intuitively descriptive that many people name it all over again upon first looking at it: Hey, this looks like bell rock!