A slick rock segment on the Templeton Trail

At the
Back O’ Beyond trailhead one recent Sunday morning, a chirpy declaration from a
group of young people spilling from a parked SUV broke the silence. “Cathedral
Rock! Counts for church.”

Cathedral Rock seen from the HT Trail

of where your beliefs fall on the spiritual spectrum, the trails surrounding
the iconic Sedona rock formation grab your heart and don’t let go.

The Easy Breezy Trail has many wash crossings

Whether the come-hither call is the result of
magic, faith or the magnetic pull of the high-iron-content rocks, the emotional
tug of Cathedral Rock has a way of luring hikers back again and again.

The Two Nuns (far right, center) seen from HT Trail

The maze
of trails that wrap around Cathedral Rock’s looming parapets that resemble a
medieval fortress keeping watch above Oak Creek, offer many ways to commune
with the stony behemoth.

A raven takes flight above the Easy Breezy Trail
An edgy traverse on the flanks of Cathedral Rock

choices include a rugged scramble to a scenic saddle, edge-hugging rambles, creekside walks and
easy forest strolls. A less busy option
that samples the many moods of this enchanting landscape is a hike on the Easy
Breezy-Templeton Loop. From the Cathedral
Rock trailhead, the circuit steers clear of the crowds by heading left on the
recently adopted Easy Breezy Trail. The
theme of the circuit’s first mile is immediately revealed as the path drops
into a scoured drainage channel.

Beginning of the sketchy return leg of the Easy Breezy Trail

between cloistered cypress-pinion woodlands and open spaces of filtered
sunlight, the route makes several wash crossings aided by native stone “stairs”
built into water-carved embankments. Annual
deluges have exposed layers of colorful sediments and the artful stylings of
tree roots that sprawl snake-like through spillways of sand, stone and
crystalline pools. The HT Trail junction
marks the end of the shaded, water-centric leg of the hike. Head right at the sign and follow HT Trail uphill
for a 0.3-mile traipse through high-desert grasslands with clear views of a
seldom-seen angles of Cathedral Rock and the familiar silhouettes of Courthouse
Butte and the Two Nuns formations.

Mountain vistas on the Templeton Trail

the Templeton Trail junction, go right and follow the swerving path as it works
its way toward an exposed slickrock passage on the east flanks of Cathedral
Rock. Clinging to the barren mound, the
trail swings north to meet the west end of the Easy Breezy Trail. The junction
sign here points into a ravine with no obvious trail.

A rocky passage on the Easy Breezy Trail

If you choose this
0.4-mile return leg option, be prepared for some route finding, bike traffic
and loose rock. Otherwise, continue north on Templeton and connect with the
less confusing Cathedral Rock Trail to get back to the trailhead where a map
kiosk can help harness the metaphysical or earth-grounded urge for more into a return trip.

Arizona cypress trees shade the trails
The hike shows seldom-seen angles of Cathedral Rock
Artful exposed roots along the Easy Breezy Trail

3.3 miles


ELEVATION: 3998 – 4203 feet


Back O’
Beyond/Cathedral Rock Trailhead:

From Interstate 17, take the Sedona/Oak Creek exit 298. Turn
left (west) and continue 11 miles on State Route 179 to the traffic circle at
Back O’ Beyond Road near milepost 310. Veer left and go 0.6 mile on Back O’
Beyond to the trailhead on the left.

FEE: A $5
Red Rock Pass or equivalent is required. There’s a pay station and restroom at
the trailhead.