Villager logo

Upper Cathedral Rock Trail Reconstruction Project

Work on Lower Cathedral Rock Trail, completed December 2021. (Photos courtesy U.S. Forest Service)

Work on Lower Cathedral Rock Trail, completed December 2021. (Photos courtesy U.S. Forest Service)

Upper Cathedral Rock Trail Reconstruction Project Work is scheduled for spring 2022. During construction, the Forest Service will temporarily close the upper portion of the trail for public safety.

Construction Work on Cathedral Rock Trail

This year the Forest Service started a major reconstruction project on the popular Cathedral Rock Trail. This project is tackling deferred maintenance on a trail unlike any other on the Coconino National Forest. As the Forest’s second busiest trail, and located in a sensitive place by Oak Creek, the project is needed to protect watershed health and to provide an enduring high-quality experience for trail users.

Majestically overlooking Oak Creek, Cathedral Rock formation is one of the most popular destinations near Sedona. Each year more than 200,000 people hike the challenging Cathedral Rock Trail to take in spectacular views as well as the unique inspiration it offers. Native bats and peregrine falcons find critical habitat high on the rocky crags. Considered by some as a spiritual site, Cathedral Rock is also the most photographed Red Rock formation, featured on postcards and calendars.

Conservation of this unique area depends on well-maintained and designated trail access for the thousands of hikers that visit each year. The Cathedral Rock Trail has always presented a challenge to the Forest Service trail managers due to its steep terrain, frequent “washouts”, and rock construction requirements.

What’s been completed

In November and December 2021, work was completed on the lower section, between the trailhead and the Templeton Trail junction. Native American youth with the Ancestral Lands Crews and the Forest Service trail crews completed 1800 feet of fencing, rock armoring of the trail surface, transplanting of vegetation and repairs to improve water drainage from the trail surface.

What’s planned

In March-April 2022, attention will be given to the more challenging upper section, largely on slickrock. The Forest Service will work with trail construction professionals who specialize in heavy rock masonry to design an enduring trail corridor that resists erosion from storm water, while providing an enjoyable path up this steep gradient to the Cathedral Saddle destination. The design will incorporate natural rock surfaces and available sandstone to create a durable surface for visitors. Part of the challenge is to create a trail that is easy for visitors to follow…sometimes across open sandstone shelving. Designs that come from this collaboration will guide the work crews who will tackle the job in Spring 2022.

Funding needs

The Forest Service is funding this ambitious project partly through money they received from the Great America Outdoor Act of 2020. Because these funds are not enough to complete the project, the SRRTF is jumping in to assist. Specifically, SRRTF is fundraising to cover costs of the upper trail design, as well as part of the construction. This includes the most technically challenging rock armoring and masonry sections of the work. SRRTF involvement will help pay for trail professionals who will assist with design, crew training and safety, and construction related to technical rock work. Elements that will be assessed for the design will include the amount of rock steps needed, the size/dimension and location of retaining walls to be built, and the amount of rock and fill material required to produce a sustainable trail surface.

During construction in spring, the Forest Service will temporarily close the upper portion of the trail for public safety. Professional trail designers from Summit to Sea Trails LLC will be assisting the Forest Service trail crew who will also have help from the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps in this significant project.

Fundraising efforts for this project will include a fundraiser by the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club and a Community-Wide appeal. In the event this project exceeds its goals, any excess will be used for other critical trail projects.

To learn more or to donate, visit the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund website at

Information provided by SRRTF.

Donate Report a Typo Contact
Most Read
Event Calendar
Event Calendar link
Submit Event