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Cathedral Rock upper trail to re-open
Cathedral Trail Renovation – Ready for Your Enjoyment

A key partner: American Conservation Experience youth crew. (Courtesy of the Red Rock Trail Fund)

A key partner: American Conservation Experience youth crew. (Courtesy of the Red Rock Trail Fund)

The fourth phase of the Cathedral Rock trail renovation will be finished for the season on April 1. The upper trail portion will once again be open to the public, featuring many enhancements to add to the pleasure and safety of the experience.

This unique project was designed to create a safer sustainable trail up to the cherished Cathedral Rock. What’s less known is the story of collaboration between individuals and groups who have supported this special project, through funding and labor over the past two years.


Hard working trail crew inspired by their Cathedral Trail work. (Courtesy of the Red Rock Trail Fund)

Backstory - A Team Play

Who were the players and what did they do? For starters, the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund pulled in a significant grant from the National Forest Foundation seeking to enhance the quality of public outdoor recreation. Intensive fundraising followed with more than 120 donors from 11 states giving to the project. Groups including Arizona Community Foundation of Sedona, Sedona Westerners Hiking Club and others also helped produce the hard cash needed for the massive amount of rock work involved. Not insignificantly, Congress, through the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), gave key financial support to the project for the lower trail segment – from the trailhead to first slickrock bench.

Donations from the various sources were combined to cover the $188,000 price tag for just Phase IV, from the switchback stairs to the end of trail, involving difficult and technical rock work. This included rock quarrying, cutting, and shaping …. and moving and placing rocks weighing hundreds of pounds. This work was done by skilled crews comprised of Forest Service, contractor and partners including Ancestral Lands Crews and American Conservation Experience.

Two private trail contractors had supporting roles: Summit to Sea Trails – a 4-person crew that produced the overall realignment design and constructed some of the technically difficult segments; and Flagline Trails LLC that trained Forest Service crews on technicalities of safe rock moving and placement.

In addition to donations, the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club and Friends of the Forest provided volunteers for critical site closure security and public information. This support was key to public safety to avoid public injury at the steep work sites.

The US Forest Service defined the need for the project, and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund played the pivotal role to obtain grants, rally donors, and contract partners to make this ambitious project achievable. This public/private collaboration is the secret sauce to the success of complex multi-year projects in Red Rock country.

Is it worth it? Consider the outcome: hundreds of thousands of people more safely experiencing the potentially life changing awe and inspiration of one of nature’s magnificent landmarks.

Visit to learn more about this project and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund.

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