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Monday, March 18, 2019


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
Regardless 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
Trail 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
Alternating 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
At 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
LENGTH: 3.3 miles
RATING: moderate
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.


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