Cathedral Rock Big Loop

 29 votes
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Featured Ride
Trail

12.3 Miles 19.8 Kilometers


100%

Singletrack

1,145' 349 m

Ascent

-1,144' -349 m

Descent

4,464' 1,361 m

High

3,965' 1,209 m

Low

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

23%

Max Grade (13°)

Unknown

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An all-encompassing loop with some moderate riding, some challenging riding, and incredible views.

Mike Ahnemann

Overview

This ride crosses the popular Cathedral Rock Trail, which is hikers-only, and gets people up from the nearby trailhead to the top of Cathedral Rock. Pay attention and be courteous here - it's an incredibly popular area for hikers, notably less experienced hikers. You'll likely get a few questions or comments from incredulous people asking if you've really ridden your bicycle to this spot!
This is the ride to do if you just want to do one thing in the Cathedral Rock area, and you're a confident intermediate or advanced rider. This loop has it all - nice flowy trail, technical rock sections, great scenery, and a couple of more advanced sections.

Description

Start at the Bell Rock Vista trailhead. To find the start point, head back down the short access road you just drove in to your parking spot. Cross the highway, and you'll see singletrack starting right at the end of the highway. This is the short connector that gets you to the start of Slim Shady Trail.

This one is definitely rideable by intermediates. Less experienced riders might walk a few short sections, but it's a nice flowy trail without too much to trip you up along the way. The trail surface is mostly red dirt - more dirt than rock on this one and definitely smoother than many of the other trails in the area.

After about 2.5 miles, Slim Shady intersects with Templeton Trail. Turn left down the hill onto Templeton. Templeton is more difficult than Slim Shady - it's still worth doing for intermediate riders but they'll find themselves walking a bit. The first section from Slim Shady is fairly mellow, with only a few very short rocky areas, but mostly just twisty red dirt cruising. The trail turns to 100% red rock as you contour around and cross the Cathedral Rock Trail.

The descent from Catherdral Rock area is the trickiest part of the trail, though most of it is rideable without terrible consequences if you fall. You'll follow several switchbacks and ride or walk over a sustained rocky section before reaching the bottom. Here, you'll be rewarded with a much more lush area along Oak Creek. There are plenty of spots for a dip if you're hot, then a rocky technical section to the end where Baldwin Loop starts.

Much of the riding on Baldwin is intermediate, but there are a couple of challenging spots. It's a loop that you can start at any point and go in either direction, though it's shown counter-clockwise here, and that's probably the best direction.

Starting from the intersection with Templeton Trail, it's a flowy cruise on soft red dirt at first. In 1/4 mile, you'll pass a small parking lot, and after that, the trail climbs and gets rockier. There's a nice vista at the high point with familiar views out across the area. Once the trail heads downhill, you'll encounter a few challenging spots on the descent (if you're headed CCW). You can bear right onto Highline Trail for an extreme downhill challenge.

Otherwise, this section of Baldwin is a great place to work on technical rock handling skills. Everything comes at you gradually so you can size it up before taking a plunge, and the consequences aren't as high as in other trails in the area.

The trail eventually winds through a flat rocky section back to the starting point at Templeton Trail. Once back to Templeton, make your way back up the rocky climb to the Cathedral Rock area. Go back through the busy intersection where the hiking trail comes up, go another 100 yards, and look for a trail leading down from Templeton, marked by white paint dashes on the rock. This is Cathedral Rock Connector Trail, a short but sweet slick rock ride down to the bottom. There are some fun moves to practice on, rideable, by intermediates if not a bit challenging.

Next, you'll connect with Easy Breezy, which is just as it sounds for the most part. It's a mix of soft dirt and a few somewhat rocky, but rideable sections, as it meanders its way through tree cover with some nice shade. The first section of trail starts out a little rockier than the second section as it runs along the creek bed. It then crosses a usually-dry creek bed several times with a little roller-coaster feel in and back out of the creek bed. You'll cross HT Trail, then meet up with Templeton Trail.

Ride This section of Templeton a short way and look for Hermit Trail, a short simple connector leading to Coconino Trail. Coconino connects back in with Slim Shady. Complete your ride by retracing the first section of Slim Shady back to the start.

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4.4 from 29 votes


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Apr 13, 2017
Marco Lafontaine
Apr 10, 2017
Nick Fragedakis
Apr 7, 2017
joseph benjamin
Mar 29, 2017
Chip White
Mar 12, 2017
Dave Draschil
12mi
Nov 26, 2016
Rachel Friedman
Nov 17, 2016
Cj Procyk

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Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 29 votes

#2

in Sedona

#89

Overall
  4.4 from 29 votes
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#2

in Sedona

#5

in Arizona

#89

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24,799 Since Feb 20, 2014
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Any group rides following this loop in the near future? The best advanced intermediate loop in West Sedona entails: Chuckwagon, To Mescal, Mescal, Deadman's, Aerie, Cockscomb, Dawa, OK, AZ Cypress, Snake and Girdner, I guarantee. Mar 24, 2014


Don't mistake the hiker's trail from the parking lot to Cathedral Butte for the Cathedral Rock Connector Trail. The hiking trail is marked with large rock cairns while the biking route is marked with white paint on the slick rock (at least according to the description - I took the wrong trail). The bike route is past the hiking route if you are making your way back to the trailhead on Templeton. May 28, 2016


This trail is best for a combination of biking and hiking, and the sections in the Oak Creek riparian zone (Templeton/Baldwin and Buddha Beach) offer an enchanting look at that ecosystem. The creek features change as the winter snow melts and in the late summer monsoon season, when the creek really runs. The hike up to the saddle of Cathedral, not a biking trail, is worth a half-day visit too. Jan 11, 2017


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