two nuns on chapel trail

Happy Hiking: Chapel of the Holy Cross

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While in Sedona, I hiked the Bell Rock Pathway and the Airport Mesa Viewpoint which are the locations of two of the four earth vortexes.  I had hoped to also get Cathedral Rock into the mix, but luck wasn’t going my way Monday morning. I ended up at Chapel of the Holy Cross.

I just wanted to do two short hikes today, before attending to VANgo’s needs (a water tank and propane fill) and picking up groceries.  As a result, I began the day by driving to the parking area for the 1.2-mile hike to Cathedral Rock, as indicated by AllTrails.

Parking for Cathedral Rock

I admittedly left a little late from my campsite on Forest Road 689, but who wants to leave this sunrise view? Especially, since I hadn’t had any problem finding parking before 7:30am on a weekday at the Seven Sacred Ponds or Bell Rock.  This Monday morning at 7:07am, however, the two tiny lots to Cathedral Rock were full!

sunrise view on Forest Road 689

Yavapai Point

As I circled through the lot, I noticed a sign that said additional parking at Baldwin Trailhead or Yavapai Point.  With limited cell service, I finally got Yavapai Point pulled up on the map and headed that direction.  The hike from Yavapai Point to Cathedral Rock was over 8 miles, and it wasn’t even listed on AllTrails.

I did a google search and found a helpful website.  I mean for the typical tourist who just wants to walk a mile, why on earth would a permanent sign suggest going to Yavapai Point?!?  It seems like the Sedona Rescue Crew would have to be called when people set out with only small bottle of water in their hand and realize this parking is significantly far away.

I believe the Baldwin Trail was a shorter alternative, but it was close to six miles, and I couldn’t get the location up on my phone.

Chapel of the Holy Cross From Yavapai Point

So now that I was at Yavapai Point, I looked into hiking to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the other place I wanted to visit before I left Sedona.  Upon reviewing the board in the paved parking area which also includes a bathroom, it looked like I could get to the chapel in a little over six miles (it ended up closer to 7).

Since I had about four hours before I needed to pick up groceries at the Cottonwood Walmart, I psyched myself up for something a little longer than planned.  I snapped a photo of the oversized map, pulled on my pack, leashed Annie and headed toward the chapel via a portion of several trails Hermit–>Templeton–>Easy Breezy–>HT Trail–>Bell Rock Pathway–>Little Horse–>Chapel Trail. 

Hermit, Templeton and Easy Breezy Trails

The first three trails connected together for about a mile.  They ran parallel to Highway 179, so there was some highway noise.  That said, at 8am on a Monday, the traffic had yet to build.  The intersections between Templeton, Easy Breezy, and HT Trail, despite being well marked, are a little confusing. 

In fact, I made a mental note of one intersection thinking I could get lost, and on the return, I did go the wrong way for a quarter mile.  You can see the offshoot detour on the above map. Easy Breezy Trail is actually the wash at this point, so it didn’t look like the way to go.  But I digress.

Easy Breezy Trail

On the first mile or so there are only a couple of close-up views of cathedral and castle rocks, but most of the dramatic landscape is across the highway.  The HT Trail goes through a tunnel beneath the highway, crosses a bridge and intersects with Bell Rock Pathway.

Little Horse Trail

The pathway in this area was as wide as a dirt road and busy with hikers headed to Bell Rock, and mountain bikers getting in some morning exercise.  After a short jog on Bell Rock Pathway, hikers intersect with Little Horse which ascends through the mesquite and juniper in a northeasterly direction.  This path offers a distant view of the chapel and nice views of the two nuns, two cones to the east.

The whole time I was looking at those cones, I thought the formations were “Little Horse.”  I kept wondering why would they call two ears, Little Horse?  Why not Horse Ears or Horse Head.  Ha!  It was nuns instead! I think Little Horse is just a trail name.

Chapel Trail

Anyway, because of my limited time, I almost turned around at the Little Horse/Chapel Trail intersection, but I wanted a closer view of the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  I am so glad I continued on this 0.7 mile trail.  The views from the Chapel Trail are remarkable! 

About half-way from the trail intersection to the Chapel is a flat, open area that looks to the south and provides a perfect panorama view of the Two Nuns, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Castle Rock, and Cathedral Rock.

View from chapel trail on the way to chapel of the holy cross

10 second video view

I know all the rage is to watch the sunset from the Airport Mesa, but I suspect a quaint sunset view from this trail would be outstanding!  Unfortunately, I saw the gates to the Cathedral close at 5pm, so you wouldn’t be able to take the short jaunt from the chapel to the viewpoint.

The Chapel

Because I had Annie with me, I couldn’t go inside the chapel, but from the outside it looked cool.  With all the tourists, I didn’t stay long.  I just wanted to know if the view was better from the chapel or from the trail.  In my opinion, it is from the trail.

As we weaved through the people back to the Chapel Trail, Annie was the crowd pleaser.  She got as many “beautiful” compliments as the landscape!  Most people think she is a Weimaraner, but a few get thrown off by her body shape and color combination and ask the breed.  They are surprised to hear Doberman due to her rare color, but then recognize the markings.


I don’t think I took any glamour shots of her at on this trail, but she has had to pose for many in her short year with me, so I guess she caught a break.  She was pretty worn out by the time we returned to VANgo after her maniacal time at Copper Canyon yesterday.

I was pretty hot and tired too, after only three hours.  Boy have I gotten out of shape since knee surgery!  Hopefully, I’ll be ready for some Colorado hiking come summer. 

While at first, I was a little frustrated with the change of hiking plans, in the end, I’m really glad I saw the Chapel of the Holy Cross this way rather than driving to it!  I’ll look forward to a longer hike to Cathedral Rock on my next visit as well. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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