Cathedral Restoration: Trailhead to the Top

3 Feb 2023 12:00 AM | Camille Cox (Administrator)

Phase 4 to Complete in March

The final stretch of the ambitious restoration project for Cathedral Rock Trail is underway, and with cooperation from Mother Nature, it should be complete and open by early April.

This last section of Phase Four is the endpoint of a project that started in the Fall of 2021. This final push involves the uppermost area from Switchback Staircase to End of Trail. 

Steep, Tough Terrain  Cathedral Rock Trail has many unique qualities that make it a place like no other in the Coconino National Forest. Erosive soils, steep terrain, slick rock, and frequent "washouts" make it particularly challenging to Forest Service trail managers. It presents specific exceptional requirements for rock construction not seen elsewhere in the Red Rock Ranger District. Although rock work is always intensive and time-consuming, the conditions on Cathedral are extreme.

Particularly daunting is the challenge of moving essential heavy equipment uphill each day. Forrest Gale and Tommy Cogger, Summit to Sea consultants who are working with the USFS on the project, explain, "In our experience in the southwest, we compare this style/technique and caliber of trail building to what you find on the Grand Canyon trails. All of the equipment is hauled up by hand, on the backs of workers and on a rock dolly.”

Kevin Kuhl, trails/wilderness/OHV coordinator for the Red Rock Ranger District, provided the following update. “Crews are currently gearing up by installing new fencing at the junction of the Cathedral Rock and Templeton trails. This will provide for transition from the open, slick rock terrain on Templeton. It will also better delineate the trail alignment of Cathedral, and reduce redundant social trail alignments on the beginning of the Cathedral slick rock climb. Once the project starts, crews will focus on safely rigging rock to efficiently move it to the construction areas. Then the rock splitting and shaping will start for new check step construction.”

Trail Closure and Re-Opening  According to Kuhl, schedule limitations affecting the American Conservation Experience youth corps crew supporting the project pushed their start date back by a week, impacting completion of the USFS crew work until the end of March.

The lower 0.2-mile portion of the trail from Cathedral Rock trailhead to the Templeton junction will be open to the public for the full duration of the project. The upper 0.3-mile portion of the trail – from the Templeton Junction to the terminus – will remain closed from February 1st to March 31st, unless work is completed earlier and all hazards related to this work are mitigated. He added, “We anticipate volunteer assistance from the Westerners Hiking Club and Friends of the Forest to help us educate the public about the ongoing Forest Closure Order of Cathedral Rock Trail”.

Funding Still Needed to Bridge the Chasm  The project got off the ground financially when the USFS received money from the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020. As that funding was insufficient to cover the cost, the USFS partnered with the SRRTF to raise what was needed to complete the project. This has been largely achieved through remarkably generous support of private donors and grants.

“Significant donations from the National Forest Foundation ($27,100), Enchantment Resort ($15,000), the Sedona Westerners 2022 Trail Fund Campaign ($10,000+), Kahtoola ($8,000) and 66 other donors, have closed the funding gap to $69,760,” stated Kevin Adams, SRRTF president. He added, “We’re urging the community to help bring this project to full, successful closure by March 1st”.

All donations are tax-deductible, and easy to make at On the home page, you can choose to donate specifically to the Cathedral Rock Trail, and your full donation will be used for that project.

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