Sedona is my version of heaven on earth. I visit every year at least once and it never ceases to amaze me. I’ve climbed to the top of Cathedral Rock more times than I can count. I love watching the sun go down from the top of Doe Mountain, hiking around Merry Go Round Rock, vineyard hopping throughout the Verde Valley, getting a bite to eat in downtown Cottonwood, and drinking all the margaritas at the Salt Rock Kitchen. I feel right at home here, and someday I swear I’ll own a small vacation home nearby.
Until that day comes, I try to visit as often as I can, and I’ve been lucky to photograph several engagement sessions and wedding celebrations in Arizona over the years. This Sedona engagement session is of epic proportions. I flew into Arizona first thing the morning of the session, and believe it or not, it was raining non stop in the desert that day. We sat in the parked car, waiting for the clouds to let up.
We hiked to the top of Cathedral Rock in the rain, and as soon as we arrived to the top, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. It worked out to our advantage because we were the only ones at the top, a rarity for Cathedral Rock. It was the most quiet and peaceful it has ever been.
If you are considering taking your photos at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, here are my best tips:
I can’t stress this enough. I’ve hiked to the top of Cathedral Rock more times than I can remember and it’s increasingly become busier and busier. I highly recommend visiting on a week day and during a quieter time of year. I personally love to visit in late November when the crowds are thin.
There are 2 small parking lot areas at the trailhead for Cathedral Rock. You’ll need to purchase a Red Rocks pass which is $5 per day. Because of it’s popularity, the parking lots can fill up fast, so I recommend arriving plenty early to make sure you can snag a spot. The Cathedral Rock trailhead can also be accessed via the Templeton and Baldwin trails, so in a worst case scenario, you can park at those trailheads and hike over to Cathedral Rock from there.
It’s about a 1 mile hike to the top, but it’s a steep climb. Whatever you do, don’t wear your engagement session attire during the hike. I guarantee your outfits will be covered in red dirt before you start taking photos. Plan to wear comfy hiking attire to ascend to the top of Cathedral Rock. Hiking shoes are a must for this climb. If it has rained at all recently, it will be very slippery and you’ll need shoes with traction to stay safe.
Because you’ll be wearing athletic attire to the top, pack your engagement session wardrobe in a way that’s easy for you to carry to the top. A garment bag is highly recommended. You may be able to fit shoes, smaller wardrobe pieces into your backpack. If you have your hair and makeup done prior to the hike, bring any touch up supplies you may need. I recommend bringing a large towel or blanket that we can use to hide you as you change into your clothes at the top. Plan to have all the undergarments on beforehand to make it as easy of a transition as possible.
This hike is rated as difficult by All Trails. Like I mentioned, it’s short but steep. You’ll want to make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks, a first aid kit, and a flash light or two. If you are taking photos around sunrise or sunset, you’ll likely be starting or ending in some amount of darkness, so the flash light or headlamp will be key.
If you have the option and you’ve never done this hike before, I’d recommend practicing the hike once ahead of the shoot to get a feel for it and figure out the best way to carry everything you need for your shoot. This will give you a chance to walk out onto the famous ledge. It’s really not as scary as it looks, but the path is a bit narrow. You’ll have a good idea about what type of shoes you can and cannot wear for the shoot itself.
Sedona, I love your red rocks, dramatic landscapes, and sunny skies. Here’s to hoping for more beautiful Sedona engagement photos like this soon!