This week my “Road Trip Friday”  photo adventures take us to Sedona where two things usually come to mind: stunning red rocks and pink jeep tours. But Sedona has more to offer including one of National Geographic’s 38 Religious Places with Awe-Inspiring Architecture called Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross Church.

The Chapel itself is 250 feet tall and has a 90-foot steel cross that functions both as a support structure and as a religious symbol. Additionally, the Chapel is built into a 1000-foot rock wall and situated on two buttes. It’s no wonder this Chapel is one of the top tourist destinations in Sedona!

Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross History

Although I initially visited the Chapel to photograph it, I quickly became engrossed in the Chapels’ history and thought I would share a bit of it here. A local Sedona rancher and sculptor, Marquerite Brunwig Staude, came up with the idea for the Chapel’s design after a visit in 1932 to the new Empire State Building in New York.   Once she had a design in mind, Marquerite spent years on a worldwide search for the perfect location on which to build her chapel.

Originally, Marquerite attempted to build her chapel in Budapest with Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, but had to abort the build due to the beginning of World War II.  It was not until many years later that she finally decided to build the Chapel in Sedona. For additional history of the Chapel be sure to visit: About the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

As noted in the above history, Sedona’s  Chapel of the Holy Cross was literally built in 1956 on top of two buttes nestled between the surrounding red rocks, cactus, and cottonwood trees. To say I am in total awe of Marguerite’s vision to decide to build on these buttes is an understatement and I am sure you will be as well!

Where is Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross?

The Chapel is located off Highway 179 on Chapel Road south of downtown Sedona and is very easy to find.  

3 Ways to Visit Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross

Drive– For those who chose to drive to the Chapel, be sure to arrive very early on a weekday if at all possible as parking is limited.  Park in the first available spot you can find.  Once parked you have two options; a) choose to hike up a steep hill to the Chapel entrance or b) take advantage of the free golf cart rides to the top of the hill.  

Handicapped Visitors– Proceed to the top of the hill where all parking is for handicapped stickers only as shown in the photo below.  

RVs and longer vehicles-  I believe the lots at the bottom can accommodate vans and shorter class C RVs.  However, I would not attempt to visit the Chapel if towing a travel trailer or in any large RV as places to turn around are limited and tight.  Please check with the Chapel to verify if anything has changed. 

     Handicapped Parking


Taking a tour-The Chapel is a popular stop on several of Sedona’s tours and participating in a tour would eliminate the hassle of finding a place to park.  However, for those interesting in photographing the Chapel, this may not be the best option.  If you are hoping to capture photos of the Chapel’s interior or avoid large crowds you need to visit the Chapel as soon as it opens or shortly thereafter. Therefore inquire from any tour company as to what time they plan to visit the Chapel.  Even if you take a tour I do suggest returning in the early evening to photograph the Chapel’s exterior. Also, parking should not be as difficult later in the afternoon. I do not recommend any tours where the Chapel stop would be at midday due to crowds and poor lighting. 

Hike-For hikers, there are a couple of different trails that will take you to the Chapel. The Chapel Trail is the easier of the two options as the other requires a bit of rock scrambling if I remember correctly. Here is a  brief overview of the Chapel Trail.

Photographing Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross

Photographing this chapel is very different than photographing any other church I have visited due to the grounds being vertical buttes.  Obviously, these vertical buttes do not afford photographers any ability to walk around the chapel and photograph its different sides.  In fact to photograph the front of the Chapel’s exterior, one must park well below the actual Chapel’s entrance in the lot pictured below.

Fortunately, the lot (more like a pullover) provides access to some of the best spots from which to photograph the Chapel’s amazing exterior as seen in the images below.  

Photos from the Chapel’s Lower Parking Area:

Entrance to the Chapel of the Holy Cross

As previously addressed, the actual entrance to the Chapel is located at the top of a steep hill.  Once you arrive at the entrance, there is a paved curved ramp that has a bit of an incline one must walk before reaching the actual Chapel door. Although not nearly as steep as the hill from the parking lot, for some this ramp can still be a bit of a struggle, especially in hot weather so take it easy.

Ramp to the Chapel Entrance

Chapel of the Holy Cross Interior

The interior of the Chapel is small with a few rows of pews, many stands of red candles at the front of the Chapel, and of course the amazing cross and the views from its enormous glass windows.

 Tips for Photographing the Holy Cross Chapel

The Chapels Interior

  • Photographing the Chapels interior will most likely require taking multiple exposures using HDR on some type of stable platform.
  • Although tripods were allowed in the Chapel when I was last there, it is a very small space with lots of visitors.  Therefore I recommend using a monopod over a tripod.
  • This is a religious place so always be respectful of others who come here to pray.  
  • On partly cloudy days, try to photograph the Chapels exterior with a high ISO so that one can avoid any use of tripods or monopods.  
  • Remember to take your photographs then move out of the way to allow others to take in the view. 
  • The best time to photograph the Chapels interior is in the early morning hours otherwise you could be photographing into the sun.
  • Photographing with a wide angle lens in the 24-28mm range works best in the Chapel.

The Chapel’s Exterior

  1. Unlike the Chapel’s interior, the late afternoon light is best for photographing the Chapel’s front exterior.
  2. The Chapels’ front must be photographed from the parking lot before the entrance gate.
  3. Photograph the Chapel as both a horizontal and a vertical image.
  4. Use every lens from 17mm to 300mm for different perspectives.

My actual experience-Initially, I begin to photograph the Chapel in a vertical format to capture the Chapels’ height amongst the buttes. However, it quickly became apparent that the vertical composition did not allow for the capture of the beautiful trees and red rocks around the Chapel as illustrated by the above photos.  Therefore I recommend taking time to photograph the Chapel as both a vertical and horizontal image as both make great photos.

Questions about Visiting Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross

Where is Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross?

I have answered that earlier in the post.

What does it cost to see the Chapel? 

The Chapel is free to visit but tips for drivers of the golf carts is welcomed.

Does the Chapel have Sunday Mass?

No, but they do have a Monday evening 5 p.m. prayer service open to all.

Where do I park at when visiting Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross?

See above for a detailed answer.

Does the Sedona Chapel of the Holy Cross Have a Gift Shop?

Yes, it is in the Chapels basement and it is well worth a visit.

What hours is the Sedona Chapel of the Holy Cross open?

The Chapel is open every day 9-5 and only closed on a few holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Again, for those who plan a visit to Sedona, again I strongly encourage making time to explore Sedona’s Church of the Holy Cross Chapel as it is truly a one-of-a-kind building.  As always thanks for joining me on another Road Trip Friday Photo Adventure and I look forward to seeing you again next week.




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