Cathedral Lakes Trail is a 8.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Length8.6 miElevation gain1,551 ftRoute typeOut & back
BackpackingFishingHikingHorseback ridingNature tripsWalkingRunningForestLakeViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyFeeNo dogs
Description
Waypoints (6)
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Getting There

Yosemite National Park charges a fee to enter. Fees are per vehicle or per motorcycle. If you are entering on foot, horse, or bike the fee is per person. You can also purchase a park-specific annual pass. Yosemite is open with some services limited due to COVID-19. Reservations are required to drive into Yosemite. Some services and facilities are limited, and shuttles are not operating. See the park website for more info: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/covid19.htm The Cathedral Lakes Trail is fairly steep, rising 1,000 feet in about 3.5 miles. It is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite National Park and a highlight of the Tuolumne Meadows area. The trail is also located at high elevation, so the air is thinner, possibly causing those that are not acclimated to the elevation to tire faster, and fatigue. The trailhead is off of Tioga Road. The view upon arrival is worth ever bit of work it takes to get there. Cathedral Peak rises beyond a pristine alpine lake. Along side of the Upper Cathedral Lake a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers adds color to this amazing landscape. It is truly paradise. But it is essential to register early if you plan to stay overnight. Wilderness Permits are required for overnight stays at the lakes. Stop by the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center for more information about the area.

At the trailhead there is a small parking lot. Overnight parking is permitted here, but be sure to clean out your car. Leaving anything with scent behind will be a disaster for your car, and for any bear that happens along. This includes food, suntan lotion, deodorant, etc.

California Travel and Tourism Commision, P.O. Box 1499 , Sacramento, CA, 95812-1499, Phone: 800-862-2543

Insects can be plentiful around the lakes, so be sure to pack the bug spray as well as the sunscreen. The lakes are popular for wildlife as well as hikers, so keep your eyes peeled for deer, and an occasional timid marmot.

Directions from Arch Rock Entrance: Follow Highway 140 toward Yosemite Valley. Before reaching the valley turn left on to Big Oak Flat Road. Drive 9.5 miles on Big Oak Flat Road to Tioga Road. Turn right on Tioga Road and travel approximately 37 miles to the Cathedral Lake Trailhead.

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Reviews (532)
Photos (779)
Activities (431)
Completed (1,541)
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Chance Hollingsworth
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Hiking
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sizemic1 .
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Michal Dominiak
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Blake Hughes
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Jan Sacha
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Ray Mack
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HikingGreat!

Truly beautiful and worth all the ups and downs (literally). Know that the first mile is the most elevation gain, so push passed it and you’ll be fine.

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Ben McCormack
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Hiking

Beautiful walk, beautiful lakes!

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Jared Martinez
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Hiking

One of the most beautiful hikes through the backcountry of Yosemite. Hike starts off at high elevation and the first 1.5 miles is a climb but flattens out and you get to enjoy some beautiful wilderness. Make sure you go to Upper Cathedral Lake first and make it back down to Lower Cathedral Lake on the way back. Gorgeous Lakes and next time would love to spend the night up here. One of my favorites now.

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Bryce Otanez
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Hiking

Surreal experience. What an amazing hike. Get up there early and find a peaceful area to relax and enjoy the picnicu. We spent almost all day up there.

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Nina Hoang
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Kinsey Marie Carney
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BackpackingRocky

Absolutely breathtaking!

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Vipul Patel
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Hiking

Awesome hike and beautiful lake

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Helen Sims
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Hiking

Beautiful lake, but knocking a star because to be honest I think there are prettier hikes in Yosemite. Very pleasant hike and not too difficult.

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Jentel Das
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Hiking

Lower lakes is beautiful

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nicolaos Perdikaris
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Kelly Isaacs-White
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Jack Bassett
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Hiking

Capital-S Stunning. I'm usually not a big fan of trails that are monotonous on the way up, but the trail is so beautifully shaded by the forest that you can't help but appreciate it. Both lakes are so gorgeous. Lower Cathedral is flanked by a beautiful meadow on the east. Best appreciated in early summer when it's still green. Granite shelf on the east side makes for a nice snack spot, but the best view of the lake actually comes from the west side, looking out at cathedral peak. Upper Cathedral is much more cozy and feels more tucked away, surrounded by meadows and grasses. Hiked 6/28/2020

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Anthony Jones
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BackpackingGreat!

We did this trail as the 1st part of our short fall backpack trip. We started up the Cathedral Lakes Trail after dropping off a vehicle at the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead near Tenaya Lake. It was a smoky drive up from the Yosemite Valley and at some points we saw smoke blowing across the road. As everyone knows the 1st section of this trail is steep. This always makes it harder carrying a fully loaded backpack at this altitude. The dense smoke made it worse this time and it felt as if we were climbing stairs inside a smoky Indian Casino Gameroom. Luckily once we reached the top of the climb the smoke seemed to lighten up. We headed off to Lower Cathedral Lake this time since we only went to the Upper Lake last time. We set up camp on the far right side of the lake at a nice campsite not to far from the water with easy access. We arrived early enough to explore the perimeter of the lake before dinner. There were a few campsites on the far side of the lake, one of which was especially large but exposed. It was peaceful and quiet up here and fortunately the wind didn't blow in the smoke. It was mostly clear at this altitude but only a slight climb behind camp on a large slab of granite revealed smoke wafting in from the Creek Fire and another fire near Whitewolf. In the morning we headed up to Upper Cathedral Lake and took in some amazing scenery. Thankfully it was much clearer up here as somehow the smoke layed down over the night. It was nice and cool up here probably in the mid 50's, perfect for backpacking. After taking in the magnificent views we continued up a steep and relentless climb to the Sunrise High Sierra Camp. It sure seemed longer than the miles indicated and although it was beautiful, it seemed pitifully dry this time of year. None of the streams flowing through the valley had any water and everything looked parched. We took a break at the HSC that was closed for the year and headed off up to the right toward Sunrise Lakes. We set up camp at the first Sunrise Lake that was beautiful. Our campsite was large and spacious with easy water access. A short climb behind camp offered views of Clouds Rest and Half dome off in the valley below. It was chilly here and temps reached the upper 20's. Thankfully it was dry and when we woke there was no ice on the ground or on our tents. We packed up camp and headed down past the other two Sunrise Lakes and stopped by the lowest Sunrise Lake that was gorgeous and appeared to have some great campsites. When we reached the trail junction of the Cloud's Rest Trail split we climbed off a well used path to another outstanding overlook of Half Dome and Cloud's Rest for a great Selfie. The trail back down Tenaya Canyon to our 2nd vehicle was brutal. Over 1,000 feet of decline in one mile. Large steep steps, jagged rocks to negotiate and powder fine dust being kicked up made it worse. I would not want to come up this way with a backpack. We saw alot of day hikers heading up carrying light loads moving pretty quick. Most were wearing masks and seemed intent on making the summit of Cloud's Rest and heading back to Tenaya Lake as a tough 14 mile RT dayhike. On the few level spots on the way down we took in some amazing vistas across the Tuolumne Valley. Luckily the smoke on this day was less than when we started a few days before. When we finally reached the bottom we were toast. My quads were noodly and my toes ached from jamming into the ends of my boots. Normally I don't hike in boots but I was glad I was on this trip. Overall it was a great trip. The Cathedral Lakes region is stunning and even with the smoke it was worth it. My throat is still sore from breathing in that acrid smoke and my eyes burned but that will go away soon.

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Brenna Krieger
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Stephanie Franich
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Hiking

So beautiful!! And not too smoky!

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Charles Compton
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HikingGreat!
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Kat Mallon
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Hiking

The alpine lakes of the Sierras are always a gem and these are no exception. Great spot to camp and hang out and swim for the day. Very hazy during our stay when wind shifted and distant forest fire smoke blew in. Interesting experience in its own way though.

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Katie Foust
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Nature tripsGreat!Rocky

Jeez Louise! What a trek for the first mile or so, every little bit of the trail is uphill. After you overcome that part (the most difficult and when your legs feel like jello), it flattens out significantly with one last little climb near the middle of the trail. Beautiful views of different domes on the way, and Cathedral Peak is absolutely stunning from both lakes! Can’t go wrong with either one :)

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Carl Pio
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Hiking

My GF and I hiked this trail on 9/10. The air quality here was significantly better than in other areas of the park, so we lucked out. We loved the upper lake and took some great pics and took some time to just hang out and take it all in. the hike itself wasn't super challenging. Was definitely worth the drive!

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chad moffat
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Mountain biking

It is a great hike pretty up hill for the first couple miles but after that not too bad but just remember when you come back you got to go down. Lol

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Brian Spatocco
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Paul Remmenga
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Hiking

These two lakes area as beautiful as you'll find. The granite walls shooting up next to them form an image that is on the short list of most beautiful on earth.

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Thomas Gagneret
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Bryan Crain
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