Cathedral Lakes Trail

MODERATE 117 reviews
#14 of 210 trails in

Cathedral Lakes Trail is a 8.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Mariposa, 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.

DISTANCE
8.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1551 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

birding

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

no dogs

The trail is fairly steep, rising 1,000 feet in about 3.5 miles. 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 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 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. The campgrounds fill up fast.

10 days ago

Relatively easy, accessible hike to a beautiful lake-mountain view. As of a couple of days ago, it does get a bit muddy at spots. The trail out of the woods to the lake is mostly covered in mud and water so a path seems to have emerged left of the actual trail (see my posted hike). Go all the way to the end of the posted hike for upper lake as that is where the money shot was for pics and sitting for lunch.

backpacking
17 days ago

Went in late August and it was a great trail. Good hike. If I remember correctly there are some gradual uphill switchbacks, but nothing too challenging. The destination takes the cake. Camped at Upper Cathedral Lake for a little more privacy, but it’s a popular spot so you’ll be around other campers regardless. Got on the trail late. Saw a few people heading back from their day trek so the motivated can do it in one day, but I highly recommend camping there. Got very chilly at night, but the stars were brilliant (as expected in Yosemite).

hiking
20 days ago

As per other recent reviews in May 2018, this trail is still quite snow covered. Took us way longer and was more of a trudge than we’d planned for. Just be wary it will take longer (path hard to keep to, little to no markers) and be more arduous. We visited both lakes, and preferred solitude of the upper lake.

22 days ago

Beautiful at the lake and following Cathedral Peak up. But going up right after Tioga rd opens is not recommended, over half the trail is covered in snow with no real trail markers. Everyone got lost going up and down and the meadow is a marsh. Wait a few weeks to go! I would have given a lower rating, but could see how this trail would be nice under normal conditions)

hiking
22 days ago

The view at the lake is every bit as incredible and "worth it" as everyone says, but be aware that if you're hiking this trail before the snow melts, it can be quite difficult. The elevation gain is intense, and much of the trail is covered in snow and not always well-marked, so be prepared to get a tad lost a few times if you don't have GPS. Bring layers, hiking poles, and leave early enough so you can spend lots of time at the lake. It's gorgeous!

hiking
6 months ago

By far the greatest hike my girlfriend and I have ever been on. We went on the last weekend that the Tioga Pass was open, no one was on the trailhead. We too the lower lake route. The first mile is the hardest, gaining elevation really fast. We took a few breaks when needed. The rest was fine. I recommend going the end of October/start of November if you want the best view. There was some snow from a recent rain, rivers & waterfalls frozen. I plan on doing this hike again next year.

6 months ago

Good day hike. We did it with some snow on the trail, which made it a little more challenging.

7 months ago

Wonderful memories revisited and a great workout.
Love being up here in Autumn!

hiking
7 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Definitely recommend this trail to everyone. Went this past Tuesday & the weather was lovely! We even caught a few glimpses of snow. The beginning was a little steep and had me out of breathe but it got much better. The only reason I won’t rate it five stars is due to lack of signs on the way back from the trail. It can be confusing. Boyfriend and I came across a hiker who was lost & we worked together to find our way back on the trail.

hiking
8 months ago

Good hike; some (but not many) views along the away but the lake and mountains view at the end are worth it.

rock climbing
9 months ago

We overnighted near the base of Cathedral Peak, just beyond the Budd Lakes drainage. Spectacular views!

hiking
9 months ago

Road is rocky, hard to walk

hiking
9 months ago

Pretty hike, I went to the upper lake and on the return trip stopped by the lower lake. Both lakes had there own beauty. Saw several deer along the way. On the way down keep an eye out for little waterfall next to trail, note water source is coming out of ground.

9 months ago

Nice hike with beautiful lake views. Unfortunately, there were too many mosquitoes to properly enjoy the lake.

hiking
9 months ago

Hiking + Swimming ~ Moderate trail as noted. Pretty long uphill at the start to a quick descent back to another relatively short climb for a final downhill to the lake. Took a right and headed the lower lake. There's a few heavily run deer trails which and lead you off the main if you get distracted and try to follow the stream downhill, so keep your eyes peeled. Once you make it to the final meadow you'll know you're there. Enjoy the swim, but be sure you're up for it as it's just a little bit chilly. As a side note read up the night before on local fires or the like - had to add 60 miles roundtrip due to fires near Glacier Point which added an hour each way to the drive.

9 months ago

Absolutely breathtaking both elevation-wise and scenery. We got an early start and had lunch by Lower Cathedral Lake. In the return hike we saw a deer. Very serene.

backpacking
10 months ago

Cathedral Lakes is the sight to see. Tough climb to get there but well worth it!

10 months ago

Enjoyable moderate hike with some typical Yosemite granite cliff scenery. As of 7/28 there is zero snow on the trail - its muddy at times and bug spray is still a must. The sign at the intersection is confusing because it points down to "Cathedral Lake' (not Lower) while the trail up doesn't mention Upper Cathedral at all. The final .5 to Lower Cathedral is a bit of a logistical challenge - pretty swampy, a balance beam style log crossing over a still powerful stream and a lot of trees down and no obvious indication of where the trail goes. Lost it a couple times. If you've never done it before, feel confident in your ability to retrace your steps with landmarks or use a GPS/map and compass to be sure you're going the right way. You probably can't get too lost with Cathedral Peak and a loud stream to use to keep your bearings, but hazards await if you're careless. Upper Cathedral is smooth sailing, so long as you are well-DEETed.

hiking
10 months ago

The fifth day of Yosemite hiking: We hiked from Tioga Road to Lower Cathedral Lake. The bugs were terrible.

hiking
11 months ago

Awesome trail with trees, creeks and extraordinary view of the cathedral peak and the granite rocks than surround the lakes. On the way up we encountered the trail covered of snow but easy to follow. At the end the spectacular and frozen cathedral lake. Quiet and relaxing. I couldn't resist the temptation to jump in the water. We rest a little and enjoy the most exquisite view in front of us. Beautifully amazing.

hiking
11 months ago

You'll need a GPS to navigate the snow melts, which cover about a 3rd of the trail. You'll also get wet, especially as you get closer to the lake. I was given advice that once you reach the fork that goes down to the lake, stay off the trail and keep to the right of the stream to minimize the amount of bog you go through. As long as you keep it within earshot, it's hard to not end up at the lake.

Monday, April 17, 2017

This hike is worth it! Once you reach the top the view is absolutely stunning! I will be doing this one again.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Was amazing a bit hard at the very beginning but worth everything!!

hiking
Monday, March 13, 2017

Beautiful hike to some alpine lakes. The first part of the hike is actually pretty steep, but as soon as you get past that, it's an easy and enjoyable hike. We got lost for a few minutes on the return portion because the trail wasn't marked very well. There were a fair amount of people on the trail. I recommend this hike if you want a day or two outside of Yosemite Valley. Tuolumne Meadows area is very beautiful and worth the drive!

hiking
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Did a day hike to lower cathedral lake with the kids in June. Steep climb up and in with lots of switchbacks but good tree cover so you are in the shade. Great views of the meadows through the trees as you make your way up. We didn't make good time for the reason, we were constantly stopping for pictures! You cross a stream several times and in early season I recommend you wear waterproof boots as my feet became very cold and wet. The views as you drop into lower Cathedral Lake are amazing and the lake is beautiful. The trail disappeared at times as we dropped into the lake, just follow the stream and you will be fine. Great Yosemite hike! Just a note we had snow on the ground and you need either a gps or very good trail skills as the trail was very difficult to follow in the snow.

backpacking
Tuesday, October 04, 2016

We started a late Friday afternoon backpacking trip with this trail. It was a great trail to just get into the backcountry on. The hike up to the lower lake was fairly strenuous at first requiring a lot of strength going uphill for quite a ways... I think gaining roughly 1000 ft or so. It was dark once we got to the lake but the stars were bright as ever and the night sky looked gorgeous. We woke in the morning to an incredible view of Cathedral Peak with its reflection on top of the water. (Try and camp on the western side of the lake for an amazing sunrise and early morning view of Cathedral) We spent a little time at the lake fishing in the AM and also climbing around all the abundant surrounding granite. From here we back tracked to the intersection with the John Muir trail and headed towards Echo Lake but decided to go off trail and head upwards gaining another 850 feet or so to Echo Peak. Since we got a late start after enjoying our morning we decided to ditch our packs early and make it to the top of echo for the sunset. Scrambling up steep gravely hills we finally made the summit and watched the sun go down. It was absolutely incredible up there. Sitting on small pieces of rock high above our initial campsite at the lake we had never-ending views with faint glimpses of Yosemite Valley, Clouds Rest and Half Dome. We made our way back down to our pack at dusk and decided to set up camp just under Echo. We woke to a cool morning in the ravine and had our breakfast and coffee... From there we decided that we may as well get to the top of Cathedral so we packed our gear and started the short trek to the base. We dropped our packs around lunchtime and started our ascent. We made it just about to the top of Cathedral before I became a little weary of my strength and the clunkiness of my boots to make the rest of the climb up. A couple of us got maybe 75 ft from the top or so while we watched another buddy(who was a little more confident) make it all the way up. After hanging out and relaxing for a bit we headed down completely out of water and in need of a bite to eat. We determined heading to Budd Lake to refuel was probably for the better before walking the 5 miles out to the car. At Budd we took a little swim and refilled everyones water (filtering of course)... Then we took the trail that heads out of Budd and meets back up with the John Muir Trail out near Tioga Pass... The trail out was incredible. Winding through the lush forest following Budd Creek there were many opportunities to take in the scenery and snap a good photo. I really enjoyed my short time in Yosemite and would recommend this section of the park to anyone that wants to keep away from the crowds. Cathedral Lake was fairly busy but if you off shoot up to echo it becomes very private and actually feels like you are alone in the wilderness. I plan to come back and may continue in this section of the park but would like to go much further in...

hiking
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This is a beautiful hike but it’s not without its difficulties and challenges.

First and foremost this trail has a lot of elevation gain and the first half of the trail starts out as a combination of uphill and steps, levels out for a bit, and then goes in to rocky switchbacks. It then levels out again for a while, and you then either have to uphill for a short while to get to the upper lake, or downhill to the lower lake.

Make no mistake, this is a difficult hike. I am overweight and out of shape, and guys who were obviously thru-hiking were even commenting that this is a difficult hike, so I didn’t feel TOO bad about it. It took my wife and I much longer than the rated times to complete this trail, I think it took us around 6.5 hours.
The scenery however is fantastic; there is something to see throughout the trail. The trail starts heavily wooded, along the way to the lakes you will find a nice stream with some good photo opportunities, and eventually the spot in the ground where the water bubbles out and created the beginning of the stream. Along the way you will also see some wonderful views of the Eichorn Pinnacle, Cathedral Peak, and of course the lake itself.

Because it had taken us so long we only went to Lower Cathedral Lake, so I cannot comment on the views of the upper lake. The Lower Lake however has a fantastic walk through a sub-alpine meadow before you get to the actual lake, and then you get to a huge rocky area along the shore of the lake, where you will see fantastic views of the clear blue water, as well as the mountains overlooking the lake.

There is also a lot of traffic on this trail, since it’s part of the John Muir Trail there were a lot of people on the trail who were on their way to Sunrise Camp, we saw people easily every 5-10 minutes the entire way, on the way out we saw a steady stream of people heading back out until fair late.

One downside is that since this trail goes to one of the High Sierra Camp’s is that they use pack horses to transport stuff back and forth, which means there is a TON of horse poop all along the trail. There was horse poop every couple hundred feet, so you have to dodge it the entire way. When the trail is level it’s not so bad, but when coming back down the rocky switchbacks it makes picking a route difficult because not only are you trying to find the safest way down, but you also have to dodge horse poop.

I really enjoyed this hike, despite the difficulties that it gave me. The views are some of the best I have seen on a trail and if you can manage to overcome the elevation gains, it’s well worth it.

hiking
Friday, August 26, 2016

hiking
Monday, July 25, 2016

Such a beautiful hike. I think I was smiling the entire time. We left from Tuolumne Meadows campground so added about five miles overall but it was so nice to come back straight to our campsite instead of having to drive anywhere.

The lakes are gorgeous and peaceful. There were a good number of hikers and equestrians at Lower Cathedral but for how big the lake is it seems everyone was pretty spaced out and it didn't feel crowded. Upper Cathedral Lake was really where we had the best time as we only saw two other hikers and they only stayed briefly.

At Upper, we had a nice little lunch and then had a quick swim (cold water feels great on a hot day but the wind was picking up). Total seclusion. Just the best time. Wildflowers everywhere in the meadows you cross to arrive here and snow still up on some bluffs in July.

Would do again and again and again. Great hike.

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