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Cathedral Lakes Trail

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Yosemite National Park

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.

Distance: 8.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1,551 feet Route Type: Out & Back

backpacking

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

no dogs

Yosemite National Park is open to those with reservations begining on Thursday, June 11. See the park website for more info: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/covid19.htm 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. Wilderness Permits are required for overnight stays at the lakes.

I definitely recommend to get there early. I started my hike around 8:15 and had both lakes to myself until lunchtime. As other reviewers have mentioned, the beginning is the most difficult part. It flattens out a bit after about .8 miles in and then there’s another bit of uphill a little later. I started the lake loop at Upper Cathedral Lake and had it all to myself. I walked the whole loop (you do have to climb some rocks to do this) and it was amazing. Afterwards I hiked down to the lower lake and ate lunch and hung out for awhile enjoying the peace and tranquility. I explored a little bit, but didn’t loop around this lake, as backpackers started arriving and I took that as my cue to start heading back out. My whole trip was about 10.5 miles. Most people adhered to mask wearing and/or keeping at least six feet away. I encountered a few people coming down who had camped on my way up and after I finished lunch a new wave of backpackers were coming in. Bring bug spray and enjoy all of the beauty on this hike.

hiking
bugs
5 days ago

an amazing trail! just completed it, went to the upper lake first, and the lower after. Highly recommend going around the lakes the view from the far end of the lower lake is superb. we took our time in the lakes which I recommend doing!

hiking
great!
6 days ago

So amazing! The meadows, rocky outcrops, and pine forests surrounded by stunning, towering stone features was so beautiful. Definitely made me interested to return to backpack, as I only day-hiked. We stopped by the lake to snack and even jumped in. Cold, but refreshing water. Moderate traffic if you are concerned about social distancing, but I noticed most were being courteous and putting on the mask when we passed, and traffic got heavier mid-day.

hiking
bugs
rocky
6 days ago

hiking
8 days ago

Tougher climber from CA 120 than expected. A terrific trail.

bugs
9 days ago

The best thing about this hike is that you get the hardest part out of the way first. When you leave your car, the first .6 - .8 miles will be the hardest uphill. still several streams you cross over to fill up on water if you have a filtering option. once you get to the lake, make sure to walk around it some--best views are with the Cathedral peaks behind the lake, which you dont get if you're looking the wrong way.

hiking
9 days ago

The first .8 mile is brutal but then it’s not as bad. We were a bit confused with the stated distances. If you want to do BOTH upper and lower cathedral lakes it’s between 9-10 miles depending on how much exploration you do. Both are beautiful...I would suggest doing the upper first. At the lower lake, make sure to go all the way around to the far end. There is a beautiful view into a lower valley and you can peek at another lake. Mosquitoes were not bad until early evening on the way down. Overall great hike!

hiking
bugs
17 days ago

Awesome hike! Question though.. did anyone else find that fresh water spring along the way? I may have drank from it.. and I want to make sure it was safe!

hiking
bugs
18 days ago

So many vicious mosquitoes! And such great beauty! Swam in the lower lake, the water is great already. People camping around. Yosemite had so many cars parked it almost feels like it’s back to where it used to be, even though it’s not true and they now require day use permits to enter the park.

hiking
22 days ago

Great trail with a good climb. Don’t go without bug spray!!!! The mosquitoes were fierce biting threw clothes and had big black swarms!

hiking
5 months ago

Worth the payoff. Secluded

hiking
7 months ago

This is a great day hike. Moderate elevation change with the steepest at the early portion of the trail. Great family hike as well with good opportunity for early teens to get some experience boldering and exploring the mountain slopes around the lake. Lake is beautiful as are the view of Cathedral Peak.

8 months ago

After hiking Vernal and Nevada Falls yesterday, I found this hike harder than expected because I was worn down, my arthritis was killing me, and because of the steep climb/high elevation. Cathedral Lake was peaceful and beautiful, which made the hike worthwhile.

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

Hands down worth the hike to both lakes ! Views were incredible .

hiking
off trail
8 months ago

Great trail! Starts with a steep mile uphill, then evens out and you climb some more. The Lower Lake is beautiful, but we thought the Upper Lake was even better (no matter what the brochures say). We did it in 5 hours and 15 minutes, but we chilled for half an hour at the Lower and half an hour at the Upper Lake.

hiking
8 months ago

Most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen. Trail is a bit hard to follow at the end but gosh is it worth it!!

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

The trail starts out pretty steep. Treking poles help a lot. Would not go on the trail without them. Lower Cathedral Lake is beautiful. Great lunch stop. Upper Cathedral Lake not much further of a hike. Worth the effort. Great day hike. People on the trail were really friendly. Definitely a do over.

hiking
muddy
rocky
scramble
9 months ago

Good hike in cool weather. The lake is beautiful, perfect spot to picnic and hang out. You can also loop around the lake which we decided not to do, but I’m sure it’s even more beautiful. Definitely a workout on the way there, but don’t underestimate the way back bc it’s so rocky it’s a lot of work on the knees and holding yourself back from flying down the mountain. Either way, a good one.

hiking
muddy
rocky
scramble
9 months ago

Beautiful trail up in Tuolumne Meadows. Beautiful scenery and an amazing view of Cathedral Lakes. What more could you ask for?

recorded Cathedral Lakes Trail

hiking
9 months ago

Day hike in, night hike out. Most of the hike is through very pretty woods, so limited visibility of peaks in distance. The payoff at the end is absolutely worth every step and then some. Cathedral peak rises up from the ridge and horIzon and immediately captures your attention and won’t let go. Possible to circumambulate the lake, which I did most of the way. Tried climbing up the rocky hill to get a better view of Upper Cathedral Lake in its entirety, but it was very steep so stopped about halfway up. Watching the sun set on the peak as it reflected in the lake below and the world was reverentially still was breath taking. Nearly all of my life is filled with doing, so even a few minutes of being (not doing) was more than enough to bring a smile to my face.

hiking
9 months ago

We did this hike on the last day of our stay at YNP. Tioga Rd. was closed earlier in the week due to snow. It turned out to be one of our favorites. Our group hiked to the upper and lower lakes and were rewarded with stunning views of Cathedral peak and these pristine alpine lakes do not disappoint. The conditions were a little muddy in spots and snow still on trail in the shade but no need for traction devices. Do it before Tioga closes for the season well worth it!

hiking
muddy
rocky
snow
9 months ago

Its a lovely trail even though the altitud plays tricks on you on your way up. Make sure you take your time so you can take little breaks, and enjoy the lake views for a while!

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