Floating Island & Cathedral Lakes Trail

MODERATE 12 reviews
#22 of 75 trails in

Floating Island & Cathedral Lakes Trail is a 4.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is best used from July until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

4.7 miles
1220 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly


trail running



7 months ago

My father and I completed the entirety of this trail before sunrise en route to Mount Tallac's summit. This trail is a great, scenic option if you don't feel as if you have the stamina, determination, or materials necessary to summit Mount Tallac. However, the notorious views aren't on this trail, but rather on the trail starting after Cathedral Lake.

The incline is not as strenuous, in my opinion, as others have suggested. It's a peaceful 1,000 foot elevation gain with scenic views and occasional meadows- definitely not difficult. The trail quality, however, is not quite up to par. A great quantity of this trail is on loose and/or protruding rocks that are the product of washout from Tallac's melted snow.

The two lakes, while modest in size, are clear and extremely beautiful. They're better defined as washbowls: stagnant, melted water that collect at the base of peaks. They're great for photography, a cooling dip, or a picnic, but respect the Desolation Wilderness campers that take shelter by Cathedral Lake.

Additionally, beware of yellowjackets. Start early, at sunrise, to help alleviate some of the challenging uphill; hiking in the dark limits your visibility, meaning you take the trail one step at a time. This helps mentally due to the fact that you cannot view the incline that you have to undertake. Furthermore, the yellowjackets are only prevalent after sunrise, so go early if you wish to avoid them.

If you're feeling energetic after Cathedral Lake, I encourage you to try summiting Mount Tallac. Even if you fail, you'll always possess the indescribable views that are only seen on the stretch of trails after Cathedral Lake. Have fun, and bring enough water!

8 months ago

Nice hike, steep uphill to begin. Rocky once you get to the flat, I wouldn't recommend young kids. Views looking back over Fallen Leaf Lake and South Lake Tahoe were my favorite!
No fee to park but you'll need to fill out the desolation wilderness pass (free)

Disclaimer: there are a ton of angry yellow jackets the whole way so be prepared.

9 months ago

The lake is more of a pond, really. My puppy is fairly young so I wanted to take her on a short trip, and this was definitely a good start for both of us. It's a big of a climb beginning from the Mt Tallac trailhead, but when you reach the higher ground you have a beautiful view of fallen leaf and Lake Tahoe beside and behind you. The lake is fairly clean and the water is warmer than I expected it to be. The number of people on the trail was a little much for me, as I went on a weekday and expected less traffic. I could tell a lot of people were gonna be turning back after the first serious gain in elevation when I told them it was a consistent uphill trek. Not a bad hike but not the most rewarding one either.

9 months ago

9 months ago

11 months ago

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pleasant hike past several beautiful lakes.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pleasant hike past a pair of small lakes on the way to the top of Mt. Tallac.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Monday, August 08, 2011

pleasant jaunt up well-maintained trail with good views of fallen leaf lake and Mt. Tallac along the way.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Beautiful hiking trail that parallels Fallen Leaf Lake for a good ways. Cathedral and Floating Islands Lakes are pristine, lovely Alpine lakes that people wade and swim in. The starting at Mt. Tallac Trail is how to get to the the lakes. After seeing it, if you're going to Tallac, starting at the Glen Alpine Trailhead is an easier way to go.