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Cathedral Lakes Trail

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite + Central Sierra, California

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Cathedral Lakes Trail

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  • The Cathedral Lakes Trailhead begins in Tuolumne Meadows.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • The Cathedral Lakes Trail follows a short section of the John Muir Trail, passing impressive glacially-carved granite formations.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Climbers high above the Cathedral Lakes Trail.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Fir forest along the Cathedral Lakes Trail.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Junction for Lower Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Spur trail to Lower Cathedral Lake. The lake sits in the bowl below the granite cirque.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Lower Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Lower Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Lower Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Cathedral Peak (10,912') towers above Lower Cathedral Lake to the east.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Cathedral Peak.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Upper Cathedral Lake with Tresidder Peak (10,605') rising above.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Upper Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Lupine filled wildflower meadow with Cathedral Peak behind.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Cathedral Peak reflecting on Upper Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Upper Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • View from near Cathedral Pass.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Cathedral Pass lies a half mile beyond Upper Cathedral Lake. - Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Cathedral Peak's proper summit (right) and Eichorn Pinnacle (left).- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Eichorn Pinnacle, Cathedral Peak. A climber in red is positioned on a flake below the left ridgeline.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Vista of Whorl Mountain (12,033') and the Sawtooth Ridgeline from near Cathedral Pass.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Eichorn Pinnacle below Cathedral Peak. A climber is in view on the left ridgeline halfway up the pinnacle.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Eichorn Pinnacle.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Storm clouds above Cathedral Peak.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Sunset at Upper Cathedral Lake.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Sunrise next to Cathedral Peak.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • View to Cathedral Peak.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • View to Cathedral Peak.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Wading into Cathedral Lakes.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
  • Pothole Dome from the trail to Cathedral Lakes.- Cathedral Lakes Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Unbeatable views of Cathedral Peak. Picturesque alpine lakes.
Cons: 
Signs of overuse.
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Region:
Yosemite + Central Sierra, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,160.00 ft (353.57 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
8,500.00 ft (2,590.80 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

One of the most popular day hikes in the Tuolumne Meadows area, Cathedral Lakes explores some of the grandest glacially-carved terrain in the Yosemite high country. An 8-mile round-trip hike visits the shores of both Lower and Upper Cathedral Lakes and passes through splendid alpine scenery including the shapely granite pinnacles that form Cathedral Peak. Tack on another mile round trip from Upper Cathedral Lake to reach Cathedral Pass for an even better view.

From Highway 120 in Tuolumne Meadows, the trail for Cathedral Lakes follows the John Muir Trail (JMT) southwest through a lodgepole pine forest as it gains elevation en route to the Cathedral Range. After climbing 600 feet in just over a mile, a view opens to what appears to be a massive granite dome; this is in fact Cathedral Peak’s north-facing shoulder. Don’t worry, this isn’t Cathedral Peak proper. The views get exceptionally better from here on out.

The sandy trail continues around the west flank of Cathedral Peak’s north-oriented backbone, passing through less densely spaced fir and lodgepole forest and crossing over a fork of Cathedral Creek. A little more climbing and the trail flattens out before descending slightly to the junction for Lower Cathedral Lake at 3 miles.

Head right on this spur trail for a half-mile to to visit Lower Cathedral Lake located at the base of a picturesque glacial cirque. The spur trail opens to a meadow with Cathedral Peak’s Eichorn Pinnacle towering above to the east. Large granite slabs surround most of Lower Cathedral Lake, making for great rest and picnic spots. Backpackers are permitted to camp at the lake, by permit only. This area sees lots of use, so please be sure to practice Leave No Trace ethics if you are considering an overnight here.

To reach Upper Cathedral Lake, retrace your steps to the JMT junction, turn right, and continue uphill in the shadow of the Eichorn Pinnacle. The pinnacles of Cathedral Peak, along with the renowned Southeast Buttress, offer classic multi-pitch climbing routes that beckon climbers to the Tuolumne area. John Muir is said to have the first ascent up Cathedral Peak in 1869.

Upper Cathedral Lake lies a half mile from the junction, or 3.5 miles from the trailhead, below the watchful guise of Cathedral Peak’s spectacular craggy southern aspect. Spend some time soaking up the views at Upper Cathedral Lake or continue another half mile up to Cathedral Pass for a world-class vista of the Cathedral Range and beyond.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(13 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(79 within a 30 mile radius)

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