Up close view of clear Upper Cathedral Lake sitting below Cathedral Peak, with surrounding forests and boulder dotted shoreline
Kevin Wells Photography/Shutterstock.com

Cathedral Lakes Trail

Updated by Dianne Titos on December 7 2023

Hiking the Cathedral Lakes Trail in Yosemite offers a rewarding experience compared to other local hikes,, with this steady climb leading you to the stunning Lower Cathedral Lake, one of Yosemite's most impressive High Sierra lakes.

An overview of the distance and difficulty hiking Cathedral Lakes Trail
πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ Distance7 miles
⏱️ Time6 hours
πŸ’ͺ DifficultyModerate
πŸ”οΈ Elevation Gain1,660 feet

Where can I find Cathedral Lakes Trail within Yosemite National Park?

Found within Tuolumne Meadows, Cathedral Lakes Trail is best reached from the Tioga Pass Entrance, which is around a 15-minute drive away. Simply enter Yosemite from the east then continue along Tioga Road, past Tuolumne Meadows, until you see the sign for Cathedral Lakes.

There's a limited amount of parking at the trailhead itself, and also a parking area at the far end of Tuolumne Meadows which gives good access to Cathedral Lakes trailhead.

What makes this hike so special?

This moderate hike takes you to two spectacular mountain lakes, where you'll see reflections of the surrounding forests and mountains if conditions are right. It's all uphill until you reach the lakes so you'll need a reasonable level of fitness, but it is well worth the effort with the route less crowded than many of the hikes from Yosemite Valley.

How we rate the different aspects of Cathedral Lakes Trail
FeatureOur rating
Natural beauty and scenery⭐⭐⭐
Wildlife spotting⭐⭐⭐
Peace and quiet⭐⭐⭐
Accessibility⭐⭐

Boulders and a calm creek along the trail in Yosemite National Park on a sunny day
You can expect stunning scenery throughout the Cathedral Lakes Trail.
N8Allen/Shutterstock.com

What are the highlights of hiking Cathedral Lakes Trail?

Cathedral Lakes Trail include the breath taking scenery of Lower Cathedral Lake, and towering peaks like Cathedral, Echo, and Tresidder. It is a feast for the eyes, and here is more detail about what you can expect to see.

  1. Upper Cathedral Lake - A peaceful and less frequented spot, offering stunning views amidst Yosemite's high country.
  2. Lower Cathedral Lake - Renowned for its spectacular beauty, with granite peaks and often reflected across the landscape.
  3. Cathedral Peak - This peak stands as a striking granite spire, dominating the skyline and presenting a challenging yet rewarding climb for adventurous hikers.

When is the best time of year to visit Cathedral Lakes Trail?

Cathedral Lakes trailhead is located on Tioga Road, and as this road closes to vehicles between November and May, with heavy snow expected, it's best to make this impressive trek during the warmer months.

When is the best time to visit Cathedral Lakes Trail
SeasonConsiderations
Spring🌷 The trail becomes accessible as Tioga Road opens, although some snow may still lay at higher points, so take extra care.
Summerβ˜€οΈ This is considered the best time to visit, with pleasant weather and clear trails to enjoy the incredible views.
FallπŸ‚ The weather is typically pleasant, however there may be early snowfall or colder weather, so pack extra layers.
Winter❄️ The trail is generally inaccessible due to the closure of Tioga Road and heavy snow in the area.

Common questions about hiking Cathedral Lakes Trail

This trail, part of the famed John Muir Trail, offers hikers a moderately challenging yet highly rewarding journey, but with limited facilities along the way you need to make sure you are well prepared before taking it on.

Is Cathedral Lakes Trail easily accessible for those with mobility issues?

❌ No, Cathedral Lakes Trail is not easily accessible for those with mobility issues. You can expect steep incline and uneven pathway.

Are there restrooms along Cathedral Lakes Trail?

❌ No, there are no restrooms along Cathedral Lakes Trail, however there are restroom facilities at the parking area.

Are there refreshments and water stations along Cathedral Lakes Trail?

❌ No, there are no refreshments or water stations along Cathedral Lakes Trail.

❗ You can pick up a meal or snacks at Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, which is around half a mile away from the trailhead.

Are dogs allowed along Cathedral Lakes Trail?

❌ No, dogs are not allowed along Cathedral Lakes Trail.

Are vehicles allowed along Cathedral Lakes Trail?

❌ No, cars, electric scooters, and ATVs are not allowed on Cathedral Lakes Trail.

Can you camp overnight along Cathedral Lakes Trail (or nearby)?

β­• Yes, you can camp overnight close to Cathedral Lakes if you have a wilderness permit. You will need to get a permit in advance.

❗ If you're looking for more facilities, the nearest campground is at nearby Tuolumne Meadows.

Is there anything else to watch out for when I hike Cathedral Lakes Trail?

This part of Yosemite is famous for its mosquitoes, so be sure to bring bug spray in your pack.

Sunset over Cathedral Peak and Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.
Stay as the sun sets and you are greeted with incredible views over Cathedral Peak and Lake.
jared ropelato/Shutterstock.com