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California, United States

Cathedral Lakes, Yosemite NP

Worship the great outdoors from the heart of Yosemite National Park.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 8.0 miles / 12.9 km
Duration: Half day
Overview: Two superb Yosemite lakes await you from the Cathedral Lakes trailhead at the side of Tioga Road, inviting you to swap the throngs of car-bound visitors for relative peace and tranquility of calm waters, pine forest and granite peaks.

Elevation gain:
• 1,300ft (from 8,600 - 9,600ft)

• Insects can be plentiful around the lakes, so be sure to pack the bug spray as well as the sunscreen.
• The lakes are popular for wildlife as well as hikers, so keep your eyes peeled for deer, and an occasional timid marmot.

Points of Interest


Trailhead (8,600 ft)

You’ll find plenty of parking at the trailhead, and be sure to empty your car of anything that smells like food and store it in the bear-proof lockers provided.

Stairmaster time!

The trail climbs gently upward at the outset and gains a thousand feet in the first mile, but since most of the rest of the hike is either on the level or downhill you can reassure yourself that this will be the hardest part of your hike. Much of the mileage covered is within sheltered evergreen forest, yet with ample opportunities to marvel in the rightly famous Yosemite National Park landscape.

[JCT] Decision time!

So, how much walking can you handle today? Tackle both lakes and you're looking at a 8.3 mile trek, but you can shorten your hike by visiting just the Upper Lake (7.2 miles total) or just the Lower Lake (7.0 miles).

Approaching Upper Cathedral Lake

There are several small trails which veer off from the main route and transport you to Lower Cathedral Lake. Head for the water's edge, or alternatively try a circuitous route of the lake.

Upper Cathedral Lake

This elevated and more enclosed lake sits in a bowl surrounded on all sides by towering granite landmarks including both the Cathedral and Tresidder Peaks.

Approaching Lower Cathedral Lake

If you fancy a great photo opportunity, be sure to take a look over your shoulder for great vistas of Cathedral Peak.

Lower Cathedral Lake

Rest on the open, sloping granite banks of Lower Cathedral Lake looking westerly over a great watery expanse towards Yosemite Valley and spot the deer grazing by the lake's edge.
Pictures in this guide taken by: Trailspotting

Trailspotting content © Stuart Green 2010 including text, images, videos and route detail.
what a place... very nice.. i would awesome

by planetwi36 on Oct 19, 2014
Looks perfect. I think that may be my next backpacking trip once the road is open

by tonyfarley on May 09, 2010

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