Cathedral Lakes

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Cathedral Lakes

Distance: 11.7km
Elevation: 396m
Time: 3-5h

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The hike to Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park allows you to savor what may be the most perfect lake we have ever been to. Albeit not the stunning color, like in the Canadian Rockies, but the scenery is spectacular and a place worth spending a day exploring.

Getting there

From the Crane Flat gas station take the Tioga Road (Highway 120) east for approximately 54.0km past Tenaya Lake to the Cathedral Lakes trail head. Park on the shoulder of the road.


When to do

June through October

Backcountry Campsites




Family friendly


Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type

Out and back


Detailed Description

The trailhead is very near the Tuolumne Meadows village. All of the parking is located along the road. The trail starts on the north side of the road, and is excellently well marked.

The first part of the trail is fairly bland, working slowly upwards through the trees. You will pass several ponds, and have views of nice rocky peaks through the trees. There are a few streams that need to be crossed, but just one major one.

After climbing over half the elevation, the path levels out and remains mostly flat for the remainder of the trail. At the end of the route you will enter a meadow that can be waterlogged early in the season. To keep your feet dry, you will need to sneak through the labyrinth of streams, canals, and marshes. There are a few small steps to cross, even with very careful route planning.

The lake itself is exquisite, almost picture perfect. The entire lakeshore is completely rocky. You can see the large meadow, a gorgeous peak, and a small view of the valley. The lake is cold, but the shore is really nice. It is extremely beautiful, so plan to spend the entire day there. Bring a picnic and lots of hydration and embrace the sun, mountains, and beautiful water.

Insider Hints

  • This is our favorite place for really hot days, and we make sure to bring drinks and snacks and explore all around here.

  • This is a great location for backpacking as some great trails lead from here.


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