Cathedral Lakes trail in Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Lakes Trail

Yosemite National Park
View Photos
Cathedral Lakes hike in Yosemite National ParkMountain near the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaMan hiking on the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaMountain top at the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaCathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park leads along several beautiful lakesCathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaRocks on the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaMan hiking near Cathedral Lakes with gear on his back in YosemiteViews of the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaTrail of the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaMan hiking near the mountain at the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaRoute markings along the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaTrail of the Cathedral Lakes Hike in Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Lakes Trail

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

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9.6 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

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. Although this lake doesn’t have the stunning turquoise color of those in the Canadian Rockies, we think it’s one of the best lake hikes in Yosemite. The scenery is spectacular and this is a place well worth a day of exploration.

Cathedral Lakes Trail Map

Getting there

To get to the Cathedral Lakes trailhead, take the Tioga Road (Highway 120) east from the Crane Flat gas station for approximately 54.0km past Tenaya Lake to the hike’s trailhead. Park on the shoulder of the road.

I’ve done this 64 people have done this
I want to do this 130 want to do this route

About

When to do

June through October

Backcountry Campsites

Yes

Toilets

Trailhead

Family friendly

Yes

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

High

Route Type

Out and back


Cathedral Lakes Trail
Elevation Graph


Cathedral Lakes Trail Description

The Cathedral Lakes 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 very well marked.

The first part of the Cathedral Lakes 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, and we’re sure you’ll agree that this is one of the best lake hikes in Yosemite! The entire lakeshore is completely rocky. You can see the large meadow, a gorgeous peak, and a small view of the valley. The waters of the lake are very cold, but the shore is a lovely place to linger, and the vista is beautiful, so plan to spend the entire day there. Bring a picnic and plenty of water and sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun, mountains, and beautiful shimmering lake.

Trail Highlights

Cathedral Lakes

The Cathedral Lakes are a pair of stunning lakes in Yosemite National Park. They take their name from the nearby Cathedral Peak, so named for its church-like summit, and the mountain looms high over the water, creating a beautiful backdrop for the lakes. Both lakes are a product of the intense glacial activity that shaped this stunning landscape long ago. As immense glaciers scraped the valley bottom, they eroded a deep basin that was later filled with water.

The scenic beauty of this lovely spot has long attracted hikers and day-trippers, and Cathedral Lakes is now a very popular excursion within Yosemite National Park. The crystal waters provide the perfect mirror for the surrounding peaks, and there are plenty of places for picnicking and camping around the lakeshore.

As the glistening water beckons, you may be wondering whether it is possible to swim in Cathedral Lakes. Whilst it’s certainly possible to take the plunge and jump into the inviting waters, both lakes are extremely cold, so you probably won’t want to stay for long!

If you want to find more great hikes in Yosemite, check out Clouds Rest, Sentinel Dome, Yosemite Valley or Panorama Trail!

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.

Comments

Francine Robertson 2 months ago

The Lake and surrounding area is beautiful and absolutely peaceful. Upper Cathedral Lakes really is beautiful!

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 25m Time Taken
Clara Fields 2 months ago

This hike offers beautiful evergreens and nice little views of large granite objects.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 00m Time Taken
MichaelShulman 2 months ago

The Lake and surrounding area is beautiful and absolutely peaceful.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 15m Time Taken
Kenny Walks 3 months ago

Trail was awesome! The Lake and surrounding area is beautiful and absolutely peaceful.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 00m Time Taken
Jellybean 3 months ago

The meadows, rocky outcrops, and pine forests surrounded by stunning, towering stone features was so beautiful.

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 00m Time Taken
Stewart Graham 3 months ago

Highly recommend going around the lakes the view from the far end of the lower lake is superb. we took our time in the lakes which I recommend doing!

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
footfall 3 months ago

Highly recommend going around the lakes the view from the far end of the lower lake is superb. we took our time in the lakes which I recommend doing!

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
Tom Pack. 4 months ago

the view of Cathedral Lakes was an amazing, a solid hike and beautiful scenery

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
MissGiggles 4 months ago

This trail felt longer than I thought it would be but when you finally get to the lake you can really say that it is well worth it. The Lake and surrounding area is beautiful and absolutely peaceful. I would highly recommend it.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 00m Time Taken
analee 10 months ago

It was astonishing! There are nice ponds with small frogs and tadpoles swimming around.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
15 Comments Show all

Similar hikes to the Cathedral Lakes Trail hike

Scenery of the Clouds Rest hike in Yosemite Valley

Clouds Rest Hike

Difficulty:
20.25km
925m
7-9h

The hike to Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park is a fun day out and leads to one of the…

Mount Hoffman hike in Yosemite National Park

Mount Hoffman

Difficulty:
10.45km
630m
4.5-7h

We loved the hike up Mount Hoffman. The views from the summit were said by John Muir to be amongst…

Trail of the Mount Dana hike in Yosemite National Park

Mount Dana

Difficulty:
8.6km
940m
4.5-6h

Hiking up to the summit of Mount Dana is a great day out to Yosemite’s second highest peak with astounding…