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greenBlue Lower Cathedral Lake Trail

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0.9 mile 1.5 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 3' 1 m
Descent: -142' -43 m
High: 9,439' 2,877 m
Low: 9,300' 2,835 m


Avg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 16% (9°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by David Hitchcock

A beautiful High Sierra lake with sweeping views of Cathedral Peak.

David Hitchcock

Features Lake · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers

Family Friendly An easy trail ending at a lake which is a great spot to go swimming or have a picnic.

Tioga Road east of Crane Flat and west of Tioga Pass Entrance Station is closed in the winter and spring until the road is cleared of snow. You can check road conditions atnps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/… or by dialing 1-209-372-0200, dialing extensions 1/1.

No campfires are allowed in this area, and bears tend to frequent campsites, so bear canisters are a must when camping here.


To reach this trailhead, park on the side of Tioga Road, just west of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. There are bear boxes at the trailhead for your food and ice chests. Due to it's popularity, there may be many cars parked along the road, so you might have to hike a little to reach the trailhead.

To access this trail, start hiking on the John Muir Trail for roughly 3 miles. The John Muir Trail climbs steeply through a lodgepole pine forest, levels out and crosses several branches of Cathedral Creek, and then climbs steeply again until the trail levels out at the base of Cathedral Peak. At this point, the John Muir Trail widens and becomes sandy as it continues to the junction of the Lower Cathedral Lake Trail, where the Lower Cathedral Trail begins.

Turn right (southwest) and follow the trail for about .5 miles through areas of wildflowers until you reach the bench of the bedrock of the lake. You may need to rock hop a small creek or two in the meadow, depending on the time of year. There may appear to be a rust line on the rock, which indicates the high water mark when the meadows flood in the early part of the season as the snow melts. You can find a place on the rock here to relax and warm up in the sun, or continue to work your way around on the right hand side of the lake, following the trail to it's terminus. While fishing may be poor here due to its popularity, this relatively shallow lake offers many opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and simply relaxing on the warm rocks along the edge of the lake. You won't be alone, as this is a popular trail due to it's proximity to Tioga Road and the John Muir Trail, but there is a large area to spread out along the shoreline.

Once you arrive at the lake, turn around to get sweeping views of Cathedral Peak, rising like a spire before you. If you hike to the end of the trail on the right side of the lake to explore the lake's outlet, views of Polly Dome, Pywiack Dome, Mount Hoffman, Tenaya Peak and some of Tenaya Lake can be seen.

Once you are done exploring, you can take the trail back to your car, or if you are backpacking along the John Muir Trail, continue on your way to your destination for the evening.

Flora & Fauna

Deer, bear, ground squirrels, etc.

The meadow areas around the lake offer opportunities for wildflower viewing in the early summer months.


Land Manager: NPS - Yosemite

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May 27, 2018
Jaclyn Rose
Oct 5, 2017
Emily Feinberg
Sep 5, 2017
Jack Gilbert
Aug 8, 2017
Ricky Wu
Aug 1, 2017
Jeremiah Geronimo
If you're allergic to insect bites, beware of the mosquitos.
Jul 1, 2017
Li Zhou
Oct 9, 2016
Paulo Saraiva
Sep 24, 2016
Chelsea Wozniak

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 8 votes


  4.8 from 8 votes
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in California


33 Views Last Month
1,193 Since Sep 15, 2015
Easy/Intermediate Easy/Intermediate

Nick Wilder
Boulder, CO
Nick Wilder   Boulder, CO  
Spectacular area. Imagine John Muir making the first ascent of Cathedral Peak in 1869! May 13, 2016

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