Archives -> Cathedral Lakes - Yosemite National Park

Cathedral LakeCathedral Lakes, located near Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, is an extremely popular hiking, climbing, and backpacking destination. Given its close proximity to the trailhead, the basin itself can be found crowded with people in mid-summer, However in early spring the trail is covered snow, keeping many at bay. With this hope in mind I had planned an early spring backpacking loop around the Cathedral Range. My hike started at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead in the on-and-off rain, and I immediately had hesitations of my ambitious route. Soon the trail became lost under the snow, but a few footprints led me in the right direction. As the footprints slowly disappeared the weather improved, and climbing high up a ridge above upper Cathedral Lake I found several snow free campsites.

The sleet started early in the morning, then quickly turned to rain, clearing slightly as I made breakfast. I felt magnetized to this area, and giving up all hopes of completing my hike I spent some time exploring, watching the birds, enjoying the view, and ducking into my tent during the on and off deluges.

Somehow I managed to break out of my laziness, and decided to move camp down to the lower lake. Ordinarily I'd consider the mile long hike easy, but working my way through the snow I was on a slip-n-slide one second, then sinking in knee deep another - with each sudden change making my guttermouth well known to the forest. I found a secluded site high above the lake, and much of the afternoon was spent alternating between short walks, relaxing around camp, and ducking into the tent - each of which timed with the changing weather.

Cathedral LakeThe smell of campfire made me realize I wasn't alone - not a surprise for Cathedral Lakes but the first sign of other backpackers since I left the trailhead. It started to rain. I had scouted a location to photograph the sunset down by the lake earlier in the day, and with the sky clouded over and lack of creativity it turned into a guessing game. A few moments later I found myself sprinting through the rain towards the far side of the lake - the faster I ran the brighter the sky became. Running across the troublesome inlet and suddenly it became one of those sunsets that breathes life into the phrase "range of light".

Persistent rain through the night, the morning came surprisingly quickly. At 5am I was standing beside the lake in the sprinkles, once again watching another light show. But all things must come to an end, and just as the sky cleared I found myself on the short hike out.

To read a more comprehensive story from this backpacking trip, visit the Cathedral Lakes Trip Report at High Sierra Topix.