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Guide to Tuolumne Meadows Trails (1960) by Allan Shields


IV. CATHEDRAL LAKE AND UPPER CATHEDRAL LAKE

(2-easy all-day hike, 1200 ft., 6 miles).

Upper Cathedral Lake lies 500 feet above Cathedral Lake, which is situated somewhat below Cathedral Peak itself, and at the base of Eagle Peak (unofficial title). Both lakes empty their contents down a cascade (in season) which forms as a stream, flowing eventually into Lake Tenaya, thence down Tenaya Canyon, Slide Falls, Py-we-ack Fall, Mirror Lake, Merced River, and eventually ending in Lake Yosemite. It is interesting to note that Lake Yosemite is not in Yosemite, but in Merced County, and that Lake Merced is not in Merced County, but in Yosemite! At first, this is confusing.

Both lakes have rugged glaciated settings. From either, one can see Cathedral Peak, Echo Peaks, Echo Ridge, the Bishop’s Backbone and Eagle Peak. From the outlet of Cathedral Lake

Fishing is better in lakes of the back country.
    Anderson, NPS
[click to enlarge]
Fishing is better in lakes of the back country.  Anderson, NPS
you can see Polly Dome. It is recommended that you eat lunch here at the outlet of lower Cathedral Lake, and that after lunch you take the trail to Upper Cathedral Lake, possibly continuing on to Cathedral Pass where you may view the Vogelsang area, and Columbia Finger.

Directions: This ancient Indian trail, now known as the Sunrise Trail, can be reached by driving toward Lake Tenaya 1.5 miles. Drive along the ‘main road across two streams, the first called Elizabeth Creek, the second Budd Creek, after their respective lake sources. Immediately past Budd Creek is a turnoff and parking area on your left. Find the trail out of the parking area. Soon it will cross at right angle to the trail from Tenaya Lake to Tuolumne Meadows. From this point on, there is no confusion point on the trail. Continue up switch backs, around the base of Cathedral Peak (Fairview Dome on your right). After rounding the base of Cathedral Peak, the trail starts down and parallels Cathedral Peak. Shortly after the trail starts up again, you will find (look sharp) a sign directing you to the right to Cathedral Lake (about 1/2 mile). Take this trail. On returning to this point after lunch, continue up the trail to Upper Cathedral Lake, which is off the trail about two hundred yards on your right near the top of the pass. To return, retrace the main trail.

Special Features: Probably the most dramatic feature of this region is the sharp contrast between the heavily glaciated granite domes behind Cathedral Lake and the unglaciated peaks of Cathedral and Echo Peaks and Ridge. Of equal interest will be the meadow behind the head of Cathedral Lake, where you can see very clearly the glacial lakes becoming meadows. Streams meander all through this portion of the terrain, alive with the yellow-legged frog (16, p. 14). These frogs require two seasons to mature at this elevation, the growing season being too short for them to achieve full growth during one. Walk around the lake, noticing the development of meadow turf.

Cathedral Pass provides many panoramic views of Yosemite.
The Clark Range Rises in the distance.
    Anderson, NPS
[click to enlarge]
Cathedral Pass provides many panoramic views of Yosemite. Anderson, NPS


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