The lower portion of the trail from the campground to Cathedral Rocks is the easiest to negotiate. From Cathedral Rocks, the trail climbs steeper and becomes rocky until it tops out near Groundhog Park. Cathedral Creek and Cathedral Rocks are scenic attractions along the way.
The trail begins on the east side of the larger and more northerly loop of Cathedral Campground. Amid shading aspen, ponderosa pine, and alder trees, you are lead over Cathedral Creek before swinging north to head up this exceptionally scenic drainage. Colorful wildflowers abound throughout the summer months. If you take this trail late in summer, you will notice the variety of edible plants available along the way such as goose berries, rose hips, strawberries, and mushrooms (although some are poisonous).
The trail climbs steadily yet moderately upward along the creek and toward the towering cliffs of Cathedral Rock. Through spruce and aspen stands, the trail crosses the creek many times and in places is rocky. Shortly before reaching the notch between high jagged cliffs, the trail comes upon a small rushing waterfall. From here, the draw narrows among the cliffs.
Spruce trees continue to shade the remainder of the trail passing through two fences about 0.5 mile apart, the second being the La Garita Drift fence. Four switchbacks take you up to pass through a saddle where the trail levels and edges around a grassy park. The trail then crosses a logging road, not on the Rio Grande Forest Map, sloping downward through the timber to the opposite trailhead on Forest Development Road # 650. Your hike may end here or you may wish to continue across the road for 1/8 mile to a trail junction. Southeasterly the trail meanders through the grassy meadows of Groundhog Park. Northwesterly, the trail heads up toward the 12,944 foot peak of Mesa Mountain.
Directions from Del Norte: Travel west on U.S. Highway 160 from the Del Norte Ranger Station. Turn right on Embargo Creek (Forest Development Road 650). Travel north 5 miles to the Groundhog Park junction, turn left onto Forest Road 640 and take it to Cathedral Campground.
Directions from Del Norte: Travel west on U.S. Highway 160 from the Del Norte Ranger Station. Turn right on Embargo Creek (Forest Development Road 650). Follow this road approximately 24 miles to Groundhog Park.
Early Spring through Late Fall
(NOTE: May until October)