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Backpacking: Colorado > White River National Forest > Aspen Ranger District

Quick Facts

Cathedral Lake Trail

Average Time: 4 - 5 Hours one way
Beginning Elevation: 9,880 Feet (3079.8 Meters)
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,996 Feet (622.2 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 11,866 Feet (3698.9 Meters)
Length: 3.2 Miles (5.33 Kilometers) one way
Other Maps: Trails Illustrated 127 Aspen, Independence Pass
Recommended Season: Summer to Fall
Trail Number: 1984
Usage: Very Heavy
USGS Maps: Hayden Peak

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

A great way to see this severely cragged 13,943' peak is from the Cathedral Lake Trail located on Castle Creek Road West of Aspen, Colorado
Copyright: - US Forest Service
A great way to see this severely cragged 13,943' peak is from the Cathedral Lake Trail located on Castle Creek Road West of Aspen, Colorado
Cathedral Lake Tail is a difficult day hike and strenuous backpack. The trail climbs steadily through an Aspen Grove until it reaches the boundary of the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. The trail continues to climb steadily, paralleling Pine Creek for most of the hike. Pine creek has a number of small but enjoyable waterfalls and cascades. The trail is mostly in the open until reaching the top of a series of short, steep switchbacks. The trail then enters a pine forest and shortly thereafter reaches a marked fork. Take the left fork to Cathedral Lake (the right fork goes to Electric Pass). The lake is reached shortly after crossing Pine Creek on some logs. Cathedral Lake is very scenic with fair fishing for cutthroat trout. For a longer hike continue to Electric Pass for incredible views. From Electric Pass to the Conundrum Creek Trail there is not a maintained trail (despite what is shown on Google Maps) and the terrain is rough and hazardous.

Directions from Aspen: Drive 1/2 mile west of Aspen on Highway 82. At the roundabout, turn onto Castle Creek Road. Drive 12.2 miles up Castle Creek and turn right (shortly after passing Ashcroft) onto a gravel road, driving a 1/2 mile to the trailhead.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: June through September (NOTE: The Cathedral Lake Trail may be obstructed by snow in Spring, Fall, and Winter months.) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Winter Conditions. Beware of avalanche danger and hypothermia. Updated: 2002-12-23 14:35:00.0

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Filed By: The Balvarez (Chico, CA)
Time of Day: On Trail at 8:30am
Length of Time: 6.5 Hours, that includes Cathedral Lake
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Trail was a little over grown above the split to Cathedral Lake. Other Than That, trail was very easy to find. The Overlook includes Castle Peak, Conundrum Peak, and many valleys.We were off the peak by noon. Definatly a must. It not to much more to add Cathedral Lake into the hike.
Conditions: Dry, and warm. Flys up until about tree line.
Water Availability: Took 2.5 liters, was plenty. Other person in group drank 3 Liters
Recommended Clothing: Lite pants, take a small fleese. Sun was brutal above 12,000.
Suggested Accessories: Nice pair of Boots

Time of Day: 3pm
Length of Time: coudnt find it
Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Got lost because snow coverd trail we hicked 3 miles past it
Conditions: snow
Water Availability: didnt need much water
Recommended Clothing: warm clothing

Time of Day: 9 am - 12:30 pm
Length of Time: 3.5 hours total with a lunch stop at lake
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: The trail is fairly steady from the trailhead which you drive 5 minutes up a dirt road to get to. Start through aspens, into spruce/fir and then into a sub-alpine zone. The switch backs right before the electric pass turnoff are the hardest part, but once at the top it's free sailing from there. The trails heading off towards electric pass are well marked, so you can't accidently go the wrong way. Go around to the left side of the lake for some awesome lunch rocks.
Conditions: Beautiful sunny day. Very nicely maintained trail which is impossible to lose.
Water Availability: I had a full nalgene. You could filter water pretty easily along the trail from the creek.
Recommended Clothing: I had on a visor, running shoes, wicking tank and lightweight shorts. I carried a lightweight capilene and windstopper in my pack.
Suggested Accessories: A camera, fishing pole, bug spray & sunscreen.

Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Trail is clear all of the way to the lake. Beautiful as always, but already getting heavy usage. Lots of flies around the lake, so be prepared. Also many rangers on trail ticketing unleashed dogs.

Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: Trailhead closed. Park on Castle Creek Road and walk in 3/4 mile. Trail clear to Wilderness boundary, then increasing snow the further you go. Be prepared to posthole.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Fishing Cathedral Lake
ICON Hiking & Walking Cathedral Lake Trail

Related Activities
American Lake Trail - This trail can be either strenuous day hike, or a short backpack. It leads to American Lake.

Castle Creek Area - The Castle Creek Area and Castle Creek Valley leads to the south of Aspen. It includes attractions such as Conundrum Creek, Ashcroft, Montezuma Basin, Taylor Pass and Express Creek.

Castle Creek Road - This drive is one of the most enjoyable drives in the Aspen area. The paved road follows Castle Creek 13 miles up the valley.

Cathedral Lake to Electric Pass Trail - This is a difficult day hike and strenuous backpack trip. It is recommended to plan an overnight visit.

Express Creek Road to Taylor Pass Road - This is a popular high-altitude jeep route beginning at Express Creek Road. Because of the altitude snow is often present well into mid-July.

Montezuma Basin Four-Wheel Drive Road - There rugged jeep road provides access to Crested Butte via Pearl Pass, several Braun system huts and the starting point for climbing Castle Peak.

Pearl Pass Road - Despite the likelihood of snow on the road well into July, the Pearl Pass Road is heavily used especially on weekends. The road is very rocky and steep in sections and often impassable in a vehicle.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Aspen Ranger District, 806 W. Hallam , Aspen, CO, 81611, Phone: 970-925-3445

Links to other sites:
Forest Conservancy - Current Information from Local Volunteers: Closings and Conditions


Local Lodging

Stay at the Aspen Square Hotel
Stay at the Aspen Square Hotel

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