This trail begins along the Tioga Road less than a mile west of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. There is no official parking area at the trailhead, just a turn off on each side of the road with limited parking. From Tioga Road the trail leads southwestward, following the John Muir Trail (JMT) to a short spur that leads to the larger Cathedral Lake.
A short distance southwest from the parking area is a trail junction with the JMT and a trail that parallels Tioga Road. Cross the Tioga Road trail, following the JMT. The first half mile of the trail ascends 400 feet then levels and turns westward. Descending slightly you'll see Fairview Dome to the north as you hike along its southern flanks. The trail dips to cross a small creek the begins the true ascent of this route.
Beyond the small stream the trail ascends another 300 feet using switchbacks. Within a half mile the trail levels and begins crossing the western flanks of Cathedral Peak, 10940. Three quarters of a mile from the switchbacks you'll approach a fork in the trail. The right fork leads to lower Cathedral Lake. Follow this short trail as it descends gradually to the eastern shore of the lake.
Lower Cathedral Lake lies at an elevation of approximately 9,300 feet, high in the Merced River drainage. This site is heavily used by day hikers and backpackers. Although there are several campsites around the lake it is best to use this site as the destination of a day hike so as not to further impact the delicate terrain.
Directions from Arch Rock Entrance: Follow Highway 140 toward Yosemite Valley. Before reaching the valley turn left on to Big Oak Flat Road. Drive 9.5 miles on Big Oak Flat Road to Tioga Road. Turn right on Tioga Road and travel approximately 37 miles to the Cathedral Lake Trailhead.
Directions from Tioga Pass: Follow Tioga Road westward approximately 8.5 miles to the access road for Tuolumne Meadows Campground. Turn left in to the campground. Follow signs to the campgrounds horse camping area. The trailhead lies near the bathrooms of the horse camp.
Mid-June through September
(NOTE: The trail may be snow covered during the Summer months.)