Area: Yosemite
Distance: 8 miles
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation gain: 1,300ft (from 8,600 - 9,600ft)

Two superb Yosemite lakes await you from the Cathedral Lakes trailhead at the side of Tioga Road, inviting you to swap the throngs of car-bound visitors for relative peace and tranquility of calm waters, pine forest and granite peaks.

The trail climbs gently upward at the outset, gaining a thousand feet in the first mile, but as most of the rest of the hike is either on the level or downhill, you can reassure yourself that this will be the hardest part of your hike. Much of the mileage covered is within sheltered evergreen forest, though with ample opportunities to marvel in the rightly famous Yosemite National Park landscape.

Rest on the open, sloping granite banks of Lower Cathedral Lake looking westerly over a great watery expanse towards Yosemite Valley with deer grazing by the lakes edge. Then re-trace your steps for half a mile to the trail junction and head slightly upward to the Upper Lake which sits in a bowl surrounded on all sides by towering granite including the Cathedral and Tresidder Peaks.

You’ll find plenty of parking at the trailhead, and be sure to empty your car of anything that smells like food and store it in the bear-proof lockers provided. Insects can be plentiful around the lakes, so be sure to pack the bug spray as well as the sunscreen. As well as deer, keep your eyes peeled for an occasional timid marmot.

Tackle both lakes and you're looking at a 8.3 mile trek, but you can shorten your hike by visiting just the Upper Lake (7.2 miles total) or just the Lower Lake (7.0 miles).

- Trailspotting Images: Cathedral Lakes on Flickr
- National Park Service: Yosemite National Park
- Wikipedia: Yosemite National Park

Hiking Yosemite National Park by Suzanne Swedo