Cathedral Lake Hiking

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About

Summary

The hike to Cathedral Lake is ideal for the fitness-minded outdoor explorer. The 2,000-foot, 2.8-mile climb (5.6 miles roundtrip) is considered challenging, but the rewards from the high-alpine lake is worth every drop of sweat equity. The first leg of the hike climbs for .75 miles through a magical aspen forest before it enters the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness. Soon after entering Wilderness land, the trail becomes steeper as it snakes alongside the cascading Pine Creek.

Written by

Leah Fielding

Distance

5.6 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

13.5 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

3 hours

3-4 hours

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Land Website

Cathedral Lake Hiking

Review

Intro

The hike to Cathedral Lake is ideal for the fitness-minded outdoor explorer. The 2,000-foot, 2.8-mile climb (5.6 miles roundtrip) is considered challenging, but the rewards from the high-alpine lake are worth every drop of sweat equity.

What Makes It Great

The first leg of the hike climbs for .75 miles through a magical aspen forest before it enters the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness. Soon after entering Wilderness land, the trail becomes steeper as it snakes alongside the cascading Pine Creek. The trail flattens out for a bit before entering another steep climb through scree fields and sharp switchbacks, which can be challenging for the less-seasoned hiker. 

From where the switchbacks end Cathedral Lake is about 15 minutes further. The trail will fork, be sure to take the left. Before long you’ll come across the Pine Creek bridge and you’ll know the serene high-elevation lake lies just beyond.

The views from the trail's summit are superb, especially the center-stage view of the 13,943-foot Cathedral Peak, which anchors the lake. Be sure to get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. 

Who is Going to Love It

Challenge-seekers and hikers looking for a workout will appreciate the trail’s steep grade. It will get the heart pumping! Fly fishers should bring their rod along as Cathedral Lake is home to a population of cutthroat. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Drive .5 miles west of Aspen on Highway 82 to the roundabout. Go around the roundabout and turn right onto Castle Creek Road. Drive 12.2 miles and turn right (shortly after passing Ashcroft) onto a gravel road, driving .5 miles to the trailhead.  A high clearance vehicle is recommended for the last part of the drive. 

Each party overnighting in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is required to self-register at the Trailhead and to carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no fee charged and no limit to the number of permits issued.

Location

Cathedral Lake Hiking

Aspen, CO, 81611
39.03204, -106.84369

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