Cathedral Lake, Cathedral Lake Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Cathedral Lake - 5.6 miles

Cathedral Lake Trailhead

Cathedral Lake (11,866')

Cathedral Lake (11,866')

Round-Trip Length: 5.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,880' - 11,866' (11,909' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,986' net elevation gain (+2,165' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Cathedral Lake - 5.6 Miles Round-Trip

Cathedral Lake is located 2.8 miles from the Cathderal Lake Trailhead south of Aspen, CO. It fills a large bowl ringed by Malamute Peak (13,348'), Cathedral Peak (13,943') and Leahy Peak (13,322').

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This short but feature-filled hike follows Pine Creek through aspen forests into the upper valley, where the landscape opens over treeline up to the lake. Those with time and agreeable weather can divert to Electric Pass (13,485'), the highest pass accessible by trail in Colorado:

The trail rises quickly through tall aspen stands to the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness Boundary (.72 miles : 10,425'), where the forest opens across steep, open slopes over Pine Creek.

You'll gain 820' in the first mile before moderating on a long open arc with great views up valley (1.5 miles : 11,160'). It crosses a scree field (2.05 miles : 11,555') and scales very steep switchbacks that level to the first split for Electric Pass (2.3 miles : 11,780').

The trail undulates mildly in a thinning forest to an unmarked split for Electric Pass (right), and a sharp turn (left) that drops to a footbridge over the creek (2.58 miles : 11,810'). It continues through treeline across small glades and willow patches to Cathedral Lake (2.8 miles : 11,866').

The east side of Cathedral slopes gently with good social trails around much of the lake (the west side is steep and difficult to reach). Work your way up for aerial views of the lake, and great views down valley. High points around the lake reveal more of Malamute Peak (13,348'), Cathedral Peak (13,943') and a good look at Electric Pass.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 02.568 W106 48.493 — 0.0 miles : Cathedral Lake Trailhead
  • N39 02.373 W106 49.050 — .72 miles : Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 02.284 W106 49.350 — 1.0 miles : Travel gradually moderates across open slopes
  • N39 02.123 W106 49.684 — 1.5 miles : Begin long, level arc across north valley wall
  • N39 02.041 W106 50.101 — 2.0 miles : Cross scree field and begin very steep switchbacks
  • N39 01.968 W106 50.295 — 2.3 miles : Marked split for Electric Pass
  • N39 01.845 W106 50.394 — 2.58 miles : Cross Creek @ unmarked split for Electric Pass
  • N39 01.730 W106 50.548 — 2.8 miles : Cathedral Lake

Worth Noting

  • This is a popular trail that sees heavy traffic on summer weekends. Parking is limited and spaces fill quickly. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
  • Campfires are restricted at Cathedral Lake. There's good camping terrain where fires are permitted between the 2.3 mile split for Electric Pass and the 2.58 mile creek crossing.
  • Electric Pass is a challenging but compelling excursion off the Cathedral Lake Trail. At 13,500' Electric Pass is considered the highest pass accessible by trail in Colorado. The Electric Pass Trail climbs over 1700' in just 2.3 miles to a high saddle between Electric Peak and Leahy Peak.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).

  • Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Cathedral Lake. Stoves only. Fires are permitted .25 miles below treeline.

  • Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Location-specific restrictions may also apply.

  • Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Cathedral Lake and along Pine Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
  • Due to heavy use, campfires are restricted at Cathedral Lake. Stoves only. Fires are permitted .25 miles below treeline. See Camping and Backpacking for more details.

Directions to Trailhead

The Cathedral Lake Trailhead is located off of Castle Creek Road south of Aspen CO. From the roundabout 1 mile NW of town, take Castle Creek Road 12.1 miles south to the turnoff for Cathedral Lake. A dirt road continues .45 miles to the trailhead. When clear the road is passable by 2WD cars, but high clearance is recommended.

Castle Creek Road is winding and narrow in places. Anticipate the turnoff, and be considerate of cyclists sharing the road.

Contact Information

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670

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