Upper Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park

Just filing a quick report from a recent one-night camping trip to Upper Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park, California.

A few years ago Marie and I camped at Lower Cathedral Lake, and only after returning home did I realize that we’d been just a half-mile away from one of Yosemite’s most iconic landscape views:  the twin granite spires of Cathedral Peak towering over Upper Cathedral Lake.  I’ve wanted to go back ever since, and finding something fun to do in the middle of our bleak pandemic summer seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Getting Yosemite’s permission turned out to be a struggle.  Apparently (and unsurprisingly, I guess) global pandemics dramatically boost the popularity of backcountry camping, so it took a while to score a permit, but one eventually became available for a Monday night in mid-July.  Marie had to work, unfortunately, so I would be on my own.

I left Mountain View early in the morning and arrived at the trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows by 11am.  The hike is short – just under 4 miles – but mostly uphill, so I was happy to shed my heavy backpack when I arrived at Upper Cathedral Lake.  I set up my tent and spent the afternoon reading and scouting for good locations to photograph the late evening light hitting the peak.  There weren’t any clouds livening up the sky, but otherwise I couldn’t have asked for better weather.


Cathedral Peak Late Light Reflection


Upper Cathedral Lake in July


My Campsite at Upper Cathedral Lake


I slept poorly, as I always do in tents, and woke up well before dawn.  I packed my stuff and made it back to my car by mid-morning.

The fact that I was tired and sore after hiking only eight miles heightened the looming anxiety I’ve been feeling about my next camping trip.  This coming Monday I plan to tackle the Rae Lakes Loop in King’s Canyon National Park, a 42-mile multi-day trek with extreme elevation changes.  I’ve had my eye on it for years, and the older I get the tougher it will be, so this feels like the right time to finally make it happen.  Wish me luck!


Upper Cathedral Lake before Dawn

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