CATHEDRAL PEAK is an isolated Central Diablo Range peak hidden deep within private ranchlands located on the Western side of Merced County. It stands ½ mile East of Mariposa Peak, 2 miles West of Mt. Ararat and approximately 10 miles Northwest of Merced County’s highpoint, Laveaga Peak. You may have noticed Cathedral Peak, as well neighboring Mariposa Peak, while driving Interstate 5 or Highway 152 as it crosses Pacheco Pass. It’s an enticing peak with a rocky summit block that from the distance has the appearance of a turret. Once gained, the summit serves as a watchtower with expansive views in all directions: To the North, Pacheco Peak & San Luis Reservoir; To the East, the Central Valley & the Sierra Nevada; To the West, Hollister, Antimony Peak & the Quien Sabe Valley. Perhaps most attractive, however are the Southeast to Southwest views that include the gorgeous environs of Laveaga Peak, Twin Peaks, Peckham Ridge and the Los Banos Creek drainage. Hikers & peak baggers seeking an “off the beaten path” adventure should find Cathedral Peak a challenging & highly rewarding destination.
Looking east towards Cathedral Peak
If you plan to climb Cathedral Peak as a day hike from Pacheco State Park, then the easiest route is to first climb Mariposa and then Cathedral. Begin by following established Pacheco State Park trails to Spike’s Peak and then set a Southwest (sometimes cross-country) course that drops down to French’s Flat. Continue across French’s Flat and connect with a well graded ranching road that winds its way South/South Easterly towards Mariposa Peak. However, this road eventually brings you within potential sight lines of French Ranch so it is best to abandon it about 1 mile from Mariposa Peak and head East so that you can position yourself for a due North ascent of Mariposa Peak. Continue up open grasslands. The pitch steepens the closer you get to the summit. Five or six hundred feet from the summit you enter a canopy of Oak and Bay Trees. Follow game trails to the summit that is largely flat with medium sized lichen covered boulders. There is a USGS marker here inscribed with the name Mariposa and the date 1930. Cathedral Peak is ½ mile to the East. Drop down five hundred plus feet to the saddle through an understory of small trees and brush. Beware poison oak. The saddle is flat and fairly open with Oak Trees. The climb now towards Cathedral Peak’s summit block is straight forward and obvious. Upon arrival, you are faced with a thirty to forty foot (easy class 3) scramble up large lichen covered rocks. At the top, you will find a generic USGS marker affixed to the more flat summit rock. At the base of another summit rock locate a summit register placed here by the author of this page in March of 2010.
Topo map of Cathedral, Mariposa & Mount Ararat.
If you plan to gain access to Cathedral Peak from Pacheco State Park visit their website for all relevant details. Although the website says the entrance gate is only open 8 A.M to sunset, it is often left open overnight, allowing an early start and/or late finish.