Cathedral Lake Trail

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 38.90610°N / 120.0978°W
Additional Information Route Type: hike (backcountry ski)
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: walk-up (intermediate ski)
Sign the Climber's Log


Note: the following text is taken directly from steeleman's Southeast Chutes route description.

Take Highway 89 to the Camp Shelly/Tallac City Camps turn-off. If you are coming from the north, this is first right turn after Spring Creek Road (just after the "25 MPH" right hand curve). If you are coming from the south, it is a left turn about 3/4 mile past the Lake Tahoe Visitor Center. Once you are heading east on this paved road, follow the signs to "Tallac Trailhead".

Route Description

From the trailhead, the route parallels Fallen Leaf Lake, climbing gently. The first major landmark is tiny Floating Island Lake. After crossing Cathedral Creek, the trail joins a use trail which climbs up from the Stanford Sierra Camp, and shortly hits the eponymous Cathedral Lake.

From Cathedral Lake, the trail ascends a large east-facing bowl, which steepens considerably directly before it exits onto Tallac's gentle south slopes. During sloppy spring snow conditions, the rock ridge to climber's right of Cathedral Lake bowl provides easy passage. The bowl's runouts are sufficiently forgiving that a 400'+ glissade (or fall) is possible without an axe. After gaining the top of Cathedral Lake bowl, it is a steady 1200' climb to Tallac's summit. Total distance is around 4.4 miles with roughly a 3300' ascent.

Warnings: 1) Winter route finding through the trees can be tedious all the way from the trailhead to Cathedral Lake. 2) Watch the cornices on the top of Cathedral Lake bowl and all the east-facing chutes along Tallac's south slopes.

South Slopes Ski Descent

The Cathedral Lake approach boasts the best access for the open portion of Tallac's gentle south slopes, a well-regarded intermediate backcountry ski trip. I recommend ascending the Northeast Ridge and then descending the south slopes along the Cathedral Lake trail. Strong skiers should be able to descend the steep upper section of Cathedral Lake bowl. Experienced skiers may avoid the use of climbing skins on the return trip.

User hgrapid posted a message on Jul 18, 2009 11:32 pm:
"4.8 miles
We found that from the Tallac Trailhead, one way to Tallac summit was 4.8 miles. This was measured on a GPS."

Essential Gear

Normal hiking gear for summer hikes, snowshoes or climbing skins for winter ascents when snow is unconsolidated. The Cathedral Lake bowl (<35°) may demand an axe, or even crampons under certain conditions, but again, the runouts are forgiving. The south slopes ski descent is available to average skiers on alpine/modern telemark gear, and to intermediate/advanced skiers on cross country/light touring gear.


Thanks to gordonye for information regarding the Cathedral Lake trailhead.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-1 of 1

hgrapid - Jul 18, 2009 11:32 pm - Hasn't voted

4.8 miles

We found that from the Tallac Trailhead, one way to Tallac summit was 4.8 miles. This was measured on a GPS.

Viewing: 1-1 of 1



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.