Cathedral Lake Trailhead: Located just beyond the ghost town of Ashcroft on the right / west (parking is somewhat limited, and the trail sees very heavy use)
Activities: Hiking, Backpacking
Closest Towns: Aspen, Colorado
Driving Directions to Trailhead: Drive 1/2 mile 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 1/2 mile to the trailhead. A high clearance vehicle is recommended for the last part of the drive.
Hiking Distance: 5.6 miles (roundtrip)
Description: The Cathedral Lake trail is 2.8 miles long (one way). It begins at elevation 9,880′ and ends at 11,866′. This is a relatively steep and difficult trail!
The trail climbs for 3/4 of a mile through a sparkling aspen forest before it enters the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness, then begins a steeper ascent, following Pine Creek cascading through the canyon just off the trail. It levels briefly at the top of the canyon then begins another ascent through spruce forests and rockslides, deadending at a series of short, very steep switchbacks. For many, the switchbacks are a bit daunting.
Cathedral Lake is 15 minutes from the top of the switchbacks. The trail forks several times. Take the left forks, the right ones go to Electric Pass (which is a great if you have the time and the weather is still good). The trail crosses Pine Creek on a bridge. The lake lies just beyond the meadow on the other side of the creek.
Worth Noting: The views are superb! Get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. As you can see in many of our pictures of Cathedral Lake, dark, ominous clouds quickly build in the Elk Mountains. Dogs are allowed, but they must be kept on leash.
Planning to head out to the Aspen and Cathedral Lake trail area soon? We highly recommend checking out Best Aspen Hikes (a Colorado Mountain Club Pack Guide).