Backpack Cathedral Lake

Colorado Cathedral Lake Trailhead

Added by Sam Rae Roy

  • Distance: 5.6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 2,000 ft.
  • Stunning display of Aspens in the fall
  • Beautiful alpine lake
  • Excellent backcountry camping spots located near running water
  • Connects with trail to Electric Pass for 360* views of the Maroon-Bells/Snowmass Wilderness
  • No fee

Cathedral Lake offers an excellent alternative to escape the crowds that swarm the Maroon Bells area, especially in the peak autumn season. The drive along Castle Creek Rd towards the abandoned ski town Ashcroft is lined with aspens showing off their golden hues. Parking at the trailhead is plentiful but fills up quickly by mid day. Cathedral Lake can easily be done as a day hike but the lack of overnight backpackers make this destination a wonderfully private experience.

The trail begins at 9,880 feet and winds through aspen groves as you descend. Eventually, the trail rises above the prime elevation for aspen growth but looking back provides a stunning view of the abandoned ski town and valley below. After the final set of intense switchbacks the trail meets at a fork. Head to the left towards Cathedral Lake and save the right turn towards Electric Pass for later. The alpine lake is about 15 minutes further down the trail.

After taking in the sights at the lake, return to the trail and retrace your steps. Social trails will appear on the right side of the trail as you head backwards. These trails lead to clearings with fire pits that have previously been used as backcountry campsites. There is a running stream in the area that makes a great water source but be sure to bring some form of water purification. Once you set up camp, head back to the fork in the trail that leads towards Electric Pass. The extra mile and a half to the top of Electric Pass provides a stunning 360* view of the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness around you. Just be sure to keep an eye on the sky - afternoon thunderstorms can roll in quickly and Electric Pass is not where you want to be if that happens.

To get to the trailhead, head south on Castle Creek Road from the roundabout in Aspen driving about 13 miles until a right hand turn onto Cathedral Lake Rd. At the end of the road you'll find the trailhead.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Tent
  • Water purifier
  • Food/snacks
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Headlamp
  • Mess Kit
  • Trekking poles (optional)
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Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



5.6 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2000 Feet



Dog Friendly

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How to Get There

about 2 months ago

AMAZING day hike- a must see!

This is incredible! Make sure to bring water and snacks. Coming from California this elevation gain is no joke! You'll hike through the amazing Aspen trees and see a beautiful waterfall along the way. Towards the end of the hike you'll hit some pretty steep switchbacks, these wouldn't be great in the rain so be cautious. Totally worth the views at the lake!

about 2 months ago

4 months ago

Great day hike!

It took us about 3 hours round trip with a quick lunch and photos at the lake. On the way up make sure to take the trail left, crossing the stream, about 7 minutes past the sign pointing left to Cathedral Lake.

4 months ago

9 months ago

Sweet desolation

This is a beauty of a hike, and close enough to Aspen to get there easily, but just far enough to keep some desolation. The lake itself is absolutely stunning and serene, so make sure to set aside a good amount of time to relax here. You can enjoy views of 14ers all around you and ponder at the funky looking rock formations that resemble... a cathedral! Definitely make your way up to electric pass for epic views if you have the chance.

9 months ago

about 1 year ago

Sunrise Photography

If you don't want to backpack and you're willing to get up early enough this a great spot to hike for sunrise photography.

about 1 year ago

Added by Sam Rae Roy

Adventure Enthusiast

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