Hiking Cathedral Meadow

Cathedral Meadow and Aspen trees

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Cathedral Meadow is accessible year-round. Hike there during the warmer months and snowshoe and cross-country ski in the snowy ones. Due to its location near Taylor Creek and Fallen Leaf Lake, the area is generally moist and home to many varieties of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer. In the fall, the Aspen grove adjacent to Cathedral Road illuminates the area with its lemon yellow leaves and the spawning Kokanee Salmon set Taylor Creek ablaze with their bold red scales.

Inspiring views of Mount Tallac can be seen from the Aspen grove and the opposite side of the bridge that crosses the Fallen Leaf Lake outflow.

Due to the fact that the area is flat, Cathedral Meadow is a great location to take the young and old for a fun adventure.

Cathedral Meadow Trail Data (approximations):

  • Location: South Tahoe – Fallen Leaf Lake
  • Category of Hike: Short Hike
  • Category of XC Ski/Snowshoe Route: Beginner
  • Total Mileage: 2.5 miles
  • Total Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Highest Point: 6,375 feet
  • Trail Conditions: Hard-packed soil and rocks, meadow (portions submerged in wet months)

Considerations for Hiking Cathedral Meadow:

  • Sno-Park permits are required between November 1st and May 30th
  • The portion of trail leading through the Aspens can be submerged in water during wet months
  • Dogs are allowed, but keep them on leash and pick up after them
  • Adhere to all Leave No Trace principles
  • There are few trail signs and markers on public lands in the Tahoe region, so unless there are tracks to follow, the correct route may be difficult to identify — when in doubt, turn back
  • Be prepared for inclement weather and carry plenty of warm clothes, food, and water
  • Leave an itinerary of your plans with someone who’ll call emergency services if you don’t return by your prescribed time
Click on the above map to enlarge it for printing and better viewing. This map is only for reference and shows the general route along Taylor Creek to Cathedral Meadow. Always carry a traditional topographic map and compass when traveling in the backcountry.

Parking Directions for the Cathedral Meadow Hiking Trail:

Park at the Taylor Creek Sno-Park located a half mile north of the Taylor Creek Bridge on SR 89. As you enter the Sno-Park, choose the lot on the left and park near its southern side. Please note, however, that during the winter months at Lake Tahoe (November 1 through May 30), you’re required to have a Sno-Park permit to park in this lot. Purchase either a day pass or season pass in town (prior to coming to the Sno-Park) because they aren’t sold on-site. If you neglected to buy a Sno-Park permit prior to your arrival, I believe you can park outside of the lot on SR 89 and walk to the trailhead.

Copyright © 2014 Jared Manninen
If you look closely in the Aspen grove at Cathedral Meadow, you’re sure to find at least one or two trees that show the markings of a bear. I photographed this bear scratch on October 12, 2014, and I’m willing to bet you can still find it today. © Jared Manninen

You’ll find the trailhead on the south side of the left parking lot in the Sno-Park. There aren’t any signs indicating a trailhead, but there is a well-traveled path leading up the hill and out of the parking lot.

Here’s a map to assist you in finding the parking area for accessing Cathedral Meadow.

Travel along the Cathedral Meadow Hiking Trail:

Immediately following the short hump out of the parking lot, follow the trail to the right and you’ll be on your way. The hiking trail is sandwiched between Cathedral Road and Taylor Creek and travels about 1.25 miles to the bridge that crosses the Fallen Leaf Lake outflow. There are forks in the trail, but they link together to combine for approximately 2.5 miles of trails. It’s well worth your time to hike to the outflow of Fallen Leaf Lake and cross the small bridge as you’ll be rewarded with some beautiful views of Mount Tallac while looking west toward Desolation Wilderness.

Copyright © 2014 Jared Manninen
View of Mount Tallac From the outlet of Fallen Leaf Lake on October 12, 2014. © Jared Manninen

One thing to keep in mind when searching for Sierra Nevada wildflowers at Cathedral Meadow in the spring or early summer is that following big snow years large sections of the area, particularly through the Aspen grove, can be submerged under water. Depending on environmental conditions, primarily as a result of snowmelt and runoff, the trail through the Aspens may be submerged well into May and sometimes even into June.

In addition to being a stellar location to find wildflowers in the spring, Cathedral Meadow is also a beautiful location in which to see the changing colors of Aspen leaves during the fall. Finally, during the big snow years Cathedral Meadow is an easily accessible (thanks to the Sno-Park) location where you can cross-country ski and snowshoe. However, since it’s located at lake level (i.e. the lowest point in the Lake Tahoe Basin), it takes awhile for snow in this area to accumulate enough to necessitate skis or snowshoes. That said, it’s also a nice place to hike during low-snow winters!

Copyright © 2016 Jared Manninen
Mount Tallac spied through spring Aspen trees at Cathedral Meadow on May 16, 2016. © Jared Manninen