Project overview: Revitalize meadow habitat at Lower Cathedral Lake by moving a short trail to drier ground, loosening compacted soil and restoring natural water flow.

How your support helps: Tucked among the jagged peaks of the Cathedral Range, Lower Cathedral Lake is a popular high country destination for day hikers and backpackers. To get to the lake, hikers follow a short, muddy path that crosses a seasonal creek and a wet meadow on the way to the shore. Over time, people stepping off the soggy trail have inadvertently squashed plants, compacted the soil and forged numerous deep ruts in the ground. Those impacts hasten erosion, harm vegetation and disrupt water flow.

In 2021, with your support, park crews will rescue the meadow ecosystem by shifting the path to more durable, well-drained ground, creating a more hiker-friendly and ecologically sustainable route from the John Muir Trail to the lake. After taking stock of the area’s rare plants, wildlife and cultural resources, crews will first build the new access trail, then will start restoring the meadow by filling in ruts, loosening soil and sowing native plants.

This “move a trail, save a meadow” approach has worked successfully in several past Conservancy-funded projects, including in Lyell Canyon, at Gaylor Lakes and in nearby Upper Cathedral Meadow. By creating the new trail first, crews will ensure hikers never lose access to Lower Cathedral Lake. And by restoring the meadow, they’ll revive a stunning wilderness setting while saving habitat for vulnerable species, such as the Yosemite toad.

Project partner: Yosemite National Park.

Victoria Hartman

Vegetation and Ecological Restoration, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

“Rerouting trails out of wet meadows results in more sustainable, well-drained trails that require less maintenance; prevents further resource damage; supports natural processes; and enhances habitat, wilderness and visitor experiences.”