Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Cathedral Rocks and Spires

Latitude, Longitude: 37.714415, -119.636607

Cathedral Rocks and Cathedral Spires in Yosemite Valley are a prominent collection of cliffs, buttresses and pinnacles located on the south side of the valley near its entrance. There are three main summits to Cathedral Rocks dubbed Higher, Middle, and Lower Cathedral Rocks. Adjacent to Higher Cathedral Rock are the Higher and Lower Cathedral Spires, the most impressive spires in all of Yosemite NP. Higher Cathedral Rock is the highpoint of this group. These rock features were the scene of some of the first serious rock climbing done in the Sierra during the 1930s. All of the main peaks in and around Yosemite Valley were climbed by the 1870s with the exception of the two Cathedral Spires. It would take over 50 years for equipment and technique improvements before these would also be climbed. The first aid climbing in the Sierra was done in 1933-1934 on Higher Cathedral Spire by a Sierra Club party made up of Jules Eichorn, Bestor Robinson, and Richard Leonard. In their first attempt they ran out of what they had supposed was an ample supply of pitons. With a fresh supply ordered from overseas during the winter, they were successful on their second attempt the following spring.

Before the era of Big Wall climbing in the late 1950s, Cathedral Rocks saw a great deal of attention and was used to develop techniques that Robbins, Harding and others would then start to apply to Sentinel Rock, Half Dome's NW Face, El Cap, the Leaning Tower, and other Big Wall routes in Yosemite Valley. Today, most of the rock climbing done here takes place on Middle Cathedral Rock and the Cathedral Spires, though routes and climbers are also found on the less popular features. Popular routes on Middle Cathedral Rock include East Buttress, Central Pillar of Frenzy, Stoner's Highway, and Direct North Buttress.


The trailhead for Bridalveil Falls (and the Overhang Bypass/Overpass routes on Lower Cathedral Rock) is located just west of the junction of SR41 with Southside Drive. If coming from SR120 or SR140, turn right onto SR41 and turn left almost immediately into the parking lot. For other routes, there are various pullouts along Southside Drive. Be sure your car is completely off the pavement. For the Mecca area on Lower Cathedral Rock, park 1/3mi east of the Bridalveil Falls TH in a long turnout along a straight section of the road. The trailhead for Cathedral Spires is located just east and before the junction with El Cap Meadow, parking available on the right side of the road. Access to Gunsight and routes on Middle Cathedral Spire is located approximately halfway between Bridalveil Falls and the El Cap Meadow junction. If coming from the east end of the Valley, turn left at El Cap Meadow and park on the left side of the road at the junction with Southside Drive. This provides access to the trailhead for Cathedral Spires located 50 yards west on Southside Drive. For other routes, it is necessary to drive out to the SR120/140 junction and then head east on Southside Drive.