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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
A pleasant yet strenuous hike, the Cathedral Lake Trail, which is not far from Aspen, boasts scenic views as it winds through Aspen groves and climbs uphill, gaining quite a bit of elevation over a relatively short distance.
Round trip, this out and back trail over a natural dirt path takes an average of 4-6 hours, though this can vary depending on trail and weather conditions.
This trail is rated as difficult and is not recommended for beginners due to its rather steep elevation gain.
Despite its rating, the Cathedral Lake Trail is a fairly popular hike, and many opt to take their 4-legged companions along, something that is allowable as long as dogs are kept on a leash.
The trail begins with a short, easy portion then begins a steady climb, following an uphill course for the majority of the way.
Along the path, hikers can view meadows, wildflowers, and a waterfall that is just off the trail near a small clearing.
There is also a chance for hikers to spot marmots and chipmunks as they make their way through the trees.
Near the top, the trail comes to an end in a series of rocky, exposed switchbacks, making it the most challenging section of the hike.
After this most difficult part of the trail, the ground levels out and hikers will come to a stream which can be followed to the lake or crossed through a series of rock hops, depending on water levels at the time.
Hikers have a number of routes available to cross the stream.
Once past the stream, hikers will arrive at the turquoise waters of Cathedral Lake.
For additional views, hikers can continue around the lake to a boulder field which offers scenic landscapes or a spot to break for lunch or a snack.
June through September is generally considered to be the best time period to use this trail, although hikers may find mud, slush, and snowy conditions even into June.
Weather in this area can be unpredictable and hikers should check forecasts and be prepared for changeable conditions.