Mammoth Lakes is 314 miles north of Los Angeles.
We explored this trail back in July 2017. It was a particularly memorable hike as it was our very first hike in the Eastern Sierra and it was the first time we climbed passed 10k. I’ve been wanting to go back but just not during summer. Oh, my mosquitos!! They were ruthless on this trail! Since then, we’ve been hiking more in high elevation so the elevation did not bother me this time.
This hike begins from the Duck Pass trailhead at 9,157′ (2,791 m) in Coldwater Creek Campground near Mammoth Lakes. The first mile is steep and there are a few switchbacks in the beginning. We climbed up switchbacks in the forest.
As we got closer to the lake access trails, we could hear the sound of Mammoth Creek. Since it was Friday during offseason, the trail was pretty much empty.
We passed Heart Lake, Arrowhead Lake, and Emerald Lake. It took us an hour to reach Skelton Lake, the first lake of this hike. Fond memories of the last time – dogs playing in the lake, the search of Xena’s lost booties and the losing battle with the ruthless mosquitos – made me smile.
Xena and I walked around the lake to explore more which we didn’t get to do last time. The same lake looked so different with vibrant colors from a different angle. The power of light in photography never ceases to amaze me.
Hike to Skelton Lake (9,920′) is about 3.1 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 872 feet. If you have limited time, this will make a great hike. Hike to Heart Lake or to Arrowhead Lake would be even shorter but as beautiful. I think it’s almost impossible to have a bad hike in the Eastern Sierra. Just not possible! 🙂
The view of Barney Lake is better from the hill on the way to Duck Lake, so we made a quick stop at Barney then continued on.
While I was huffing and puffing as I climbed the rocky trail, I heard someone asking ‘Is that Xena?’ 😄 Even though we’ve never met before, we recognized our dogs and instantly felt the connection, thanks to the Instagram hiking dog community. We occasionally have bump-ins on the trails with our IG followers. When it happens far away from home, it’s more exciting. We very much enjoyed meeting Pennie and her humans @sourpatchpennie and we hope to run into them again!
Enjoy the moderate hike to Barney Lake because the trek to Duck Lake is noticeably challenging and rugged. I highly recommend proper hiking shoes and trekking poles.
But this view is totally worth working for.
So pace yourself and tackle those switchbacks. You will be greeted with this view.
We didn’t hike down to Duck Lake. This view is all I wanted with lunch.
There was no one around us, not even passing by. We just quietly took our spots and admired the view in silence for a while. We stayed in our deep thoughts meditating. Ok.. humans meditated and Z took a nap. This memory stands out the most from this hike. Feeling grateful and content.
Now that I’ve done this hike twice, I have a good memory of this beautiful place. Next time, I plan to explore the Heart Lake, Arrowhead Lake, and Emerald Lake. So many beautiful alpine lakes to choose from! I love this place!
As always, please practice Leave No Trace.
Good to Know:
- Hike Date: 10.26.18
- Distance: 8 miles RT
- Elevation Gain: 1,792 ft (Max elev.: 10,790 ft)
- Difficulty Level: Challenging
- Trailhead: 37.591215, -118.989210 (or enter Duck Lake Pass trailhead in Google Map)
- Permit/Fee: None for day hikes in Inyo National Forest; Permit required for overnight camping