Location: Duck Pass Trailhead, Mammoth Lakes, California, United States
The highlight of Duck Lake is the amazing lakeside for camping and the stunning expansive views of the peak. The views are breathtaking with the nice combination of wildflowers and icy mountain lakes you can even swim into a trail for its moderate level of hiking terrain and distance. The trail is in the John Muir Wilderness with multiple lakes and the spot to pitch your tent. It seems great to enjoy a few day hike options right from the base camp. If you need a perfect getaway for your weekend with the longer expeditions into the Sierras, take this offer.
Starting The Adventure
Your adventure on this trail starts from the parking lot near the Cold Water Campground with the clear sign. Climbing is going to become steady but mild and the zigzagging terrain is waiting for you through the forest. Take about 0.9 miles and you can reach the fork in the trail with the short detour is worth to try by going down to Arrowhead Lake. Over the half mile passing this fork makes you find the Skeleton Lake. The lakeshore comes with the small beaches for your perfect lunch spot. Find the best place in the shade, right beneath the pines. When you climb up the Skeleton Lake, the trail becomes less dense with forest and meadows for about a mile. Make sure that you turn around once and take your time to get glimpses down to the canyon.
Actually, Barney Lake is below the Duck Pass with the clear waters. The pass is so hot that you should fill your water bottles and then soak your hat or take a plunge into the clears alpine waters. It is perfect to go swimming on a hot day.
The pass is short but steep with a series of switchbacks. The path is rocky that you must be careful if you have weak ankles. Take a break and enjoy the views of the valleys together with the lakes. Eventually, at this point, you can see the Mammoth Mountain to the northwest and the top of Minarets.
Once you have enjoyed Barney Lake, you should climb a little over a mile to reach the top of the pass. At this point, you will get another spectacular view. The Duck Lake shows its beautiful look with its breadth and deep colors.
Located in the glacial cirque, three sides of peaks surround the Duck Lake with the outlet on the far side. It is not surprising that it is limited to do camping around the Duck Lake. If you try to take the side trail on your left, you will go around the head of the DUCK Lake over to Pika Lake. There, you will find the ample camp spots in the trees near the lake. The Pika Lake has smaller and shallower water but less cold than the Duk Lake. Therefore, Pika Lake is the best option to go swimming.
What we recommend to you is to check both lakes for the reflections especially if you are coming here in the late evening or in the early morning. You should do this when the wind is calm. The reflections across the expanse of the Duck Lake are great to try for. In addition, you can continue your adventure to backpack from here by heading to Purple Lake and Lake Virginia. If you want this, you will need a day-hike around the area. Otherwise, you only need to enjoy the lakeside in the wilderness for a moment.
NOTE: It is important to stay overnight with a backcountry permit since it is the requirement. If you have no idea about how to get the permit, you can book it in advance and then pick it up at the visitors center in Mammoth Lakes.
The trail is also perfect for hikers with no much time available. Perhaps, you have a short weekend holiday that makes you cannot go around too much. Okay, you can still hike up to the Arrowhead, Skeleton or Barney Lake. If you do not want to take these offer, you can go and stay overnight around Barney Lake for the easier adventure for your backpacking trip. If you want to try a day hike all the way to the Duck Lake, make sure that you always leave early and bring enough food and water. Your adventure here will be easier if you do not bring a pack, but you should plan for a full day.
Things To Bring
Here is the pack list:
Sunscreen water bottles, pack, hiking boots, tent, sleeping pad or sleeping bag, rain gear, hiking clothes, warm layers, water purifier, food, stove or fuel, camera, and binoculars
With 8 miles of distance and 1362 feet of elevation gain, we think that the trail is so perfect for intermediate hikers to challenge themselves. What you can do here are camping, swimming, backpacking, hiking, and photography.
The best time to visit this trail is in spring, summer, and autumn with the out-and-back trail that will add more adventures to your life. This place is also the ideal choice if you need the dog-friendly spot with the offer of the forest, lake, wildflowers, wildlife, and swimming hole.
Even you can hike there to enjoy your bachelor party with your friends. Hike in Duck Lake and then take additional miles to Pika Lake that is right next to it. There, you can set up the camp and do your day hikes from this spot. The hike in is work as it is about five to six miles depends on the place you set up camp and it is all uphill the entire way. It means that backpacking in this area needs a lot of preparation, especially for your legs.
So, do you have a plan to spend a few days in the United States? Why don’t you include this trail to your adventure list? It is so amazing if you also backpack on this trail with your best friends.