Duck Pass Trail in Mammoth Lakes, CA, is a must do for those wanting to spend a day in the wilderness with some of the most stunning beauty you can find in the mountains. This experience is better shared, so grab some hiker pals, pack a lunch and get ready for a spectacular day!
Length: 8.1miles roundtrip (3.9 straight to Duck Lake, no turnoffs) | Level: Moderate-to-Hard | Duration: 4-6 hours | Elevation: 10,800
Welcome to John Muir Wilderness! Thought you were already high up at 9000ft? Get ready for another 1000ft ascent. This trail is 80% uphill all the way to Duck Lake, with the most strenuous switchbacks being at the last mile and a half. Don’t give up! It’s well worth it, and there are scenic lakes that make great rest stops along the way.
First scenic stop at the 1.7ish mile mark: Skelton Lake, often mistaken as Skeleton Lake. This is just a taste of what you’re about to see as you progress!
After Skelton Lake, the trail levels out for just a bit as you continue on to Duck Lake. There’s another set of switchbacks before you get to the next viewpoint. And now we’re getting to the good stuff! Second stop at about the 3 mile point is Barney Lake. This is the view from the bottom. Take a quick rest here and enjoy this, because the last mile through to Duck Lake is the hardest part of the hike!
As you pass the lake and make your ascent through the switchbacks in the mountain, you eventually arrive at this lookout which is absolutely stunning! It is the full overlook of your hike thus far.
Almost there! Another .8 final strenuous climb up the mountain and you will eventually be greeted with your destination, Duck Lake! And like the previous overlook, this one is just as stunning! This beautiful spot is tucked away and can only be accessed via the trail and on horseback. You’ll see many campers, people fishing and on horses around this super clear, crystal blue lake. No filters on any of these shots!
For some, this is a great place to pack in and camp overnight. For the rest of us daytrippers, the perfect spot for lunch and a quick nap.The best part about this hike –other than the amazing scenery of course, is the way back. It’s all downhill, so you have that to look forward to and snag any pics you may have missed along the way!
Lissy is the owner and author of It’s a Wanderful Life, a travel and adventure website that highlights her favorite destinations, activities and photography from California and around the world.