Thursday, October 13, 2016

Duck Pass And Duck Lake From The Coldwater Campground Trailhead

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Hike Route Does Not Include Duck Lake

The trailhead is about 9,200’ at the end of the Lake Mary Coldwater Campground (Mammoth Lakes). The route is about 12 miles round trip with about 2,400’ of total ascent. This trip included trips to Arrowhead, Skelton, Barney and Duck Lakes with a view of Pika Lake from Duck Pass (elevation about 10,800’). There is ample water available along the hike route for purified resupply.  My hike was just under 8 hours but I took over 150 photographs. I would offer my usual advice, which is to start early. This is a well-maintained and popular trail. I was passed by a hunter with his pack and rifle, on his way over Duck Pass to Zone 7 in Fresno County where the deer season had opened. I would hate to pack that deer out!

There are quite a few blog articles and YouTube videos on this hike and I will add only what seemed significant to me. First, after you turn on Lake Mary Road, you will take the left turn to Pine City Campground and continue to the Coldwater Campground. Remember to go to the FAR end of the Coldwater Campground for the signed trailhead that reads “Duck Pass Trail”. Ironically, there is no such pass indicated on the topographical map. The pass is the dividing line between Mono and Fresno Counties with Duck Lake being in eastern Fresno County.

The trail begins as a steady climb through the woods and eventually becomes more gradual as the view opens up. As you climb, you will see Lake Mary through the trees. I chose to pass by the cut off trail to Arrow Lake and go there on the way back if time permitted. I also found that the light for photographs was not optimal and hoped that it would be better on the return leg. I did find good lighting behind me as I began to look back to the south toward Mammoth Mountain on the outbound leg.

Although Skelton Lake is a beautiful blue, Barney Lake is a splendid green color. After you leave Barney Lake, there is a series of very civilized switchbacks that you will climb to Duck Pass. If you turn around just before the pass, you will see Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak. Mammoth Mountain is visible most of the way too. Only Barney and Skelton lakes are visible as you climb. Note the color difference.
I was disappointed to find that the trees below the pass partially blocked my view of Duck Lake (also green in color). This is a large alpine lake with lots of high granite around it. The trail divides. One route is signed “Pika Lake” and drops southeast. I followed it to the shore of Duck Lake with about 300’ of altitude loss that I would have to climb again. Another route takes you due west toward Deer Lakes and the 3rd route drops down SSW to join the JMT/PCT only about 1.5 miles away.

On the way back I found the light to be better for some photographs and did do the short but steep descent to Arrow Lake. If you are not too tired, it is a pretty lake to visit also. I was very happy to have made this hike on an excellent trail. 

Skelton Lake

 Barney Lake

 Duck Lake

 Pass Looking North
 Pass Looking South With Banner Ritter Left Of Center
 Barney Lake From Switchbacks Above

 Arrow Lake

Top Of Mammoth Mountain Telephoto

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