Snow/glacier/ice route
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade III
Elevation Gain
2,247.00 ft (684.89 m)
6.10 mi (9.82 km)
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Compared to a more popular and shorter trail nearby, Duck Lake Trail often doesn't see a lot of traffic. The trail can be access all year, though the condition in the winter will be very different and require a much more preparation. The trailhead is located at the south end of Lake Mary past Coldwater Campground, which is usually closed during the winter. There are two entrances that will lead to slightly different routes, but these eventually meet up just south of Arrowhead lake. There is no shortage of beautiful alpine lakes in this area. Not too far south of Arrowhead Lake is Skeleton Lake. Both lakes can still be half frozen even in July after a heavy winter season, so be mindful of where you step when you get closer to it. 

Sticking to the Duck Lake Trail will get you to Barney Lake. When the snow is present and in good condition, and if you are feeling a little bit more adventurous, keep following Mammoth Creek to Wood Lake, which is located in a different valley just north of an unnamed peak. Keep going southeast and to your right; there is a pretty steep slope that will take you to the top of that peak. It can be ascended just by using crampons and an ice axe, but make sure that you know how to use your gear and that you know how to self arrest. Also, don't forget to wear your helmet. 

Once you reach the top there is a small and flat area that is perfect to have lunch while enjoying the gorgeous views of the Eastern Sierra. To the north you can see Mammoth Mountain, and to the south you will be able to Duck Lake and the jagged peaks in the Sierra National Forest. When you are finished, simply retrace your track or follow the ridge to the south and down toward Duck Pass. You can keep going until you find the Duck Lake Trail again, or make a careful decent on the steep snow slope toward Barney Lake. From there it is pretty much easy going back to the trailhead while passing Skeleton Lake and Arrowhead Lake again on the way back.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Solitude. Choose your own adventure. Big vista.


Condition dependent. Technical.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

9,324.00 ft (2,841.96 m)

Highest point

11,214.00 ft (3,418.03 m)


Big vistas



Typically multi-day


Permit required


Primary aspect

East facing

Drinking water

Unfrozen water



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