something to quack about
I’ve spent a lot of time hiking out to the Coldwater Creek Campground parking lot. There are three trailheads out of this parking lot. If you want the maximum number of lakes on one hike, then the Duck Pass trailhead is the trail for you. If you take the trail all of the way to the top of Duck Pass you are guaranteed to see at least 7 lakes.
The trail begins heading uphill quickly with a series of switchbacks for the first mile or so before leveling out a little. To your left the slope falls off steeply toward Coldwater Creek. You can’t see the creek, but you can hear it. Also to the left is a trail to Arrowhead Lake. The Duck Pass Trail does not get that close to Arrowhead Lake, but you can get a glimpse of it through the forest.
The next lake that you pass is Skelton Lake. The trail passes much closer to this lake and affords some very nice views of the lake.
Shortly after passing Skelton Lake the trail heads up some switchbacks and passes above the 10,000 foot elevation. After a brief flat section of trail, the trail descends to Barney Lake and Red Lake. These lakes have a different color to them because they have a considerable amount of dissolved minerals, making the water a light opaque turquoise color.
The trail crosses the creek that runs between the two lakes and then heads toward the 700 vertical foot ascent to Duck Pass. The ascent at first glance appears very sterile - lots of rock and very little vegetation. However, as you begin the climb you should see lots of wildflowers, particularly columbine. Another thing that you may marvel about is how well hidden the trail is to people looking at it from below. It kind of reminds me of the Yosemite Falls trail which can’t be scene from below.
The trail tops out at just about exactly 10,800 feet. Once at the top of the pass you are greeted with a spectacular panoramic view of Duck Lake and Pika Lake. I found a great vista point just beyond the Pika Lake sign to take photos and have a snack.
I found the trip back down the switchbacks from Duck Pass to Barney Lake to be a little tricky. The trail is all rock with lots of opportunities to twist an ankle or trip and fall. Add the fatigue factor from the climb up and it is worth being a little extra cautious on this section of trail.
When you reach the top of the switchbacks from the beginning of the hike you are greeted with a view of Lake Mary through the trees – a sure sign that the hike is almost over. Once finished, the hike is just over 8 miles.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.