Claire and I headed up to Mammoth Lakes on Tuesday and got settled in that evening. On Wednesday morning we picked up our permits for backpacking the next day and then wanted to do a moderate day hike. After researching HAZ we picked Duck Lake because of the proximity and the length. Also, I was on the JMT two years ago and camped about a mile below Duck Lake so I was already aware of it.
We started hiking from the Coldwater Creek Campground day parking area around noon and the trailhead sits at roughly 9,000 ft elevation. The trail immediately starts gaining elevation and we entered the John Muir Wilderness. We continued on and took a short detour over to Arrowhead Lake. From there we continued hiking under overcast skies but no threat of rain. Next up was Skelton Lake which is another picturesque lake where we stopped and took pics.
We continued on and passed Barney Lake and could see Duck Pass roughly 400 vertical ft above us. The trail is in excellent condition and switchbacks it's way up to the pass that sits at 10,800 ft. Once on top Duck Lake came into view. It's another magnificent lake. We decided to drop down to the lake to take our lunch. It was easy going as we descended a few hundred ft and we took our break at a lookout over the lake. It's a beautiful day and our view cannot be beat!
After lunch we headed back up to the pass and then started our return. On the way back we decided to detour over to Emerald Lake. This is a small but intimate lake surrounded by mountains. From there it was roughly a mile back to the trailhead. This was a nice hike and was perfect for getting us acclimated before our backpacking trip the next day.