So, I can't say this hike is necessarily easy. In fact, it isn't. But at least it is short-- and it is totally, completely worthwhile. In fact, it may be the best pain to pleasure ratio in all the hikes we've done.
Now, I did pass some trail runners, who of course made me feel a fair (but short-lived) amount of shame that my boys and I whined for the last 10 minutes of this hike. To be honest, we also passed some regular humans like us, who seemed to be having a fine time. But they were on the downhill and we were on the uphill. So whatever.
In all honesty, this hike isn't hard but the trail is narrow, rocky and somewhat steep. It probably isn't suitable for children who are too big to carry or too little walk confidently for 45 minutes, on rocks, up a grade. My 10 year old did complain when I made him carry the daypack with our water and towels. But kids have to be good for something, right?
Once we arrived, we forgot all the misery of him carrying the daypack while I listened to him whine about it. (Just kidding. I made the 12 year old help with the carrying, too. Then I got to listen to both of them whine.)
On arrival, the views are fanstastic. The fishing is fine. There are no crowds. But best of all is the rock-jumping. Sometimes there's also a rope swing, but on our last visit it was gone. (sadface emoji , for sure, cause my kids whined A LOT about that!)
To do this hike, you can drive up Lake Mary Road past the Gallery to the Coldwater Creek campground turnoff (on the left). Follow the signs to Coldwater Creek and follow it ALL the way to the top, to the Duck Pass Trailhead. (Be grateful that you aren't hiking to Duck Pass -- that's 15 miles-ish.) Parts of the road through the campground are one way, and its a campground, so be aware of children, dogs and fly away tents. Go all the way to the end of the road and the very last parking lot. Did I mention that you should go all the way to the last parking lot? Good.
Once you reach the very last parking lot, park and follow the signs to Duck Pass Trailhead. Duck Pass Trail is very well marked and you'll see at least 2 signs pointing you in the right direction. Then climb. And climb some more. You'll pass a sign marking your entrance to the John Muir Wilderness. Then, climb some more. And some more. Then, when you just don't think your kids can take yet another switchback, listen up for the sound of water. And soon you'll see the left turnoff sign to Arrowhead Lake pointing you left, down to the lake.
If you'd like some detailed, professional hiking instructions, check our link to Mammoth's trail app, here.
Look across the lake and you'll see a huge rock formation. You can head over there to jump off of it and into the water, but I'm not responsible for what happens. We all jumped and had a great time.
Safety Note: You must personally evaluate this activity for safety. Lake levels vary based on snow melt and season. Rock jumping is not a safe activity for everyone and may not be safe for anyone in some seasons.
Mary Beth is the owner of Adventure Refined, where she offers true luxury Mammoth Lakes homes to guests. In her spare time she runs a ranch, loves a test pilot, and raises 4 boys & a Rhodie rescue.