Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail > Mammoth Mountain Vacations
Friday, November 24, 2017

Mammoth Lakes News

trail head

This is our third post in our summer article series of the best family day hikes in the Mammoth Lakes area. In our first post, we chronicled The Crystal Lake Trail. Our second hike was the Emerald Lake and Sky Meadows Trail. Check them out!

Today we're covering the Arrowhead Lake Trail, a short but great hike for the whole family!

Arrowhead Lake Trail

emerald lake trail head
Trail head is actually the Duck Pass Trail, at the very top of the Coldwater Creek campground parking lot.
Ansel Adams Wilderness
The trail is a bit rocky going up, wear appropriate footwear!
view of mountains from trail
Peak view of the backside of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Lake Mary below.

Although the Arrowhead Lake Trail is a bit shorter at only 2.6 miles round trip, the lake is definitely worth the hike, and a great day trip to hike up, have lunch, explore the lake and head back down the hill. It is mellow enough for hikers of all ages.

The trail head is at the east end of the Coldwater Creek Campground, just up the road from the trail head for Emerald Lake which we talked about in our last post. The altitude at the trail head is 9,147 feet and there is about 635 feet in elevation gain on the way up.

The trail head is clearly marked as the Duck Pass Trail, you won't see the sign for Arrowhead Lake until you're almost there. The trail consists of mild switch backs through the John Muir Forest, sometimes along a very small creek.

Emerald Lake
Secret Spot! Off the trail about .8 miles up.
stream on Mammoth hike
Great little waterfall!
trail going up
At 1 mile you'll see the sign for Arrowhead Lake to the left.

As you continue up the trail, you can look backwards for a good view of the backside of Mammoth Mountain.

At about .8 miles, listen for the sound of rushing water. To your left keep an eye out for an unmarked trail that leads to one of the secret spots on this hike! If you follow the trail to the left you'll see a nice little waterfall, a great pit stop on the way up.

At about 1 mile you will encounter the sign for Arrowhead Lake, to the left. If you look in that direction you might catch a glimpse of the lake down the hillside. The trail on the right is the continuation of Duck Pass, and Skelton Lake about a quarter of a mile up, and further on is Red Lake, Barney Lake and Woods Lakes.

Beautiful alpine lake with great rock features.
stream and mountains
Bring your trunks...great for swimming...but watch out for mosquitoes late in the day.
Sky Meadows
Several uprooted trees near the inlet creek to the lake.

Heading left at the sign, you are almost there, only about 150 yards downhill to the base of the lake.

As I said earlier, this is a great lake for summer swimming and lunch, you will see on the southwestern edge of the lake a giant rock formation that splits the lake. When looking at the lake from high above, this rock formation creates the appearance of an arrowhead, hence the name Arrowhead Lake! This rock is also a local favorite for cliff jumping, with several areas of differing heights. I've jumped in myself from about ten feet but recommend exercising extreme caution, especially with children.

Our most recent hike to Arrowhead Lake was in the late afternoon, as you can see from the pictures. I recommend doing an early morning hike on the way up, enjoying the lake for an hour or two, going for a swim, and then returning. The trail is shaded in the morning for the climb up, and there are probably fewer mosquitoes, but bring bug spray anyways! Also, the trail itself is fairly rocky, so I recommend a good pair of trail running or hiking shoes, something with a little more stiffness in the sole than just plain tennis shoes or your feet will be angry.

Directions to the trail head

From Mammoth, take Lake Mary Road up and turn left on Around Lake Mary Road. Follow this alongside the lake, and as it turns to the right look for Coldwater Creek Campground Road and turn left here. Follow this road past all the camping spots until you reach the parking lot. Drive to the end of the parking lot and the road dead ends at the trail head. The trail head for this hike is marked Duck Pass Trail.

I have attached several full size photos as well as a link to a trail map, which you can view on Google Maps: Arrowhead Lake Trail Map.

Do you have a favorite Mammoth day hike? Let us know about it!

If you have enjoyed this post, leave a comment, like it on Facebook or share it with your friends!

If you're planning a summer trip to Mammoth, we've got your Mammoth Lodging covered, with one through four bedrooms and great deals on extended summer stays!

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  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail
  • Great Mammoth Day Hikes, The Arrowhead Lake Trail


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About the Author

Brian is the owner of Mammoth Mountain Vacations, an avid outdoor enthusiast and skier, part time writer & photographer, novice web programmer, and full time new dad.
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