3 Trailheads with Hikes to Amazing Alpine Lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin

Aug 10, 2023

As the name suggests, the Mammoth Lakes Basin is home to tons of alpine lakes. Hikes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin range from easy, family-friendly day hikes to longer trails leading into the backcountry that make for great overnight trips.

If you’re looking to explore backcountry alpine lakes, these Mammoth Lake Basin trailheads are the starting points for a number of trails that will take you to some seriously scenic alpine lakes.

NOTE: As with all adventures into the wilderness, please remember to #keepMammothunreal when you visit these amazing alpine lakes.

Hiking to Alpine Lakes from Lake George Trailhead

While Lake George itself is extremely beautiful, the Lake George Trailhead leads to a few more lakes tucked higher in the mountains. From this trailhead, you can access Crystal Lake, Barrett Lake and TJ Lake.

Hiking to Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake, with bird’s eye views of the lakes below and the 10,700-foot Crystal Crag as a backdrop, is one of the area’s most popular destinations. The hike to Crystal Lake climbs straight up the hillside in less than a mile and the trail can be steep in some areas. 

Trail: Take the Mammoth Crest Trail to the Crystal Lake Trail
Distance: 2.7 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking to TJ Lake & Barrett Lake

For a more lowkey hike to alpine lakes from Lake George Trailhead, check out TJ and Barret Lakes.

Trail: Take the Coldwater – George Trail to the TJ Lake Loop trail
Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy

HIking to Alpine Lakes From Coldwater Trailhead

The Coldwater Creek area is a dream come true for hikers seeking serene alpine lakes. From this trailhead, you can access Arrowhead Lake, Barney Lake, Duck Lake, Emerald Lake, Heart Lake, Skelton Lake, Pika Lake and Woods Lake and more.

Hiking to Duck Lake & Pika Lake

Duck Lake and Pika Lake are just the final destinations for this hike packed with gorgeous alpine lakes. Stop by one of these lakes on the way to Duck and Pika lakes or make one of these closer lakes your goal for the day. Here’s an idea of the mileage to each lake you’ll pass on the way to Duck and Pika lakes: 

  • Arrowhead Lake – 1.3 miles
  • Skeleton Lake – 2 miles
  • Barney Lake – 3 miles
  • Duck Lake – 5 miles
  • Pika Lake – 5.5 miles

Trail: Take Duck Pass Trail and Pika Lake Trail
Distance: 11 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate in slope but difficult in length

Hiking to Heart Lake

For a shorter hike to alpine lakes from the Coldwater Trailhead, check out Heart Lake.

Trail: Take Heart Lake Trail
Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking to Emerald Lake & Skelton Lake

Tucked off-the-beaten-path, but nearby the Duck Pass Trail, Emerald Lake is linked to Skelton Lake by the Emerald Lake – Skelton Lake Trail. Visit both lakes for a bit of a longer hike, or just pop 1 mile down the trail to Emerald Lake.

Trail: Take Coldwater – George Trail to the Emerald Lake – Skelton Lake Trail
Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking to Woods Lake

Duck Pass Trail also spurs off to Woods Lake. You’ll still pass by Arrowhead and Skelton lakes on the way. Here’s an idea of the mileage to each lake you’ll pass on the way to Woods Lake: 

  • Arrowhead Lake – 1.3 miles
  • Skeleton Lake – 2 miles
  • Woods Lake – 3 miles

Trail: Take Duck Pass Trail and Woods Lake Trail
Distance: 6 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Hiking to Alpine Lakes from Horseshoe Lake Trailhead

McLeod Lake is a popular destination for visitors looking for a short hike to a beautiful alpine lake. 

Hiking to McLeod Lake

The short but sweet trail to McLeod Lake takes you to staggering views of the Mammoth Crest situated right above the lake.

Trail: Take McLeod Lake Spur trail
Distance: 0.8 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Meghan Miranda

Meghan has been living and playing in Mammoth Lakes since 2016. She enjoys any outdoor activities that her dogs can tag along for. See more of Meghan's adventures on her blog Meg Moves Mountains.

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