Photo of Skelton Lake, Mammoth Lakes, Mono County, CA

Skelton Lake - Mono County

Photo of Skelton Lake

Skelton Lake

Skelton Lake rewards those willing to make the 2-mile hike with a magnificent mountain lake and plenty of accessible shoreline for a full day of enjoyable fishing. During the summer and fall Mammoth Lakes are busy with anglers in every major lake, but only a mile or two from the road's end are a half dozen often overlooked fishing lakes. Skelton Lake is home to some good-size rainbows and brook trout, eager to feed during their short summer-fall season.


In My Creel

  • #16 Elk Hair Caddis
  • #14 Royal Stimulator
  • #16 Adams Parachute
  • Panther Martin Gold
  • Rooster Tail Rainbow
  • Eppinger Daredevle

Knowing I was headed to some fairly big lakes, I brought along my spinning outfit to try some long casts into deeper portions of Arrowhead and Skelton. As sunset approached fishing really picked up. I wasn't worried about finding my way back down the trail at twilight since it is in good condition and easy to follow.



Making Your Way to Skelton Lakes

To reach the trailhead to Skelton Lake, take Highway 395 to the turnoff to Mammoth Lakes and follow the main road up to Lake Mary. At the southern end of Lake Mary turn into the Coldwater Campground and follow the narrow road all the way to its end. There you will find a trailhead parking lot with restrooms and water.

Photo of Arrowhead Lake

Arrowhead Lake

Set out on the Duck Pass trail (not Emerald Lake). The trail climbs through forest, sometimes reverting to switchbacks. The hike to the turnoff to Arrowhead Lake seemed a lot longer than I expected, but then Skelton Lake came up sooner, so I guess it balanced out. The side-trip over to Arrowhead is worth taking. The trail leads down a steep hillside right to the lake's edge. You could fish easily along the western shore for a while before moving on to Skelton Lake.

But don't backtrack on the trail you came down. Instead, angle slightly uphill cross-country to the south until you intersect an old trail leading from the south end of Arrowhead up to Skelton. If you think you missed it, then simply point yourself straight uphill until you intersect the main trail.

If you find and follow that abandoned trail, you will pass through an old mining camp, complete with a couple of collapsed stone buildings and the remnants of water wheels. Best of all, there is a stamp mill used for crushing ore, still in relatively good condition. Please leave things as you find them. You probably already know that collecting artifacts on federal land is illegal.

Photo of mining camp near Arrowhead Lake

Abandoned Mining Site

Continue up the abandoned trail to where Mammoth Creek is meandering through a meadow. There you will reconnect with the main trail, although you may be tempted to try your luck in that lazy portion of the creek. Only a short distance farther up the trail watch for glimpses of blue off to your left and then soon afterward cut across to the lake. A nice rocky point on the west side of the lake is a good place to start fishing.

I worked my way slowly around the lake counter-clockwise, having especially good success at the upper and lower ends. Naturally I wished I had brought a float tube with me. Only a couple of other people were at the lake and none of them fishing.


Accommodations and Supplies

Good backpacking sites are along the western side of the lake with plenty of level ground for tents. For anyone looking for a more secluded site, try the south end of Skelton. Back in Mammoth are lots of campgrounds, most of which can be reserved ahead of time. Of course, they are very popular all during fishing season. There is also an RV Park in town.

Photo of Sherwin Lakes

Stamp Mill

For more detailed information about camping, lodging, boating, and fishing in the Mammoth Lakes area, see California's Greatest Lakes coverage of Mammoth Lakes.

logo saying California's Greatest Lakes

The community of Mammoth Lakes is a good place to find reasonably priced lodging in the summer. Since Mammoth considers winter its high season, there is an overflow of condos available to rent. There are also many motels, lodges, and inns in a wide range of prices. For more information about lodging in Mono County, see
Mono County - California's Eastern Sierra.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.




Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:



Recommended Books for Fishing the Sierra Streams and Lakes




Photo of Skelton Lake

Skelton Lake


Nearby Featured Trips in Mammoth Lakes





High Sierra Trails

A Backpacker's Guide to the
Most Spectacular Trails
in the Sierra Nevada