Barney Lake Trail, Eastern Sierras, California

Mammoth Lakes, CA
Length: 8.80 mi.
Type: Out & Back

About This Trail

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ACTIVITIES: Hiking, horseback riding, splashing, birding, camping

LENGTH OF HIKE: 8.8 miles

OUT AND BACK OR LOOP: Out and back


ELEVATION GAIN: 1,519 feet


TOILETS: At Mono Village Resort






DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE: Available at Mono Village Resort

POTENTIAL CHILD OR BABY HAZARDS: Some narrow areas with dropoffs

GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Sturdy hiking shoes, camping or backpacking gear, hiking poles, sun protection, bug spray, water filter system, bear canister if camping

Escape the chaos of the big city and venture to Barney Lake, a well-trafficked but pristine hike that’s just challenging enough to get your heart rate moving and takes you deep into the Sierras. This is probably not the easiest toddler hike if you are
planning on doing the whole hike, but for parents with new babies and those comfortable with carrying older kids, you will be rewarded with a high alpine lake and mountains jutting up out of the water high into the sky.

What makes this location perfect for families with toddlers is you have a beautiful alpine village at 7,000 feet to explore and head up from there. Since we all have those days when we can’t get the toddler to hike forward, there’s a perfect fallback with Buck-eye Hot Springs, boating, fishing, a tent/RV campsite, and a resort. This hike is close enough to civilization to consider this one for a first backpacking  adventure with a baby and toddler. The trail is fairly trafficked, and hikers start early here. Consider leaving before 8 a.m. and getting in some distance. The farther you go, the less busy the trails get. Camp out overnight and you can wake up to silence other than birds chirping at Barney Lake and the beautiful early morning al penglow.

Overnight trips in this area (Barney Lake) with toddlers and infants are great because the crowd starts to leave early evening, so you get this area to explore by yourself. Splash in the water, wade, throw rocks. It also becomes very private for nursing mothers. And at night you get to hear all the animal noises, and stargazing  is amazing without any city lights to disturb the darkness Hike it Baby mama Xenia Pyne reported that the highlight of her backpacking excursion was waking up to the view of Crown Point, a granite peak that towers over the lake.

When you camp out, you can take day hikes from this point to Robinson Lake, Crown Lake, and Peeler Lake. These lakes are pristine, with the first one offering a deep turquoise color and a clear view of rocks on the bottom of the lake. The hikes up to these lakes are advanced, so be prepared to climb, but the incredible views are worth the grind. If elevation isn’t your thing, stick to circumnavigating Barney Lake and you will enjoy pine trees, wildflowers, and a grove of aspen trees.

It’s easy to find shade to pitch your tent, so don’t worry about bringing a shade structure. Some of the hazards to consider in this area are ticks, bears, snakes, and fallen trees. There are some cliffy areas that are unmarked as well, so if your little one is a runner, consider bringing a harness.

If you want to avoid the crowds, plan on visiting late in the summer, especially when the school year has begun. Also, make sure to grab a pastry at Nugent High Sierra Bakery in Bridgeport to take out on trail for a tasty breakfast treat with
camp coffee. If you overnight it, make sure to visit the ranger station, and check on permits.

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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, and Summer
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 1,519 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains No
Bathrooms No
Cell reception None
Pet friendly No
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Lake and Viewpoint

“I love this location because there are many options for outdoor activities even if you are not planning on backpacking at Barney Lake. Buckeye Hot Spring is a great find nearby and worth checking out.” —XENIA PYNE

Trail Contributor

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Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.


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