Destination – Saddlebag Lake/20 Lakes Basin

Total distance: ~ 8 miles (loop)
SaddlebagLake
Elevation changes: +/- 1300 feet (approx.)
Entry Trailhead: Saddlebag Lake
Exit Trailhead: Saddlebag Lake

One big challenge about backpacking in Yosemite is the permit system.  Either you put in the request months in advance but didn’t get what you want, or you want to go on an overnighter but the trailhead you want is booked solid.

That is why Saddleback Lake (also known as 20 Lakes Basin) is such a gem.  It is right outside of the Tioga entrance and part of the Hoover Wilderness, managed by Inyo National Forest.  It does not see as much traffic as other locations and therefore there is no quota on the trailhead.  All you need is to get to the Mono Lake Visitor Center for a free permit, and you are good to go.  Therefore it is much easier to come here on the spur of the moment.

And the scenery is quite good!


There are alpine lakes, meadows, snowy peaks…


The hike starts at the dam of the Saddleback Lake. There are three ways to start: (i) hike the more rugged but shorter west side, (ii) the more smooth but longer east side, or (iii) pay $10 to take the cross-lake ferry.


The lakes in the basin are linked together by a loop trail. Because of snowmelt, the trail is not often visible. There are also a few places where you have to cross the creek that could be dangerous depending on the water-flow.


We find that a good map for the area is not necessarily the Tom Harrison, but a topo map you could buy at the Visitor Center for $10.



Because of the scenery and the ease of planning, I would wholeheartedly recommend this trip. We in fact went there in June 2016, so stay tuned for the trip report!

 

Logistics:

  • Click here to generate direction to Mono Lake Visitor Center via Google Map.
  • Click here to generate direction to the dam of the Saddleback Lake

Topo created with Garmin Basecamp, note that the trail crosses Lundy Pass:
20LakesBasinTopo

Elevation Profile:
20LakesBasinElevation

Further Reading:

  1. Greg’s Hiking Adventure write-up, pictures and GPX
  2. USDA National Forest page for the Saddleback Trail
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