Thursday, August 15, 2013

20 Lakes Basin Loop, Saddlebag Lake Resort, CA (Part One)


Warning: this post has too many photos, but it was so hard to choose which ones to leave out.


The 20 Lakes Basin hike had been recommended by the ranger at the Mono Basin Visitor Center, and by Diana at Life on the Open Road, who said it was one of her favorite hikes. It starts at Saddlebag Lake Resort, little more than a couple old buildings that house a small café and general store. A nice forest service campground is nearby. They rent boats and also operate a water taxi, a pontoon boat that takes you across Saddlebag Lake ($12 round trip). The taxi cuts 3 miles off the hike, so we decided to splurge and make it a “short” 5.5 mile loop instead of the 8.5 mile longer route. We’ve learned that at over 10,000 feet, 5-6 miles is more than enough hike for one day. Plus we wanted to take this one slow, since we knew it would be something special.


Cemetery in front of the resort.


From the boat heading to the trail. The lighter colored peak on the left is Mt. Dana, Yosemite’s second highest peak at 13,061 feet. Won’t be hiking up that one! It was 48 degrees out when we boarded the boat at 9 am.


We read that it was best to hike the loop counter clockwise, so that’s what we did. The trail only gains about 300 feet but it’s up and down the entire way. We quickly entered the Hoover Wilderness.



It wasn’t too long before we came to the first of many lakes or ponds. I believe eight of them were named.


The first, Hummingbird Lake.


Next up was Odell Lake.



The trail got a bit rockier on the descent to Lake Helen.


Too bad the flowers were just past their peak.


But the colorful lichen made up for it.



Good views of Conness Glacier, on the boundary of the Inyo National Forest and Yosemite National Park. Although it has lost half its surface area over the last two decades, it‘s still the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada north of Tioga Pass.


Waterfalls after circling Lake Helen.


Interesting geology.


The trail became more difficult to find, crossing over lots of large rocks. We managed to find a few cairns, then finally came to this view of Shamrock Lake, maybe the prettiest one so far.


All of this scenery before we stopped for lunch, and at this point I think we had seen a total of five other people on the trail. Hikes don’t get much better than this.

To be continued….


  1. What a gorgeous hike...spectacular colors!

  2. Thanks again for letting me go along by reading the blog. 10,000 feet is not even sitting in a chair altitude for me. You guys are tough.

  3. I love your title...hehe I would much rather look at too many photos than have to read through too many words.

    What a gorgeous hike. Is that snow on Conness Glacier? I clicked on the photo but couldn't tell.

  4. Not too many pictures at all. What a beautiful area.

  5. You guys have been hitting the Jack Pot lately!!!! Gonna be following those footsteps you are leaving...for sure!
    Box Canyon Mark

  6. I've never seen yellow lichen, but I always love the oranges. You find the greatest hikes!