20 June 2022
Saddlebag Lake and Twenty Lakes Basin Loop
(9 miles, +1,000/-1,000 feet).
Today was one of my favorite hiking days of all time.
Driving down from South Lake Tahoe, we originally intended to stay in Lee Vining and do some day hikes in Yosemite. But then I remembered there is a new reservation system for the National Park that restricts entry between 6am and 4pm. Not wanting to depart in the middle of the night, I searched for hikes nearby and found one right outside the Tioga Pass entry point: Saddlebag Lake.
This is a very easy trail at high elevation that gets right into some high sierra scenery that is nearly as good as the best I’ve seen.
But the start was just a wee bit depressing. Saddlebag Lake is extremely low with the drought this year, and it was weirdly buggy on its southeastern shore.
But soon a gentle breeze scattered the bugs and we were around the lake and into some excellent scenery in the Twenty Lakes Basin.
We hiked down a snow-filled chute to get to Lake Helen.
At the outlet there was a nice pile of rocks to cross over, but an ancient sign there was so worn we could no longer read what it said, and we had to do a short climb to continue the trail.
I left Half Cookie at the lake so I could get a better look at Lundy Canyon and Excelsior Mountain.
I rejoined Half Cookie and we started our way up the basin.
Climbing up to Shamrock Lake, I slipped on some snow and fell flat on my back into a huge puddle. Refreshing!
And five minutes of hiking later, I realized I was missing my phone. I had to backtrack to the scene of the crime to retrieve it!
As we rounded Greenstone Lake, we got a bit off track, heading up trail towards the Conness Lakes. But we figured out our mistake and headed back to the inlet crossing for Greenstone. I will definitely have to come back to explore up there!
There were several snowfields to cross on the southwestern side of Saddlebag Lake, but nothing technical.
The hike was so good today that we thought we should probably end this trip on a high note. But we will definitely be back in the Sierra in July!