Saddlebag Lake: Twenty Lakes Basin Hike
I first hiked at the loop at Saddlebag Lake in 2002 and remembered a smooth succession of pristine lakes, some sky blue some silver grey, with anglers catching trouts in half of them. That was before kids and my husband and I added 3 miles to the hike by walking along the edges of Saddlebag Lake to the trailhead, a rather boring narrow trail. Last weekend I was camping with my father and my kids at Tuolumne Meadows, a proximity too tempting to resist. I decided to hike at Saddlebag Lake again but in the spirit of survival of the youngest (5) and the wisest (70), we took the water taxi.
Starting off at the trailhead (altitude 10,000 feet) was straightforward. We saw two people walking with fishing poles and simply followed them. No, in fact I remembered doing the loop clockwise and the trail follows the north-western tip of Saddlebag Lake so we followed the people anyway. At the wooden sign, you officially enter the Hoover Wilderness – gotta love these retro wooden signs.
A hill above Greenstone Lake was filled with another smaller lake and the juxtaposition of the two lakes with Saddlebag made the photo at the top of this posting. Three lakes on three levels, that’s heaven for me. A trickle of a brook turned the trailside into an inviting bird bath and my girls changed into swimsuits to refresh their feet. Why did mosquitoes materialize out of nowhere? Nasty little blood suckers. Suffice to say, we didn’t stay long.
Ahead of us were the long and lean Wasco Lake (angler’s hangout) and bigger Steelhead Lake into which a waterfall gushed, fed by snowmelt coming from glaciers above. We saw people sitting on the shores of the lake. They were just enjoying the scenery. Blinding white under the sky, big patches of compacted snow looking like wet sugar appeared far from from the trail; then next to the trail (snowball fights); then on the trail.
Between Steelhead Lake and Shamrock Lake, the trail also disappeared in a pond and had us take the rocky route instead. Adventure was calling, we were now using hands and feet! By then we were still on the trail, easy backcountry crossing but my map did not show the trail heading north-east to Shamrock Lake. Too bad. We simply followed a well-marked path and missed a short steep section that could have led us to the abandoned Hess Mine.
3 thoughts on “Saddlebag Lake: Twenty Lakes Basin Hike”
Wow, and exciting trek! What great troopers.
Wonderful descriptions – and thanks for the little map – I can hardly wait to go!!
@Lora, wait for my post inspired by yours on gold county caverns. coming soon!
@roadie2: we were there again last weekend and the weather was a splendid 80 degrees w/sun. If you want to go this year, you still have a solid month, weather depending. Otherwise August is a good month to enjoy wildflowers and trails without snow.