Author Topic: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)  (Read 5308 times)

fshrsmn

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20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« on: September 03, 2013, 01:31:44 PM »

    Has anyone hiked the 20 Lakes area of Saddlebag Lake? We (my wife, the dog, and I) are headed to French Camp the last weekend of Sept - 1st week of Oct. we always try and hike a new area at least once while on trips. so this time I was looking into 20 Lakes area.  In a couple of day hike books I have it reports the round-trip is about 4 1/2 miles with very few difficult areas. I know we can take the water taxi across Saddlebag, but do they allow dogs on the taxi and would it be recommended to take the dog on the hike or not? Is the hike similar in difficulty to Little Lakes Valley? We have done a round trip to Gem in a Day with little to no problems in the past, however, we are now in our mid 50s. It is reported that some of these lakes can be rather productive for fishing, so those of you that have had luck, what worked well with wet and dry flies. Also. if there is an issue back there is there an opportunity for us to register at the Lake as being on the hike, so if we don't return, we are at least looked for? We usually go prepared for almost anything, including spending the night if there is a problem. My main concern is the difficulty of the hike and how long it may take us.    :hiking2:         Any comments?
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Little Hardrock

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2013, 01:57:52 PM »
misty and i did that hike last summer...  and yes, dogs are allowed on the taxi,,need to be on a leash:).    and i dint remember what their fee is,,, but i am sure there is one:)

we hiked it clockwise... and i am trying to remember one spot that we went doen a steep face,, i think a dog could do it,, i am sure you could pick a way thru it.

the landscape changes thru out this hike,,, there are areas of granite , and areas of volcanic rock.. simply spectacular.   

there were lots of folks fishing in the first lakes we came too.   several backpackers had camps set up.   

 shade is a rarity ,,,  so hats and sunscreen are a must..  we had a partly cloudy day, and got some relief from that.    and we carried enough water to make the circle..   
 
you have to sign in at the store at the lake,,, and reserve a spot to come back in the taxi.  ask them what they do if not everyone comes back.   you can miss your selected time.. but if the taxi is full, those who are closest to the time get to come back first:)

hard to say how long it will take you..its a matter of how long you stop to enjoy the scenery...  the altitude is another thing to consider..  the hike itself is not that hard.   we hiked it leisurely with several photo stops, a lunch stop, and a side trip up a canyon,,, and didnt run into any worries about running late.   but do i remeber how long?  of course not:)

and would i go there again!   oh yes:)









« Last Edit: September 03, 2013, 02:07:18 PM by Little Hardrock »
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fshrsmn

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2013, 02:12:44 PM »
Thank You Carol. It is beautiful there. The author of the day hike book I have mentioned that for him is took 4 1/2 hours and he is a slow hiker, but he stops along the way to fish also. We never get in a hurry when hiking so even if it took all day it wouldn't bother me at all. This type of scenery is much better than concrete and pavement so why would anyone get in a hurry up there?

My absolute concern now will be making a decision of how long to fish at each lake along the way. :fishing4:
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Gypsy Wind

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2013, 02:15:30 PM »
I just did this hike with my dog about 3 weeks ago. Yes they allow dogs on the boat, it will cost an additional $5 (RT) for the dog and $6 each way per person (they have a list of extra charges kinda like the airlines, IE: $5 per backpack, no charge on daypacks). They seem to be fussy about no wet dogs on the boat, my dog is not a big swimmer so non-issue for me, just don't let them be dripping wet and probably be OK. I'd say the hike is about equal to Little Lakes area, less trees but you can usually find shade when you need it. The drive up 120 from Lee Vining is very steep with spectacular views, from 120 to Saddlebag is about 90% dirt/gravel and single lane. I hiked up the left trail from the boat dock, best fishing for me was actual Greenstone (1st lake), went up to Steelhead Lake and then off-trail to the Cascade lakes (lots of granite slabscapes up there). Trail gets kinda thin and difficult to follow at the top of the loop so I turned around and hit Z Lake (again off-trail) on the way back. I would go back but not in August (hot, dry and lots of people) should have the place to yourself in Sept. Might want to call about the ferry schedule for that late in season?

http://www.saddlebaglakeresort.com/index.html

Website indicates they close Sept. 8???

saudust

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2013, 02:31:24 PM »
Welcome to the Board, Gypsy Wind, or should I say your first post at least.  You've been lurking for a few months now.  It looks like the water taxi will be out of service by that time according the their website.  Is there another way around the lake, one better than another?  My wife and I will be up there the first part of October in the June Lake Loop and I'd really like to go see that area myself, but if the alternate route in lieu of the water taxi doesn't allow for fishing time, that might be discouraging.  We are in our 60's and huffing and puffing on a long hike might take a lot of the pleasure out of it.

Thank you, Carol, for the tantalizing photos.

fshrsmn, I sure hope there is an "easy" alternative route around the lake to the trail for your trip (mine, too).  It sure looks like something that my bucket list should include.
Let me wake laughing from a nap in the afternoon under the aspens in the fall.

Gypsy Wind

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2013, 02:39:27 PM »
Welcome to the Board, Gypsy Wind, or should I say your first post at least.  You've been lurking for a few months now.  It looks like the water taxi will be out of service by that time according the their website.  Is there another way around the lake, one better than another?  My wife and I will be up there the first part of October in the June Lake Loop and I'd really like to go see that area myself, but if the alternate route in lieu of the water taxi doesn't allow for fishing time, that might be discouraging.  We are in our 60's and huffing and puffing on a long hike might take a lot of the pleasure out of it.

Thank you, Carol, for the tantalizing photos.

fshrsmn, I sure hope there is an "easy" alternative route around the lake to the trail for your trip (mine, too).  It sure looks like something that my bucket list should include.

There are trails around both sides of Saddlebag Lake (south side is a mile shorter) but it adds about 3 miles to the loop. After being on my feet 6 hours fishing/hiking I was beat and elected to wait an extra hour to catch the ferry (I'm 55).

saudust

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2013, 02:45:59 PM »
Thanks, Gypsy Wind.  I'll do a little more research on those two trails around Saddlebag before I make any plans.  What type of fish did you catch at Greenstone?  Maybe my wife and I can plop down there and spend the day without making the whole loop.
Let me wake laughing from a nap in the afternoon under the aspens in the fall.

Little Hardrock

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2013, 02:46:41 PM »
yes indeed.. welcome!!!!!!

i love how you said the trail thins out at the top of the loop...   we found ourselves losing it every now and again.. but we blamed it on chatting away and looking around at the scenery.  it made we wonder if the trail is easier to follow counter clockwise... as the guide book suggested the trail be taken....

shall we say,, saddlebag lake itself is not the most scenic lake to hike around?
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fshrsmn

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2013, 03:28:08 PM »
Saudust. We may be doing the same in hiking around Saddlebag to the nearest lake available afterwards to spend the day. I wanted to make the entire trip around but adding 3 miles onto the trip may not be the best plan. I know the humans can make it but it's the four legged friend (with short legs) that may have the issue so we want to respect him on the trip too. Thanks Gypsy Wind for the information and welcome to the page. Also glad to see others our age still enjoying the back country. I was wondering just how long I actually had before needing to stop hiking, so knowing that others are still doing it really encourages us.
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Little Hardrock

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2013, 03:42:27 PM »
staying to the left at the end of saddlebag will get you to some gorogus lakes in very short order, so no worries there:).     

and there is a huge difference between stopping hiking, and just being a tadd more realistic about it:) 

Hardrock, may his spirit live on in all of us.....

Gypsy Wind

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2013, 07:18:54 PM »
Thank you all for the welcome!

This forum is a wonderful resource of information and very inspiring (especially the photos). One of the VERY few message boards were people aren't constantly beating on each other.
I had a 20+ year hiatus from this wonder called the sierras, thankfully the economy the past few years has allowed me to rediscover them (lots of time on my hands lately). So I have not a thought of stopping cause I'm just getting started. Thank heaven for old dogs  :doglick: that force me to slow down and enjoy what I'm doing or I may have hurt myself by now.
So much to discover.

wshawkins

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2013, 07:25:52 PM »

You’re missing out if you never had been to the 20 Lakes Basin!  Beautiful hike, great fishing and very dog friendly.  It works out great for me and my pooches, I fish and they swim!  Just a couple of areas to watch for sharp rocks. 

•   Some sharp rocks on the west side trail of Saddlebag Lake if you must hike to the 20 Lakes Basin.
•   The Lake Helen area is all scree and somewhat sharp.
•   Cross country rout to the interior lakes can be rocky (no trail) but my dog did fine.

My male dog has tough paws, so no problem there.  But my female dog has tender paws and requires shoes in the above areas.  You know your dog the best, so be prepared as best you can.

Without the water taxi service, I would not do the loop now unless you’re in great shape.  The miles can pile up quickly and exhaust you.  You can try for the first couple of lakes.  Greenstone fishes well and has three different species of trout to catch.  Wasco Lake has larger trout if there biting.  Just take your time and enjoy yourself.
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saudust

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2013, 06:41:05 AM »
Thanks for that info, wshawkins, about the two lakes to fish and species.  You mentioned three species in Greenstone.  Does that include Goldens as one of those?  Which one is left out (though Brookies are technically not trout)?

fshrsmn, looks like we both might get to report some excellent fishing and scenery pics.  I think I'm opting for the left-hand trail.

Good thread.  Thanks, All.
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wshawkins

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2013, 07:02:04 AM »
True, our native "brookie" is not a true trout but a char.  But Greenstone Lake has mostly brookies, with an occasional golden and bows that come up from Saddlebag Lake.  When your done fishing the 20 lakes basin lakes, try the inlet at Saddlebag Lake for good fishing!  Should have it to yourself if the water taxi is not running.
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fshrsmn

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2013, 07:14:46 AM »
wshawkins - Thanks for the information. We may not opt to make the entire trip around as it seems a bit far, especially for the four legged family member. :doglick: We will definitely try the areas you suggest for fishing.

When are you headed up saudust? Our tentative dates are Sept. 28th - Oct. 4th. We will be down in French Camp. If you are there at the same time, stop by and say hi. Just look for the GMC with FSRSMN on the plate. This is always been a great time of the year for us to be there and if you know where to fish you can really grab some sizable trout. One of my favorite spots is Rock creek Lake inlet (by the beach). While wading there are always some that swim right by going up-stream. Of course, any time one is caught with eggs they should be released (that's my fish philosophy).
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larry

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2013, 04:59:43 PM »
Per the National Geographic map, Yosemite NE #308 from the TH south side (west side?) is 1.6 miles each way to Greenstone with a very easy

trail around Saddlebag. Also, thanks for the update on the water taxi, this gives me a chance to adjust my plans.

saudust

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2013, 06:42:16 AM »
Fshrsmn, we'll just be coming up mid-week to SLR and probably miss seeing you this trip.  If, though, you happen to see a black Expedition with "saudust" on the plates, that's me.  Let's see if we can't put some good fish stories together to tell when we get back.  :clap: :clap:

Thanks for the info, wshawkins. 
Let me wake laughing from a nap in the afternoon under the aspens in the fall.

david_lhc

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2013, 07:51:49 AM »
Saddlebag Lake is a must for anyone who wants a great back country day hike. It’s a nice long full day hike if your stopping to fish or enjoy or have lunch and you should do all. We (a group of about 20) have gone the last 2 years. We went clock wise around the loop. The first year we went around the entire loop after getting off the taxi and yea it was a workout. The group split up and one group got of trail at Excelsior (they went high) and ended way up on the mountain and they had a bad time of it. My group went low and were on the trail the whole time. It was great right up until we hit Helen lake. Helen Lake is interesting in its own way but the climb out of there ended us and the trail from Helen Lake to the water taxi was not as fun as the first half of the day. This last year we went left as far as shamrock and then turned around and went back out the same way we went in. We plan to do that most every time we go in. No need to hit Helen or that side again for us. Get to the resort book your Taxi ride there and a time that you are going to be coming back on the taxi. You start at 10,400 and have very little elevation climb during the hike but there are some minor ups and downs. The lakes are great and I really think I will be able to pull of a Grand Slam next year between all the lakes in the one day hike. Got 3 of 4 this year. Just needed the Brown. No more trips this year but give it a try next time your up. Oh yea and be sure to turn around once in a while to see the views.


I took this pic at the resort and the wall. They were out of maps so I had this on my phone. We started at the bottom by the Wilderness Ranger Cabin and went left toward Wasco Lake

Wasco Lake



Trail past Wasco
.




Steelhead Lake, this is the lower part of the lake a great grassy spot and rock to jump of f into the nice warm water.  Great water fall to.





I got one of my golden in a lake with no name just above Steelhead. Fly on bobber.


Shamrock Lake got brookies here.



This is the creek between Shamrock and Helen Lake. There is a steep rock wall you have to get down here. It not hard but you need to take your time. To me this was the best views of the whole area.




No pic of Helen Lake but no need it was not nice. This is where the trip turn into work for us. This is the climb out of Helen Lake headed to Odell. This was a messy crumbling rock garden that sucked for several hundred yards.. 



Helen Lake to back to Saddlebag before Odell.


P A C

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2013, 09:04:21 PM »
Great photos, Great report.

Hint to anyone that would like to go for that  Grand Slam -  as others have verified  on this board over the years, this area is one of your best chances to accomplish the elusive goal.

Start or end your day on the creek upstream of the road crossing into Junction Campgroud.  Stream is pretty well populated with Native Browns.  If you didn't spend the night near that altitude, a few minutes out of the car after driving up Lee Vining Canyon will help you adjust at least  a little bit before you head up to the lake. 

Or, if you are crunched for time and concerned about not missing the water taxi back at the end of the day, you can always hit this spot on the way back down.  Unlike the water taxi, the stream is nit on a schedule and will be there much later into the day or evening.

Now some might suggest you are cheating by fishing outside of the actual 20 Lakes area, however, one could argue that this stream is the actual outlet to the majority of those lakes, via Saddlebag.  I'm just saying.....:-)

Either way it is still a major accomplishment, wonderful bragging rights and a high class problem to debate over adult beverages at the end of the day or in the middle of winter when everyone misses the ES.

TEX

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Re: 20 Lakes Area (Saddlebag)
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2013, 09:24:26 PM »
Helen to Odel is a crumbling slog. With a heavier than average pack is/was a chore for two flatlanders this season. Was worth every step though!
Nice report, thanks.
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