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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

20 Lakes Basin Loop, CA

Guide 1 Triplog  0 Topics
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 8.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 10,110 feet
Elevation Gain 1,000 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 13.5
Interest Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
9  2014-09-30 Oregon_Hiker
30  2012-09-02 slegal
Author slegal
author avatar Guides 74
Routes 102
Photos 2,962
Trips 56 map ( 351 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Thousand Oaks, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → Any
Sun  4:35am - 7:23pm
Official Route
1 Alternative

More lakes than you can shake a stick at
by slegal

Likely In-Season!
I was looking through my Sierra Nevada hiking books for a hike that I may not have noticed, that would be a nice late summer hike near Mammoth Lakes. I've hike many trails within a 20 mile radius of Mammoth Lakes, but I've always stayed away from SR 120 to Yosemite. It turns out that just a few miles east of the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park is this little gem.

For a hike that to me seemed quite out of the way, this can be a very busy place. In fact, we had to park so far down the road from the trailhead that we tacked on close to an additional six-tenths of a mile to our hike.

If you're looking for an easy hike, this is a good hike for you. If you're looking for a harder hike, this is the hike for you. Here is why. First, the easy. If you look at the first photo in my photo set, you'll see a boat in the distance. That boat is a water taxi. You can take the water taxi to the far end of the lake and effectively shave 4 miles off of your hike. Therefore, if you take the water taxi both ways that 4 mile savings turns the back part of the loop into a 4.5 mile loop. I should clarify that despite the fact that hiking books say there is only 300 vertical feet of climbing in the hike, it's a lot of up and down on very rocky terrain. I estimate from the peaks and troughs on my track log that the total gain is closer to about 1,000 vertical feet. Yes, it's only 4.5 miles, but it's not nearly as flat as hiking books would have you believe. But that's what we do to see such beautiful places.

We opted to do the full hike, which meant that because of the extra mileage from the far away parking, our hike was about 9.3 miles. This means a 4 mile trek around Saddlebag Lake, marking the beginning and end of the hike. We also did probably an extra quarter mile of extracurricular hiking. Therefore, the official distance of the while loop should probably be about 8.5 miles. Note that the west side of Saddlebag Lake is much shorter than the east side. The trade off is that the east side is more scenic and less rocky than the west side.

The recommended direction to take on the loop is counter clockwise. The reason is that there is a steep loose hill just south of Lake Helen and that hill is much better suited for going downhill than uphill. We opted to do a figure 8 that had us go up that steep loose hill. How you go is your choice.

The hike passes 9 named lakes and a number of streams with larger pond areas. The views at many of these lakes are stunning, so don't forget your camera. A short detour from the main trail will take you to several other lakes including the Cascade Lakes that are located just west of Steelhead Lakes and the Twin Lakes and Z Lake located in the middle of the loop. Several other lakes can be found higher up on the slopes surrounding the basin.

Check out the Official Route and Triplog.

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2012-09-09 slegal
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From US 395 just south of Lee Vining head west on SR 120. Just past Ellery Lake look for the turn off to Saddlebag Lake on the right. The coordinates for this turnoff are N37 56.300, W119 14.889. From Yosemite take 120 east past Tioga Lake and look for the turn off to Saddlebag Lake on the left. Most of the drive from 120 to the lake is uphill and most of it is a dirt road. Cars are OK on this road but it is a little bumpy.
    page created by HAZ_Hikebot on Sep 09 2012 5:54 pm
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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