Hidden Adventures: Twenty Lakes Basin

Stephen Hicks Image
Friday, August 7, 2020
Hidden Adventures: Twenty Lakes Basin
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Waterfalls and wildflowers. Lakes and streams. Saddlebag Lake and Twenty Lakes Basin has it all.

Waterfalls and wildflowers. Lakes and streams. Saddlebag Lake and Twenty Lakes Basin has it all.

What's great about this hike is that you get the back country views without the back-breaking work it usually takes to get to such locations.

Driving from Fresno, turn left off Tioga road onto Saddlebag Lake Road, just past the eastern gate of Yosemite (these days you'll need a YNP reservation to go through the park).

At the end of the gravel road you'll get to Saddlebag Lake which sits at a little more than 10,000. In the summer months, a water taxi can take you from one end of the lake to the other. It's $16 for a round-trip ride and due to COVID-19, masks are required on board.

After getting off, you'll enter the Hoover Wilderness Area, a popular spot for hiking, fishing and backpacking. I went for the day hike that offered an up close view of Shepherd Crest. Stunning landscapes after just a drive and a boat ride but if you're willing to take a bit of a hike the views improve.

The area is known as the Twenty Lakes Basin. On a hike with gorgeous vistas, perhaps the best view is found at Steelhead Lake with North Peak and Mount Conness looming in the background. If you turn around right here you're looking at a little more than there miles of hiking round-trip.

But the entire loop (with the water taxi) is a little less than five miles and has an elevation gain of a couple hundred feet.

After passing Shamrock Lake, you'll descend down to Lake Helen. While stopping to take in the views, make sure to go right at this sign for Lundy Canyon.

I saw fewer than 20 people on my hike but there were a couple families who made it up and out of this scree canyon.

The trail levels off it's then an easy descent back to Saddlebag Lake where you can wait for the water taxi to bring you back.

Perhaps overlooked by its Yosemite neighbor, the Twenty Lakes Basin offers majestic mountain views that on any given day you might have entirely to yourself.