20 Lakes Basin – Hoover Wilderness

Beyond Saddlebag Lake

saddlebag lake

Just east of Yosemite National Park, Saddlebag Lake is popular for day hikes, fishing and backpacking. A loop trail goes around the lake for fishing and hiking. There is also a water taxi from the marina at the Saddlebag Lake Resort that goes to the far end of the lake. Trails extend into what is commonly called the 20 Lakes Basin. Backpackers must go past the end of Saddlebag Lake, to Greenstone Lake or farther into the 20 lakes basin area in order to stay overnight. Camping around Saddlebag Lake is limited to the campground near the resort.

Visiting and Exploring 20 Lakes Basin was so much more than I had expected. Have you ever heard a review of a location and it just didn’t do it for you, so you decide to skip, only later to find out that it as way better than initially thought?  Well, the 20 Lakes Basin off Tioga Pass in the Hoover Wilderness was just that to me and couple friends looking to explore the region for the first time this fall.  The 20 Lakes Basin is now one of my most recommended destinations in the Eastern Sierra.

Saddlebag Lake is known for it’s Brown, Rainbow and Brook Trout, Greenstone and Hummingbird Lakes try for Brook Trout, Conness Lake catch Golden Trout. Check the Eastern Sierra Back Country Fishing Guide for Trout species in the numerous lakes in this area.

The 20 Lakes Basin is a series of lakes connected by streams which flow off two different valleys on Tioga Pass area. The back Lakes flow into Lundy Canyon and the Front lakes flow into Saddlebag lake and eventually down the water system in Tioga Pass. Here is a run down of the various Lakes in 20 Lakes Basin

Greenstone Lake

Greenstone Lake
Greenstone Lake and Mt Conness

A stunning location immediately after the northern edge of Saddlebag Lake, you are suddenly transported to a lake so different then Saddlebag lake that you just crossed. The site of North Peak displayed across the water or the defined water color changes as the water drops off from a rock self into clear almost greenish blue water. Greenstone lake is lined with a meadow and creek on one side and the invite to climb higher into the 20 Lakes region on the North side. Trail options from here include going North to The main 20 lakes region of Wasco, steelhead and Shamrock lakes. Or head West of the South shore and hope the creek to follow a trail up to the Conness Lakes.

Cascade Lake

Cascade Lake - 20 lakes
Cascade Lake and Northpeak

After Greenstone Lake the western most Lake in the loop is Cascade Lake. Set at the base of North Peak off the self of a granite bowl this is a deep and clear lake with great views of the peak. Access trail immediately before Steelhead lake or various cross country over granite routes.

Steelhead Lake

steelhead lake- 20 lakes
Steelhead Lake

One of the bluest lakes in the loop. Steelhead lake features a region where the rock seem to come straight up out of the water on every shore line. Backpacking location can be found around the perimeter edges up on the rock. Stunning views again of NorthPeak from the East shore Line versus a unique view of the entire basin from uptop on the West side on the rocks.

Shamrock Lake

shamrock Lake- 20 lakes basin
Shamrock Lake

This stunning lake is mesmerizing for visitors. The variety of islands and the crystal clear blue water make this the most unique setting in the loop. On our visits this is where i find most day hikers sitting and just enjoying the sites.

Lake Helen

Lake helen
Lake helen 20 lakes basin

Lake Helen is what i like to refer to as a cross over lake. Similar to Yosemite mono Pass this is where we see the Volcanic rock Meet the Granite rock and the shore lines change color from the rest of the region. Lake Helen also is the end of the loop with Mill creek flowing down out of the lake to the North into Lundy canyon.

Wasco Lake

A rather unimpressive lake comparatively this small lake is easily accessed between Greenstone and Steelhead Lakes

Other unphotographed lakes in the region include ZLake, Odell Lake, mill Lake, Hummingbird Lake and Conness Lakes.

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