Back to index Twenty Lakes Basin Hike
Trip Date:  07/16/2015

: 10.3 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1200' (300' without Lundy Canyon tangent)

Group Size: 1
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Twenty Lakes Basin Hike
Download GPX GPX for this trip
Twenty Lakes Basin Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 37 57.872, W 119 16.325     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates

Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   From Highway 395 turn west toward the Yosemite park entrance on the eastern side of the park.  Follow Highway 120 (Tioga Pass Road) approximately 8 miles to the turn onto Saddlebag Lake Road on your right.  This road heads north about 2.5 miles, mostly on dirt to the parking area just before the Saddlebag Lake dam on the right.  Park in this area near the coordinates provided.
Hazards of Note:   Mosquitos, and the connector trail between Lake Helen and Steelhead Lake is a use trail and can potentially require trail finding skills. Crowd Factor:   Moderate to Busy.  This is a very popular trail, especially with the accessibility to the lakes area past Saddlebag Lake via the boat shuttle run by the resort at Saddlebag Lake.
General Notes:
If not electing to take the boat shuttle across Saddlebag Lake to the beginning of the Hoover Wilderness area, you will find the Saddlebag Lake Loop trail sign just south of the resort area parking lot.  This loop travels counter-clockwise around the lake, and it is about 2.5 miles along the eastern shore that you will travel before coming to the signs indicating the Wilderness area and the two directions you can choose from.  Most people go clockwise from here, due to the elevation gains early on, but I found going counter-clockwise to be less crowded early on plus the views down toward the upcoming lakes along this direction were amazing.
Three lakes will divert your attention over the first mile and a half, as well as the towering features of Mt. Conness and North Peak on your left as you head down the canyon.  Just past Helen Lake there is a sign to either head left to Steelhead Lake, or go right and down into Lundy Canyon toward Lundy Lake.  If you go about 1/2 mile along this canyon route, you will be treated to fantastic views of Mills Creek cascading out of Lake Helen and down over 1000' to the bottom of the canyon below you.
Heading left toward Steelhead Lake you will pass by falls coming out of Shamrock Lake, and then be treated to the granite rimmed Shamrock Lake with its islands as you continue to the west.  Steelhead Lake is next, and you can either follow the existing trail down the eastern side of the lake, or continue up toward the old mining area high above the northwest end of the lake, and then follow use trails around the western side of this lake into a lesser explored area of the 20 Lakes Basin.  
Eventually you will head south and come to Greenstone Lake, and there is a rock crossing near a Hoover Wilderness sign that will allow you to cross the water inlet for the lake without getting wet.  Assuming you keep your balance.
Follow the trail another mile around the western side of Saddlebag Lake to finish up by crossing over the dam and returning to the parking area.
Shamrock Panorama
Panorama of Shamrock Lake from the north shore

The parking area sign that you will look for.  Turn right into the parking area just past this. Parking area
The first glimpse of Saddlebag Lake, and the dam in the foreground which you will cross on the way back from the complete lake circle loop.
Saddlebag Lake
If choosing to do the boat taxi to eliminate about 3 miles from the round trip hike, this is the resort location where you will sign up for the service. Boat Taxi area
Just a little bit past the store is the offical trail start, indicated by this sign for the Saddlebag Lake loop. Lake loop sign
The first views into the Hoover Wilderness are pretty amazing, and it just gets better and better along the way.
View north View north
At the north end of Saddlebag Lake, just about 500 feet from the boat dock you will come across these signs.  Your choices are which way to loop around the Basin area, and I chose to head toward Lundy Pass to avoid the way most of those departing from the boat were headed. Wilderness signs Wilderness signs
Heading up toward the first wilderness lake, and seeing the start of many of the sharp granite peaks to the west that will dominate much of this hike.
Wilderness trail
Looking up toward Mt. Conness to the west, and the ever-shrinking glaciers that used to dominate the base of this mountain, even 10 years ago. Granite
The first, very colorful lake that the trail comes across is Hummingbird Lake.  The blue and green hues set against the gray and reddish rock is amazing. Hummingbird Lake Hummingbird Lake
Next up is Odell Lake, which the trail skirts around on the western side.  There were some fishermen on the opposite side who were working hard but didn't seem to have had any luck as of yet on the day. Odell Lake Odell Lake
The trail soon drops down into the area where Helen Lake sits, which is actually the highest point of one of the amazing waterfalls cascading down into Lundy Canyon. Helen Lake Junction
Before heading down into Lundy Canyon a bit, this is the view across Lake Helen at North Peak. Helen and Conness
This is a pretty impressive drop down into Lundy Canyon from here, over 1500' and there are at least six water cascades lining the rim of the canyon which can be spotted along that trail. Water dropping down
Not very well used, this trail has some pretty tenuous sections, such as this slippery part along loose rock and talus.  Miners from the ghost town of Bennettville actually pulled equipment up this way before laying the groundwork for the Tioga Pass road. Tenuous Trail
Heading down the trail a ways is worth it, with these views of the falls coming out of Helen Lake. Waterfall Falls
The views down into Lundy Canyon weren't particularly bad, either. Canyon view
Back up to the top there were some nice views above Shamrock Lake of North Peak, and I even managed to get a close up of the Conness Glacier remnants. North Peak glacier
The view of Shamrock Lake from the western side was very impressive. Shamrock
Most people drop down and take the trail along the far side of the lake back toward Saddlebag, but I elected to head up to the mining area above the lake and continue cross country and on use trails into the Hall Research Area. Steelhead Lake
Along the backside of Steelhead Lake were some pretty amazing rock strata formations that caught my interest. Cool rock formations Cool rock formations
Cascade Lake sits right near the base of North Peak, and is at the northern end of the Hall Research Area. Cascade Lake
This is undoubtedly one of the sources of water which flows into Cascade Lake from far above. Cascade source
After finding a path around the lakes near Cascade Lake, I was able to head toward Greenstone Lake (far to the right) and past a few other lakes whose names I did not know. Greenstone Lake
Greenstone Lake presented one last hurdle, as there is no real way around, but a way across (on rocks) soon was discovered off to the right of this picture. Greenstone Lake
This appears to be the offical way across Greenstone Lake's inlet as there is a wilderness sign just on the opposite side of the water.  Interesting! creek crossing
Almost back to the end of the trail there is a great view of Mount Dana in the distance, the second highest peak in Yosemite (and the destination for my next day's hike.) Almost back
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike