Home » Blogs » Adventures with Candace » Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake

Six days of camping at beautiful Saddlebag Lake gave Sally and myself plenty of time to wander by the high lakes in the area and get some fishing in!

Where: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: About 10 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 10,090′ – 10,359′
Date: August 17, 2017
Maps: Falls Ridge and June Lake Topogs
Dog Hike? Yes

Sally and I drove to Saddlebag Lake Road, just east of the Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass entrance. Heading up the mostly dirt road to Saddlebag Lake, I stayed at the Saddlebag Lake Campground in the Inyo National Forest above the Saddlebag Lake Resort. If you are daytripping it, there is parking at the resort or at the adjacent backpacker parking lot.

For the first time since at least as far back as 1983, Saddlebag Lake Reservoir on Lee Vining Creek is spilling. This is a rare event and some are saying that it could be a first for the highest lake you can drive to in California.

Saddlebag Dam (10,090′ elevation) was built in 1921 to enlarge an existing alpine lake for hydropower generation purposes. The dam was raised and a spillway was added in 1925. The reservoir is oversized compared to the volume of water produced in its watershed and the agreement between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) requires it to be very low every spring. It is unclear if it has ever spilled before now and the week before my arrival the spillway started spilling that extra water. I took a short video of the spillway doing what it was intended to do ie. spill here .

I walked around Saddlebag Lake Resort, which is not in operation this summer. So many of us have wonderful memories of visiting their General Store, having a piece of their famous pie in their Cafe or have utilized the Water Taxi and Boat Rentals. They just had too much snow damage this year and announced earlier this year that they would not be open this summer.

The resort was built in the 1900’s, and current owners Richard and Carmen Ernst of Modesto bought the business in 1997 from Don and Lois Stennerson. Here are some fun facts from the Mono-logue’s recent posting:

  • Saddlebag Lake sits on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada’s and rests at 10,087 ft. In 1919, the Southern Sierra Power Company built the dam and even today uses the water from Saddlebag Lake to generate power in Lee Vining. The water then flows to Mono Lake or is diverted to the L.A. Aqueduct System.
  • In the early 1900’s, the first cabin was built at Saddlebag and was used as a trapper cabin for the area. Since that time, the original cabin has been refurbished and modernized by several owners.
  • The Saddlebag Lake Cafe and General Store was built in 1947. Its features include a fireplace made from local rocks such as: tungsten, black and red obsidian, crystal, and quartz. It also displays a high ceiling which was hand burnt to give its unique look.
  •  In the Twenty-Lakes basin north of Saddlebag Lake, there was a tungsten mine actively mined by the Hess family of Lee Vining. The mine was closed in 1962.
  • *One of the cabins used as living quarters is presently used as a forest service wilderness ranger headquarters. The windows and siding from two of the mine buildings were incorporated into the resort storage building. If you are standing at the lower Conness Lake looking toward Wasco Lake, you can still see the remnants of the water flume that furnished water for the mine in the canyon.
  • Saddlebag Lake Resort has had its share of making Sierra history. Originally built by the Gardisky family in the 1900’s, the resort was later owned by the Berglund family, who sold it to the Grover’s in 1960. The Grover’s’ operated the concession for 26 years. In 1986, they semi-retired and sold the resort to Don and Lois Stennerson, who ran the business until 1997. Saddlebag Lake Resort is currently owned by Richard and Carmen Ernst of Modesto, California.

There is a For Sale on the building and a link to the listing at the bottom of this blog.

Sally and I love to camp at the Saddlebag Lake Campground. It is not a large campground, only 20 campsites, first come first serve and no RV hookups. In fact it is really not suited to a large RV. One of the reasons I love it is because you are right there on Saddlebag Lake, with views of the lake, Excelsior Mountain toward the Lundy area, Mount Conness and North Peak, then you have Dana Peak to the south. How can you beat that? Well, you are also just a short walk away from the Hoover Wilderness and many high lakes. Sally and I scored a dandy campsite at #13 with a wonderful view of the Saddlebag Lake.
It is hard to beat the view at Saddlebag Lake in the morning. Those reflections are always so beautiful.

Sally and I did not do well fishing Saddlebag Lake so we headed up to Shamrock Lake to give it a try. My timing for that walk along the lake was perfect for those reflections.

We didn’t have the smoke that I had when I did the Twenty Lakes Basin hike a couple of days before and I headed toward Shamrock Lake up along Greenstone Lake (10,144′ elevation).

We continued up the old mining road that went to the Hess Mine that is now utilized as a trail. That bright blue sky with a few white puffy clouds made the country shine!

I took a little shortcut I knew from Steelhead Lake (10,279′ elevation), following an old mining road into the south side of Shamrock Lake (10,266′ elevation).

As we reached Shamrock Lake, I noticed that Sally was favoring one of her feet so I checked it out to discover some worn paw pads that appeared to be the problem. The rest of her feet seemed fine, so Sally got the boot. I mean I put on one of her boots for the rest of the day to help it not get any worse.

I picked my fishing spot, a rocky ledge where I could cast into an area that looked promising and limited out in a couple of hours with some 8 inch trout.


Map and Profile:

Saddlebag Lake to Shamrock Lake Topographic Map

Saddlebag Lake to Shamrock Lake (1 Way and on the Entry)

Dog Hike?

Sally and I headed back to our campsite and I took care of the fish and I checked out Sally’s feet better. I coated her paw pads up with Musher’s Secret and had her take it easy the rest of the trip. That rocky country can be tough on a dogs feet and I was very happy that I brought Sally’s boots with me. Sally has fully recovered and we both had a wonderful adventure at Shamrock Lake.

This hike can be a good dog hike if your dog is up to it. The rocky terrain is very rough on a dog’s feet and I packed Sally’s boots just in case she got a sore spot on her paw or sliced her foot on one of those sharp rocks. Even if you think your dog’s feet are toughened up enough for this hike, you can have surprises so please be prepared. Sally hiked for 6 days on this trip and I alternated easy days and longer days with her hiking. By the 4th day, one of her feet was a little worn so I made her wear her boot on one of her front feet and we took it easy on our remaining camping days.This is a good hike for Sally. It is above tree line so I can keep a good eye on her and let her run a little. There aren’t any rattlesnakes or poison oak and there is plenty of good, fresh drinking water for her all along the way. That means I don’t have to pack her water and that is a good thing! Sally has never had any problems drinking the water out of these higher elevations but some dogs may not be as easy as Sally on this issue. I think you need to know your dog and you may need to carry some water for them. This area also has bubonic plague and if you dog gets a hold of a critter such as a squirrel or mouse, this could be something to watch for after a trip in this area.

Here is some information from Inyo National Forest regarding their dog rules:

Traditionally, National Forests have welcomed dogs. However there are a few rules that apply to assure that you and other National Forest visitors have an enjoyable outdoor recreation experience. If you are camping with your pet, please practice the following:

  • Leave vicious or unusually noisy dogs at home.
  • During the day keep your dog on a leash no more than 6 feet long, or otherwise restrict its freedom to roam at will.
  • At night keep your dogs and other pets inside an enclosed vehicle or in a tent.
  • Developed campgrounds are for people, not animals. Please do not bring more than two dogs or other pet to any one campsite.

General rules for dogs within the Inyo National Forest:

  • Dogs are allowed for trips staying in the National Forest. Pet food must be stored the same as required for your food.
  • Dogs are prohibited, as are any other pets, on trips visiting the wilderness of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
  • Pets need to be on leash or under verbal command. Do not allow pets to chase or harass wildlife.


Saddlebag Lake Campground

The Mono-Logue

Saddlebag Lake Resort Listing

Hoover Wilderness

Inyo National Forest Policies and Rules

Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Hiking with Sally from Saddlebag Lake through Twenty Lakes Basin August 15, 2017

Hiking with Sally in the 20 Lakes Basin July 12, 2016

Hiking with Sally up to the Hess Mine in the Tioga Pass Area October 26 2016

Hiking with Sally on the 20 Lakes Basin Loop August 22, 2013

Leave a Reply

Sierra News Online

Sierra News Online