Camping with the dogs for four days in the Tioga Pass area was a great getaway from the smoke. Sally, Fannie and I did a little hiking, a little wandering, a little relaxing, some wading, and we all took a few good naps.
Where: Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area, Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 5.94 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 10,095′ – 10,409′
Date: August 26, 2020
Maps: Falls Ridge and Buckeye Topogs
Dog Hike? Maybe
Sally the Weimaraner, Fannie the Corgi and I just came back from spending 4 days camping at the Saddlebag Lake Campground in the Inyo National Forest. To get there, we drove up Saddlebag Lake Road, just east of the Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass entrance. The campground is at 10,00′ elevation and is pretty small, only 20 campsites. There are no RV hookups and only tents, small RV’s or short trailers can fit into the campsites. Reservations are only available for the large group site. Each site has a table, fire ring, and a food storage locker. There are water spigots located throughout the campground. 2 vault toilets support the campground and there is no cell service. Just my kind of place! If you are daytripping it, you can park in the backpacker parking lot located just before you reach the Saddlebag Lake Resort and Saddlebag Lake Campground. Note that these are two different properties right next to each other and operated by different entities, more on that later.
Once we got settled in our campsite, we took a little walk above the campground to check out the view of Mount Dana.
We wandered down to the lake which was very low and the dogs did some wading. I checked out the possibility of fishing but decided against even trying.
The Saddlebag Lake Trail goes around the lake and you can start from either side of the lake. The west side is rockier but a little shorter and the east side trail is on an old road that was utilized by the Hess Mine. We took the trail on the east side of the lake because it is easier on the dog’s feet. Those rocks are abrasive on their paws, sharp and the dogs had several days of hiking ahead of them on this trip.
As we headed along the eastern side of the lake, the crystal clear reflections were beautiful.
I could spot the water taxi heading out, another way to get to the north side of the lake and it would have cut off 2 miles one way of our adventure. The Sadddlebag Lake Resort operates the water taxi and the Resort is not fully open this summer. Tioga Pass Resort, LLC purchased Saddlebag Lake Resort, Inc. in late summer 2018. The Tioga Pass Resort and Saddlebag Lake Resort are both currently undergoing major restoration and renovation after suffering multiple damage events since 2017. They are working hard on repairs and hope to be back up in business next summer.
They haven’t updated their home pages but have pretty current information on their Facebook Page. Facemasks are required and it is a cash only operation right now. As of my visit, they are running on the 1/2 hour 8:00AM-6:30PM, 6 Days a Week, not operating on Tuesdays, and hope to continue to do so through October 4. The cost is $16 for adults round trip, $9 one way and dogs are welcome. I am not sure of the current rates for dogs, Seniors, children, etc. as they have not updated their website with this information.
As we walked along the east side of the lake on the trail, we crossed a small spring fed stream but not after catching a cool drink.
Before we reached Lundy Pass and Hummingbird Lake, we headed cross county toward Greenstone Lake. When I was coming back down from Kuna Lake the week before, I had come across some tarns filled with water. I was surprised to see water in them this late in the year but realized that water could have come from recent thunderstorms. There were several tarns north of Saddlebag Lake, below Z Lake, and I was curious if there was any water left in them. I wanted to get some conditioning for Fannie, both at this higher elevation and over the rocky terrain. Fannie is still a youngster, about 9 months old and new to hiking, so those were my reasons for heading the way we did.
The temperature was around 60 but we still took some breaks in the shade. The breaks were also good opportunities to check the wear on the dog’s feet. All was good.
We discovered that the tarns didn’t have any water in them and when we arrived at Greenstone Lake, the dogs took a break wading in the cool water.
We joined the trail that led us back over to the east side of Saddlebag Lake and back to the campground.
We hiked half days and took it easy the rest of the day. When we arrived back in camp, I coated my dog’s feet with Musher’s Secret to moisten and protect their paw pads. Musher’s Secret is a natural, food grade wax that forms a breathable barrier on animal paws. It was originally developed in Canada for use with sledding dogs as a cold weather solution. It is now used for year round protection in many different environments. Fannie and Sally’s feet were pretty dry from that rocky country and I could tell that they liked the feel of the cool stuff going on their feet.
While we were on the trail, we met about 4 groups of 2 hikers, all but one wearing a mask when they approached me. When I could see hikers approaching, I left the trail to give the dogs plenty of room and not interfere with the other hikers and I wore my mask. While in the campground, everyone kept to themselves for the most part and if they were walking through the campground to empty trash or use the restrooms, most wore masks.
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 boots for both dogs just in case they got a sore spot on her paw or sliced their 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. This is a good hike for these dogs. It is above tree line and there aren’t any rattlesnakes or poison oak. There is plenty of good, fresh drinking water for them all along the way. That means I don’t have to pack their water and that is a good thing! Sally and Fannie have never had any problems drinking the water out of these higher elevations but some dogs may not be so easy 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.
What is a Doarama? It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.
Maps and Profiles:
Prior Blogs in this Area: