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First Day Tioga Road Reopened: Heading Across With Fannie and Sally, Hiking From Saddlebag To Lake Greenstone Lake

I loaded up my dogs, Sally and Fannie, and drove across Tioga Road the very minute it reopened this year. Like visiting old friends, I made several stops along the way to admire the views, then we all were rewarded with a hike from Saddlebag Lake to Greenstone Lake with incredible views of snow streaked high mountains surrounding the lakes.

Where: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 5.18 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 10,090′ – 10,200′
Date: June 26, 2018
Maps: Falls Ridge and June Lake Topogs
Dog Hike? Yes

The official opening day of Tioga Road is always an event I try to visit as soon as possible and June 15 was the big day this year. I am usually lined up when the gate opens and this year was a little different because of the new rules in place at Yosemite National Park as they reopen post COVID-19. One of those new rules included the implementation of a Temporary Day Use Reservation system. The Park’s initial opening phase began at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, offering 1700 vehicle passes each day. Day Use Entry Passes are validated at the park entrance gate on the reservation date and can be used for 7 days of entry. Reservations are required to enter Yosemite for day and overnight trips and you get them through Recreation.gov.If you have questions about changes, you can check out Yosemite’s How will COVID-19 affect my visit?

I had already printed out my pass the week before and since it was good for 7 days, already had my pink slip on the dashboard that they gave me. My plan was to be at the El Portal gate ready to cross into the Park and head across Tioga Road as soon as it reopened. I loaded up the car with my dogs Sally and Fannie, then headed out. When we reached the entrance gate it wasn’t staffed and they had a self certification white slip of paper that you filled out. I went ahead and filled it out even though I had the pink slip because I wasn’t really sure about whether I needed to.

I made a few stops to check out the views along the way.

Siesta Lake

From Olmsted Point, View of Half Dome and More

View from Olmsted Point, Sneak Peek of Tenaya Lake

View from Olmsted Point, Sneak Peek of Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows

When I headed east, exiting out of the Tioga Pass Entrance, the Ranger told me that I was the first one through the gate from the west. Whoo hooo! There was a bit of a line up heading in from the east around 9:30 am. and when I headed back in mid afternoon, there was only a short wait with about 5 cars ahead of me.

I made a stop at Tioga Lake. When the winds aren’t up, you can catch beautiful reflections at this spot but it wasn’t to be on this day. It was still beautiful though.

Before dropping down Lee Vining Canyon, I turned left up Saddlebag Lake Road. There is an overview spot right before you reach the lake and I always love to pull over here to take in the magnificent views of the high country.

White Mountain (12,040′ elevation) on the Left and Looking Toward Mount Conness on the Right.

Looking Toward Mount Conness (12,480′ elevation)

Mount Dana (13,061′ elevation)

We parked at the Saddlebag Lake Resort’s parking area and started around the eastern side of Saddlebag Lake. You can loop this back along the west side of the lake but the rocks on that side are tougher on a dog’s feet so I opted to go up and back on the east side.

As we worked our way along the lake, I couldn’t resist putting Fannie up on a rock to take her picture with the backdrop of Saddlebag Lake and the high mountains surrounding it. I think she would much rather be walking up the trail than sitting on top of a dumb rock.

We took breaks every so often. This was Fannie’s first time at this 10,000′ elevation mark and she is only 6 months old so we took it easy. I also checked her paw pads for wear periodically. I wasn’t sure how tough her little feet would be on these rocks. There was plenty of water along the way for the dogs and Fannie did just fine on this water but some dogs don’t. I think dogs are just like people. Some of us have a little bit more delicate digestive system. Many of those small creeks will dry up as the summer goes on though but there are the lakes.

We continued on.

If you were wondering how Fannie’s little legs can get her moving her up the trail. Well, here is a short video.

Looking back toward Saddlebag Lake Dam, I could sure see how low the lake was.

We continued following the trail along the north side of the lake a short distance to Greenstone Lake.

We all took a little break for a snack and a little exploring.

We soon headed back the same way we had come in and I wandered through Saddlebag Campground to see how it looked. It was open yet but is now. I then checked out  Saddlebag Lake Resort and here is a short update that they recently posted June 10 on Facebook.

Hello everyone. Just a quick note to say that yes we still plan to operate the Water Taxi this season, hopefully as soon as July 2nd. However, there are numerous issues to work through, and Covid-19 related concerns only serve to complicate/slow the process. We’re doing our best. Please stay tuned…

I headed back down Saddlebag Lake Road, almost to the junction of Tioga, when I stopped to admire this view of Mount Dana. It talked to me, saying “when are you going to come back and see the view from the top?” And I told the majestic mountain, soon I hope.

I made a quick stop at Tioga Pass Resort on my way home and here is a June 1 Facebook update from them also:

Hello all. Just a quick note to say that Tioga Pass is scheduled to open on 6/15. We are still hoping to begin to bring cabins online at TPR by mid-July, but there is a lot pending that could get in the way of that. We’ll keep you posted…

In past years, Yosemite National Park has allowed you to drive across Tioga Road to get to the other side without permits or passes but this year they are treating it different. A Reservation is required to drive into or through the park. Here is what they have to say regarding this issue:

I am just driving through the park and not planning to recreate. Do I need a day-use reservation? How can you limit access to a state highway?

Yes, you still need a day-use reservation. Tioga Road, which connects with Highway 120 at the park boundaries near Big Oak Flat and Tioga Pass, is not and has never been a state highway. Originally a private mining road, private citizens purchased the road and donated it to the National Park Service, which has improved and maintained the road ever since. The National Park Service is solely responsible for providing road maintenance, as well as law enforcement and emergency services, along all roads within Yosemite National Park.

If you plan on taking the drive up this beautiful scenic road, you will want to check out the Road Conditions page that Yosemite National Parks maintains or contact them because conditions can change pretty quick. No food, lodging, or gas are available along the road. While the road will be open, hikers should expect snowy and/or flooded conditions on trails. Once opened, please stop by the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center (open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) to get trail conditions before hiking in the area.

Dog Hike?

This hike can be a good dog hike if your dog is up to it. 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.

Doarama:

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.

Saddlebag to Greenstone Lakes Doarama

Map and Profile:

Saddlebag to Greenstone Lakes Topographic Map

Saddlebag to Greenstone Lakes Profile

Sources:

Yosemite Conditions

Yosemite National Park How will COVID-19 affect my visit?

Tioga Road Opening and Closing Dates

Tioga Pass Resort

Saddlebag Lake Campground

Hoover Wilderness

Inyo National Forest Policies and Rules

Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Sneak Peek of Tioga Pass Frozen Lakes June 9, 2019

Tioga Pass is Open and the High Country is Breathtaking!! May 24, 2018

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake and Beyond June 26, 2018

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake August 17, 2017

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

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