Sally the Weimaraner, Fannie the Corgi and I finally got the go-ahead to hike in Tioga Pass’s Hoover Wilderness after it had been reopened after the fire danger closures. I could feel winter knocking on the door as we walked by iced over small lakes. I brought my fishing pole along just in case . . .
Where: Inyo National Forest, Hoover Wilderness
Distance: 8.62 Miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 10,090′ – 10,361′
Date: October 28, 2020
Maps: Falls Ridge and Buckeye Topogs
Dog Hike? Maybe
To get there, we drove up to Saddlebag Lake Resort, just east of the Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass entrance. The Saddlebag Lake Campground and Saddlebag Lake Resort are closed for the season. The Trailhead/Backpacker parking lot is located just before you reach the Saddlebag Lake Resort and Saddlebag Lake Campground. In the past, we have taken the water taxi that Saddlebag Lake Resort has operated to cut our walking time down, but the Saddlebag Lake Resort who operates it is closed for the season.
It was 24 degrees when I parked the car. We all put on our outfits for the hike and since I was carrying fishing gear in my daypack, Sally offered to carry a few things such as dog snacks, dog shoes and poop bags. It was a light load and to even her pack up, I had her carry my night crawlers.
Saddlebag Lake is officially listed at the 10,066′ elevation but the water level is down and I am wondering if I should have gone down to the lake level and GPS’d it for a more accurate figure?
The trail that goes around the lake is called the Saddlebag Lake Trail and you can start from either side of the lake. That section of the trail is also known as 20 Lakes Loop because it can takes you into the 20 Lakes Basin. 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. When I say it is a little shorter, it depends on where you are headed after you get around Saddlebag Lake, but it is about a .6 mile difference. We took the trail on the east side of the lake because it is easier on the dog’s feet. Those rocks can be abrasive on their paws and sharp edges on the rocks can slice like a razor blade.
The Hoover Wilderness is a beautiful and unique area that I love to hike. Colorful mountains jut up and there are so many lakes tucked in among those high spots. It was originally designated as a Primitive Area by the Forest Service in 1931. It was named in honor of President Herbert Hoover. In 1956, it was designated as a Wild Area and became a Wilderness Area when the 1964 Wilderness Act was passed. It was significantly expanded to its present size in 2009. Hoover Wilderness had been closed by the USFS due to the Creek and other fires but the Inyo National Forest had announced that it was open on October 24. Other areas are still closed so I recommend you check with the local Forest where you are hiking to get the latest information.
Above the Forest Service Ranger’s cabin, which had a past life when the Hess Mine was operating, we took the west fork of the trail. The trail is a loop so you could go either way but the west side, which is an old mining road, is less rocky and a bit easier on the dog’s feet.
We soon reached Steelhead Lake (10,279′ elevation) .
At the upper end of Steelhead Lake, we left the trail and headed east cross country for the south side of Shamrock Lake, passing by frozen small lakes.
Shamrock Lake (10,266′ elevation) was full of crystal clear reflections when we reached it. I took Sally and my packs off, letting the dogs take it easy.
And I set up my fishing pole. Sally was singing, yipping and talking up a storm. I am not totally fluent in dog talk but she was saying something like “where are the fish, let’s get some fish, WHERE are those fish, come on fish, let’s get fishing.” Fishing with Sally isn’t always the easiest thing to do because she doesn’t have the most patience if I am not catching fish. She watches my line and every time I reel in or cast out, she is watching and sometimes crying with excitement. AND, if I do land a fish, she is so excited to check it out and about all I can do is to grab the fish and keep her away. If I have a stringer with some fish in the water, she is constantly going to check them out. Fannie could have cared less and explored the interesting smells around us on the rocks.
I ALWAYS catch fish in this spot and usually limit out in less than an hour. Not this time. I didn’t get a single bite and was totally skunked. No nibbles, no sign of fish surfacing, nothing. OK, I have lots of excuses why I didn’t catch any fish. Maybe it was the sudden cold snap that had the edges of Shamrock Lake iced up or maybe it was the almost full moon?
We headed back the same way we had come in, passing by Wasco Lakes (10,322′ elevation).
Greenstone Lake (10,144′ elevation) was a good spot to let the dogs get a drink and cool their feet.
We made it back to the car, only seeing a couple of hikers during the day. I checked the dog’s feet several times throughout our hike and they didn’t have any problems. They were pooped pups though and slept all the way home.
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: