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Hiking with Sally and Raven from Saddlebag Lake to Conness Lakes

The Conness Lakes are a magical place, especially when there is snow and ice involved. Their glacial fed turquoise waters are amazing!

Where: Hoover Wilderness
Distance: 4.71 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 10,066′ – 10,787′
Date: July 6, 2016
Maps: Falls Ridge and Buckeye Topogs

We headed east on Tioga Road, east of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite to Saddlebag Road and drove up it, parking at the Saddlebag Lake Resort. We purchased tickets for us and the dogs for our trip on the water taxi to take us all over to the far side of the lake. You can find a link to Saddlebag Lake Resort at the end of the blog and they have more information on the water taxi, along with ticket prices. While we were inside, I could see that they were working on some of their famous homemade pies and asked what they were whipping up. Apricot blackberry! Mmmmmmm

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We had arrived early and had a little time to kill, so we hung out and waited for the water taxi.

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We all got on the water taxi. Sally and Raven have been on it several times and love the ride. There is a practical reason for taking the taxi with the dogs. The rocks on this hike can be rough on a dog’s feet and this helps take off a little mileage that they would have had along the rocky shore. OK, it is also just fun for us to take the water taxi. But if you ask me why we took it, it was for the dogs.

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Once we landed, we headed toward Greenstone Lake, then followed along the north edge of the lake until we reached the west side.

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We headed uphill and cross country, discovering some tarns that we had never seen before. Most of the smaller tarns will dry up before the end of summer but while they are here, they provide some beautiful reflections.

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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We started heading up the mountain and it is easy to lose the trail through the rocks. There are some unoffical ducks or trail markers that people have put up and many snake track trails, but we just picked our way up the rocky hill, then up onto the slabby granite mountain, then through a short rocky chute. One of the main ways that can take you up through the chute is along a small creek that comes out of Conness Lakes, but that way was still covered in snow.

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

We reached the lower of the 4 Conness Lakes. At 10,651′ elevation, I was hoping there might be ice on it but it was still gorgeous with that emerald colored water. There are different ways to get to the next higher lake. We chose to follow the south side of the lake but we needed to use a few rocks to cross over to the other side.

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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We headed up. It was easier going for me to take a direct route towards the outlet area of the next lake, but others found it easier to stay along the shore then go up through the rocks. Both techniques worked great!

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Photo by Gail Gilbert

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Looking back down at Lower Conness Lake

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

When I reached what I call the Middle Conness Lake at 10,680′ elevation, I was so excited to see ice on the lake and some of it was quite thick!  Beautiful!

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We took a closer look at the ice floating on the lake, trying to capture the beauty with our cameras.

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Just loved this lake!

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We headed up the granite slabs to the next higher Conness Lake.

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When we arrived, we knew it was the perfect lunch spot. We found a spot that was sheltered from the wind where we could watch the lake (10,763′ elevation), the waterfalls and Mount Conness.

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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Mount Conness, 12,649′ elevation, and its knife edge ridge border the lake on the west and southwest sides. North Peak, 12,231′ elevation, borders the lake on the north side. We could also spot where the Conness Glacier lies, which they say is the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada north of Tioga Pass.

Mount Conness is named for John Conness (1821–1909), a native of Galway, Ireland who immigrated to the United States in 1833. He arrived in California via Panama on the ship Sylph in 1849, engaging in mining and mercantile pursuits in El Dorado County, but by 1853, he was a member of the California Legislature. He served from 1853 to 1854 and from 1860 to1861, and then was the United States Senator from California from 1863 to 1869. He was married twice and had at least 12 children by my count. On the 1860 census, he is living in Georgetown, El Dorado County and lists his occupation as a Miner.

On March 28, 1864, Conness introduced Senate Bill 203, known as “The Yosemite Valley Grant Act. The legislation would by federal action, grant to the State of California the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees. The purpose of the bill was that the property “shall be inalienable forever, and preserved and improved as a place of public resort.”

No money was appropriated in support of the bill and no supporting legislation provided for federal administration of the areas. It did not establish the National Park, which came later in 1890. The Yosemite Valley Grant Act passed on June 30, 1864 and was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

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John Conness

We made it to 3 of the Conness Lakes but there was too much snow and rough terrain for us to make it to the highest of the lakes. Hopefully we can do that another day. We had reservations for the 3:15 water taxi back and it was time for us to start heading down. We basically followed our route that we came up through the lakes, then followed the trail that follows the creek down to Greenstone Lake, then back to the dock where the water taxi picked us up. They don’t allow wet dogs on the taxi so we made sure we kept our dogs dry, although I am sure if you asked them, they would rather have gotten wet.

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Photo by Debra Sutherland

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This can be a good dog hike, but the rocks in this area can be brutal on their feet. I packed Sally’s shoes, just in case she got a worn spot or cut on her feet, checking those feet periodically, but she was no worse for the wear.

Maps and Profiles:

Conness Lakes Topog

Conness Lakes Hike Topographic Map

Conness Lakes Profile

Conness Lakes Hike Profile

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Backpack to Mount Conness August 26, 2014

Hiking with Sally and Raven to Conness Lakes July 3, 2014

Sources:

Saddlebag Lake Resort Home Page

Mount Conness Wikipedia

Mount conness Summitpost.org

Conness Glacier Wikipedia

About Candace Gregory

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