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Hiking with Sally to Conness Lakes

I love to hike up to the glacial fed Conness Lakes above Saddlebag Lake. I don’t know how the colors of the lake’s waters magically change from green to turquoise to deep blue before my eyes, so magic is the best explanation I can come up with.

Where: Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area, Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 9.22 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 10,091′ – 10,767′
Date: June 27, 2018
Maps: Falls Ridge and Buckeye Topogs
Dog Hike? Maybe

My dog Sally and I were camping at Saddlebag Lake Campground when a couple of my hiking buddies drove up to hike with us. To get to the campground, resort and trailhead, we drove to Saddlebag Lake Road, just east of the Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass entrance. Heading up the mostly dirt road to Saddlebag Lake, my hiking buddies parked at the adjacent backpacker parking lot and stached their after hike goodies in the bear boxes. 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 is still closed. It suffered snow damage a couple of years ago and is not back in operation yet and it is for sale in case you are interested.

To get there, 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 Trailhead Parking Area, stached their after hike goodies in the bear box and we headed toward the resort, following the Twenty Lakes Loop Trail along the south, then east side of the lake. In the past, taking the water taxi operated by Saddlebag Lake Resort was an option, but not this year because they didn’t open due to the snow damage that they received.

Sally and I met up with my hiking buddies at the Saddlebag Lake backpacker parking lot where they had parked and stached their after hike goodies in the bear box. We walked along the south, then east side of Saddlebag Lake (10,066′ elevation), full of beautiful reflections.

After we got around Saddlebag Lake, we headed toward Greenstone Lake (10,144′ elevation).

The mosquitoes and gnats were out so bug masks were put on by some. I didn’t put mine on but had it handy in case they started bugging me too much.

The trail took us over a hill, then we could see the route that our hike would be taking us to the Lower of the Conness Lakes. We would head up just right of the waterfall that came out of the outlet of that lower lake.

After our climb up that granite and a scramble through a chute, we arrived at the stream that fed out of Lower Conness Lake (10,561′ elevation). When we reached that lower lake, I was thrilled to see some “icebergs” still in it. These bodies of waters below Mt. Conness are fed by the Conness Glacier, the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada north of Tioga Pass.

We had a little rock hopping to do to get across that lower lake and up to the second lake. I kept my boots on and rock hopped. My hiking buddies put their Crocs on and quickly moved over a shallow line of rocks.

Now, it was up a few snowy sections. The going was pretty easy, not icy, no postholing and the suncups were not bad.

We arrived at the second Conness Lake (10,670′ elevation) and it was also sporting some ice on it.

We headed up the granite slab of rocks on the north side of the lake and worked our way to approach the third lake near the south side.

Wow! How beautiful this third Conness Lake (10,761′ elevation) was and the waterfall flowing out of a still higher lake made it extra special.

This was the perfect lunch spot and all of us enjoyed a break and refueling.

It was time to head down, after a few pictures of course.

We pretty much headed down to the lower of the Conness Lakes the same way we had gone up.


Photo by Gail Gilbert

We were able to keep our feet dry while rock hopping on the return. I guess it is knowing where to step . . . or not step.


Photo by Gail Gilbert

As I headed down, I had a wonderful view of Saddlebag Lake.

I looked back at my hiking buddies, walking along a ditch of sorts. We also came down along old timbers and nails, probably remnants of the old flume that ran from here.

Gail led us a slightly different way down, past numerous beautiful tarns or small seasonal lakes.

Dog Hike?

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.

Maps and Profiles:

Saddlebag Lake to Conness Lakes Doarama

Saddlebag Lake to Conness Lakes Topog

Saddlebag Lake to Conness Lakes Profile

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Hiking to Conness Lakes September 8, 2017

Hiking with Sally and Raven from Saddlebag Lake to Conness Lakes July 6, 2016

Backpack to Mount Conness August 26, 2014

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


Saddlebag Lake Resort Home Page

Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area Management Plan

Harvey Monroe Hall Wikipedia

Mount Conness Wikipedia

Mount conness Summitpost.org

Conness Glacier Wikipedia

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