Explore the most popular hiking trails near Lee Vining with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

we hiked all the way to the summit...totally worth it! We went with our 11 and 16 year olds. Very diverse trail. There are about 5 lakes on the way up. Mostly shade and moderate climbs. Loved it!

Great views.

11 days ago

Certainly one of the finest trails in the Eastern Sierras - I agree with all the positive reviews.

Now, about that rock slide. It is VERY confusing and hikers look like an ant colony trying to find the trail. Cairns lead nowhere. Note that the All Trails download gets it perfect, so download the map. Also, someone has attached streamers to trees that mark the route but they are red and white - and faded. If you want to help your fellow hikers, take along some orange surveyor's tape and hang them next to the red and white. Once past the ordeal, all is well with the world.

14 days ago

Nice, relatively easy hike for all ages. Easy access for parking and the visitor center is great too.

15 days ago

Great trail, after the first part it’s not bad at all. Took me about 40 minutes to get to the lake.

The name is not an exaggeration, so many lakes! I only saw about 7 people past Saddlebag Lake so the solitude was great. If I had more time it would've been enjoyable to fish some of those lakes.

18 days ago

We did a three day/two night trip over Labor Day weekend, 9/1/18 - 9/3/18 with a dog. The drive up was slightly rough (the roughest was right at the beginning of the 2 mile dirt road) but not bad and we made it just fine in a small sedan. We started at Saddlebag Lake, taking the trail on the east side of the lake. We chose this trail after reading reviews on here stating that it is longer but easier on dog's feet and more shaded. I would agree with this, even after only taking this trail, and would recommend this side to anyone with a dog. As others have said, there is no boat running to get across this lake.

We got a free permit (required to camp) for Steelhead Lake. There wasn't much camping around this lake but we took the little trail off to the left to Towser Lake (very close to Steelhead) and camped there. Awesome spot to camp! It was a popular spot but there is a lot of area to spread out and be away from others.

The next day, we did the Twenty Lakes Basin loop, going clockwise. This was not a very tough hike but very rocky, we had doggie booties but Osker blew out two of them on the trail. We completed the trail fine, but we were worried that he was going to have pad issues; luckily he did not. The trail itself was ok, nothing too special; a lot of the lakes were not easily accessible, but were pretty scenic. Also, the trail is not well marked when doing this loop clockwise. Right after passing Lake Helen, keep your eyes out for the signpost to continue on the trail. It is across a small water crossing and down hill a little ways. It could easily be missed if not paying attention.

Overall, I would highly recommend hiking out to Towser Lake and camping there but would only recommend hiking the Twenty Lakes Basin loop trail to those that are looking to get some miles in with some good (but not great) views. Also, make sure to have doggie booties if you're doing the loop trail!

I walked this one mile totally flat loop in the second part of August. The sun was relentless; sun protection (sunscreen and hat) will help if you are spending a bit of time to visit the area (especially if you extend your stroll to Navy Beach).

The Tufa formations are very scenic and photogenic; the lake in the background and the Sierra Nevada on the horizon do not hurt either. This is a short detour (10 minute drive from 395 and anywhere betwen 30mn and a couple hours for the visit) from Lee Vining, or just from the Tioga Pass road if you go over the Sierras that way.

There was volunteer at the "beach" on that day showing us the single noticeable organism living in the very salty lake: the Brine Shrimp; hardly bigger than a horse hair...

The unusual / unique nature of the Tufa towers, the ease of access and the great photo opportunities make this a no-brainer to put on your list when nearby.

We did this trail on 9/2, as a group of 10 folks of varying fitness and ages. We also had a 15 month old puppy. I had read this page thoroughly, so I was prepared.

- Get AllTrails Pro, the trails are not marked. This saved us.
- For the puppy, we got booties and they kept coming off. Thanks to the kindness of strangers who were returning after backpacking, we had a pack of self adhesive tape that they used for their dog. This was a life saver.
- 4 out of the 8 miles is on scree and talus. I was afraid for the puppy, she did fine, but for one small cut in her paws, the booties helped. You have to watch each step you take.
- From the top of saddlebag lake, I highly recommend doing it the counter clockwise (see my track upload). The climb down to Lake Helen is hard and I was glad I was going down in that scree and not up. Further, you hike towards North Peak when you go counter clockwise and it is stunning.
- Yes, there is not much elevation gain, so our group was able to do it comfortably, but it did take us nearly 7 hours (4:30 moving), between the scree, the puppy and the elevation of this area (10,200 feet+).
- The views are astonishing. The teenagers in our group was awestruck. "Bob Ross painting in each turn" - one exclaimed.
- It is more or less completely exposed, so be prepared.
- We had plenty of company during labor day long weekend, but we didn't mind it. If we were a noisy bunch and ruined your day, we are sorry. We had 5 teens in the group :).

Highly recommend this trail. Highly recommend AllTrails pro.

I love this hike. It's fairly easy with a few tougher spots. The scenery is spectacular. We did a one night backpacking trip and camped in between Steelhead Lake and Cascade Lake. The trail splits in a lot of places so it is easy to get confused. Make sure you have a map to refer to or are using the app to track.

very beautiful

We did this hike on 8/30. We were excited based on the description and reviews. It is a great trail with amazing views. But we realized we didn't do enough homework before heading out. Here are my Cons and Pros

1. The water taxi (as someone mentions from July below) is not running. We have an old dog and a child and the extra miles and exposure weren't great.

2. Although dogs are allowed, the surface of the trail was tough on our dogs paws. It has taken him 3 days to recover from the experience.

3. You are exposed for 98% of the trail. We applied sun screen before we headed out, but you will need to reapply. Wearing a hat and pants and long sleeved shirt recommend. Also, bring more water than you thing you will need.

1. It is an easy hike - this is true as there isn't a lot of elevation change but I would rate it as moderate with the water taxi not running, the trail surfaces, exposure, etc. But it is doable.

2. There were just a few people on the trail.

3. The views.

The directions lead to private property, but if you head east for about 3 miles from the directions you can find a 4x4 trail that travels around mono lake. That was worth it.

23 days ago

This trail is best early in the morning so that shadows are cast between the inner and outer rings of the crater. You also get better visibility for Mono Lake. This is a fast, beautiful hike you should try to fit into any Mono Lake trip.

23 days ago

The first section of the trail has been wiped out by a rockslide. People have set up rock cairns to demarcate the trail, but it's still tough to follow. You should download the All Trails map since there's no phone reception and (attempting) to follow the trail can be frustrating. The last section of the trail has also been wiped out by a rockslide. I tried climbing up the shale to get to the alpine lake, but turned back once it got dangerous. Despite that, this was by far the pretties trail that I hiked in Mono Lake area.

24 days ago

I have hiked this trail twice in 2 weeks. The extremely strenuous uphill climb almost scared me away but I powered through and I’m so glad I did. The fishing was absolutely amazing! Using a fly set up with an Elk Hair Caddis I was able to land 18 Eastern Brook trout on my first trip and today I landed 47. Fishing was the best along the north western shore of middle gaylor and the south eastern shore of the one below the mine. I will be back multiple times before they close the pass

This is a great hike with spectacular views. Took our family of 4 about an hour to get to the trailhead from Mammoth.

As of 08/25, there is still a good amount of shale from a rockslide that cuts through the beginning portion of the hike. The path can be hard to see, so follow the cairns and ribbons attached to trees that rangers have set up.

This hike was perfect for me (25 yo male) but proved harder for my younger brother. There is a lot of uneven footing and you’ll need to cross a waterfall a couple of times by balancing on logs. Challenging, but very fun.

Fun trip off the beaten path. The paths are dried creek beds from snow runoff. I was breathing heavy at 10,000 ft but the backpack trip wasnt as hard as something like Half Dome in the same area. We left Saddlebag and went counterclock wise from the old boarded up resort.

Helen-2 Brook, 1 Brown
Shamrock (campsite day 2) - 2 Brook
Steelhead- 4 Brooks
Small Lake above Steelhead-2 Brook
Secret - little Brooks no bites
Sadlebag-nothing(not much time spent)

Found multiple ponds, If Tadpoles and frogs are presnt no fish.

4 people, 2 Fly poles with wet flys on big lakes, dry on little ones.
2 powerbait poles, also used local grasshoppers

Start the loop via the right fork - many people get lost going the other way due to the way the trail is marked. Very exposed, bring good sun protection. Overall not a strenuous hike at all, but the elevation can take some getting used to.

28 days ago

Well worth the detour from Yosemite. The tufa towers are quite impressive and the lake itself is pretty too.

Hiked 8/23/18. Clear skies, around 75 degress with a wind. Absolutely beautiful trail hike. A five star rating, rightfully so. All the reviews were spot on...(thank you hikers for taking the time to leave a comment, very helpful!) We walked left of Saddlebag Lake (clockwise) then went counterclockwise taking the loop past Hummingbird, Odell, Lake Helen...etc. Highly recommend hiking shoes/boots due to the terrain. Walking on scree and gravel most of the time. Only a little shade at the top of Saddlebag then pretty much in full sun. Aside from a couple spots I would say account for the moderate rating a very doable hike and worth every step. We saw an eagle fly over us, a majestic sight all its own. Lots of water and don't forget your sunscreen. Plenty of parking, no permit required for day hike, the 2 miles of road to get to Saddlebag parking is mostly gravel maneuvering around potholes.

Awesome trail. Some tough spots prior to getting to the pass. Well worth the effort.

1 month ago

Did this trail last week (8/14/18). Incredible scenery! The trail is washed out in the beginning due to a rock slide, but it’s easy enough to find your way to the remainder of the trail. I found this hike to be easy, but we only hiked up the canyon until we could not go any further due to a massive rock slide which prevents access to the lake. Still, we probably hiked around 4 miles round trip.

I would recommend this trail to anyone. You follow a Creek for much of the trail and pass a beaver bond, aspen groves, meadows, and many cascading waterfalls. Incredibly high concentration of beauty in this canyon. Will definitely be returning in the fall to see the Aspens change colors.

Lots of bird watching. Kid friendly

Simply fantastic! One of the best all around bang for your buck hikes I’ve ever done. Very enjoyable walk (fit hikers won’t get their heart rate up even once on this) with nonstop views that change around every corner. Did this on a Friday and saw very few people. Wear sunblock, there is not much shade.

Awesome hiking experience. The saddlebag lake is nice but the real deal were the other smaller lakes behind the saddlebag lake. Awesome views and pure nature.
You should plan ahead because of floods the trails could be not passable.

Beautiful canyon and a gem of a hike. Waterfalls are great. Road to trailhead has been repaired.

This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful hikes in the eastern Sierras where you are treated with spectacular views at every turn. The alpine lakes and mountain views are breathtaking. The trail can be difficult and hard to find at times due to the fact that you are often walking over shale rock. I would not rate this trail as moderate for the average hiker but it is so well worth it!

1 month ago

Pay at the parking lot. Dirt road driving in but regular car ok. Dogs allowed in on leash. No muzzle needed. Dogs are allowed here and Navy Beach on this dude. Technically they can step in the water but I wouldn't recommend it as they might drink the water which is hella salty. Beautiful formations. Nice stroll out to the formations. Lots of sea bugs.

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