My First Camping Experience: Backpacking Through The 20 Lakes Basin

Despite being 6 months pregnant and wildly inexperienced, this camping trip started me on the path toward some incredible outdoor experiences. Thanks to a water taxi and gentle to moderate grade terrain, you don’t have to be an expert backpacker to enjoy the beauty of the 20 Lakes Basin, located just east of Yosemite National Park. 

was raised in Canada and spent countless hours of my childhood exploring the outdoors. Camping in rustic small cabins in the middle of nowhere, going on hikes, and exploring the wild with my family were my absolute favorite things growing up! We lived right next to a nature preserve and we were always doing fun outdoor activities. πŸ™‚

Backpacking the 20 Lakes Basin was my first time actually camping in a tent! I couldn’t have been more excited and scared at the same time, haha! πŸ˜› We always stayed in cabins growing up and called that “camping” … fun but NOT the same as staying in a tent, haha! πŸ˜‰ Being a city girl and makeup addict, I knew that backcountry camping would be a challenge, but I still couldn’t wait to try it!

The 20 Lakes Basin is located just east of Yosemite National Park in the Hoover Wilderness. It is often overshadowed by its famous neighbors Yosemite and Mono Lake, but can be equally beautiful. This hike remains a hidden gem through some of the most incredible terrain and stunning views of the sierra mountains. The trail head is at Saddlebag Lake, just off Tioga Pass road, at 10,066 ft elevation. The loop through the basin is 8.3 miles, with an elevation gain of 310 feet. During the summer months a water taxi travels from the Saddlebag Resort to the head of the lake, allowing hikers (such as myself) to shorten the trip by taking the boat in one or both directions. I highly recommend it! Such a beautiful ride on the crystal blue lake!

After we got off the ferry, we didn’t have much further to hike, but the way there was kind of rough for me because I was carrying a heavy pack… it was actually very light for a hiking pack but felt sooooo heavy to me because I wasn’t used to it. 😐 I’d never worn a hiking backpack before, and it didn’t help that I was 6 months pregnant, making it even harder for the pack to fit right! Plus I might have put some unnecessary weight in there like a compact mirror, makeup, face wash, shampoo, etc… πŸ˜³ But once we got to our campsite, I could finally relax. It was incredible and the hike was well worth it!

We set up camp, played in the lake, and explored. The water was freezing cold but it felt amazing because it was so hot outside! We then hiked, returned to camp, and made dinner. I’m used to showering every single night before bed, so I felt like I was literally covered in dirt haha, and it was hard to fall asleep because my sleeping pad was uncomfortable, and my sleeping bag felt too tight because I wasn’t used to it. I was also scared that a bear or mountain lion would jump on our tent in the middle of the night, haha it was insane. But I survived, and went for a morning swim in the lake before having breakfast and exploring some more! πŸ™‚

I highly recommend visiting! If you are a relatively in-shape individual, you should have no problem with this trail.  Remember to take frequent water breaks. Keep in mind that the road is closed in winter and wilderness permits are required for overnight trips into the Hoover Wilderness. You can find more information here



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