The Bench Lakes Trail is the second most popular trail in the Sawtooths. Starting at Redfish Lake, it’s easily accessible in the most heavily-trafficked section of the National Recreation Area, and has a very high wow-to-effort factor.
Most hikers do the eight mile round trip to the lower Bench Lakes and call it a day. With the views from Bench Lake #2, that’s a perfectly acceptable way to spend the day, lots of wow for very little effort.
If you’re willing to get a little more adventurous and add another 2 miles to the hike, you can bushwhack your way up to Bench Lake 3 and 4, and if you want to get a lot more adventurous you can scramble up to Upper Bench Lake.
We opted for Bench Lake 4, I didn’t realize that Upper Bench Lakes was just out of reach until we returned to the Pod and I was looking at our GPS track.

Headed Up

Headed Up
Stopping for a look-see on our way up the Bench Lakes trail.

Bench Lake 2

Bench Lake 2
Most hikers stop here at Bench Lake 2 since the trail past this point turns into a roll-you-own bushwhack.

Mount Heyburn

Mount Heyburn above the Bench Lakes
Mount Heyburn is the most iconic peak within the Sawtooth Range, standing tall above the Bench Lakes.

There are very few places for a picnic lunch around the lake, as the shoreline is craggy with massive rocks running right into the water. We found a spot with some trees to sit on, and enough footing in the water so I could do a little alpine swimming. Wowza. Good to get the circulation flowing, but tough on the old ticker.

Alpine Water

Alpine Water in the Bench Lakes
Super clear, and also super cold.

Cold and Deep

The Bench Lakes are Cold and Deep
You have to be an idiot to swim in 51 degree water.

Part of our intent for this trip was to see as many wildflowers as possible, and this trail does not disappoint, with carpets of yellow, purple and orange everywhere.

Floral Blanket

Floral Blanket along the Bench Lakes trail
Wildflowers blanket the grassy slopes along the Bench Lakes Trail.

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