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.
Bench Lake 2
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.
Cold and Deep
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.