Redfish Lake to Bench Lakes

On recommendation from our stop at the Stanley Ranger Station we decided our next hike would be to the Bench Lakes, which sit 1,200 feet above Redfish Lake. Redfish was a place I wanted to at least see since it’s so frequently talked-about; I came to find out that they may largely be due to it being so easily accessible and also the most developed area in the Sawtooths. As we gained elevation on our hike and began getting views over the lake it was impossible to ignore the large resort at the west end. And – this is third-hand information – but a couple we met at the top of the trail reported the room rate was $678 when they inquired in hopes of finding a place to stay.

But again, I get ahead of myself. The trail began with a reminder of the heavy snow year. Even though Redfish Lake sits 1,000+ feet below where the snowline was, the creek near the trailhead was overflowing the channel, running wild through the forest. As we began climbing to ridgeline on the northwest shore however things dried out considerably, and we found ourselves walking the steady upgrade through open forest, with glimpses of the Redfish to the east and the mountains to the west. After a couple miles those glimpses became much more frequent and we stopped numerous times to admire the views.

After about 31/2 miles we turned off on the spur to the Bench Lakes and began a steeper series of switchbacks to the next ridge; rising above the trees here gained us fantastic views of Mt. Heyburn and the surrounding peaks. As we climbed the forest thinned for a bit and we had not only unobstructed lines of sight but also plenty of wildflowers to look at. Soon enough however we reached the first patches of snow and then the first lake, ringed by pine and surrounded by snowy peaks. We explored the shoreline for awhile and had a snack but then decided to continue on the quarter mile to the second lake. Right away we had to cross more snow but it was hardly the impassable situation the ranger had warned us might be present.
The second lake was just as pretty as the first and we were glad we’d been able to reach it without trouble. Though I would have loved to explore up the mountains beyond the lakes I was really just happy to have the opportunity to get a taste of the high country that I’d been warned was inaccessible. But we’ll be back another summer (maybe a little later in summer, ahem) to get our time in the wilderness areas here.