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Redfish Lake may be the largest lake around, but it’s far from the only water body filled by snowmelt from the Sawtooths.
And though Redfish is quite scenic, you’d be missing out if it’s the only lake that you experience here.
You should go higher in elevation to see smaller, but more picturesque alpine lakes, like the Bench Lakes.
There you’ll find a classic Sawtooth Mountains scene––a calm pool of blue reflecting a backdrop of jagged, snowy summits. There are a few ways to reach the Bench Lakes, but by any route it’s a manageable day hike.
You can start either from Redfish Lodge, or from the far end of the lake after taking the boat across.
The route mapped here is a one-way connecting both ends of the lake, taking a side trip to the Bench Lakes.
This is the preferred way to get the most out of your day, but it does require paying for the boat shuttle.
You can either ride the boat first and hike back to the lodge, or hike first and catch the boat back.
You will have to buy your ticket in advance either way, and be sure you know the schedule so you don’t miss your ride.
Or, instead of taking the boat, you could simply hike an out-and-back from the lodge area to the Bench Lakes. Most of the trail traces a ridge on the west side of Redfish Lake, where you’ll have views through the trees to the lake on one side and mountains on the other.
It’s a well-traveled trail, but rough in some places.
It is also shared with mountain bikers and occasionally horseback riders.
Look for the junction with the Bench Lakes Trail, and take this to enter the wilderness area, where bikes are no longer allowed. A short but steep climb gets you over a higher ridge, then the first of the Bench Lakes appears.
You can stop here to rest, but don’t miss out on the second lake, which is just a bit further.
This one is larger and more scenic.
There are three more lakes higher in the basin, but reaching them requires off-trail hiking and scrambling that is considerably more difficult, and that route is not mapped here.
Most people turn around at the second Bench Lake, then continue hiking the main trail above Redfish Lake. Sources: https://redfishlake.com/blog/bench-lakes/ http://www.sawtoothtrails.com/bench-lakes.php