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Backpacker Magazine – August 2013

One Night Wonders: Big Kids, Bench Lakes

Explore the Rockies' sharpest peaks.

by: Kelly Bastone

Bench Lakes, Sawtooth Wilderness, ID (Glenn Oakley)
Bench Lakes, Sawtooth Wilderness, ID (Glenn Oakley)

Bench Lakes
Sawtooth Wilderness, ID

At 4 miles (one-way), this hike appeals to ambitious kids keen to bag a “real” adventure: Bench Lakes offer primo camping and postcard views of blade-like Mt. Heyburn and the surrounding 10,000- to 12,000-foot Sawtooth Mountains. Other kid-pleasing treats include the boat ride to the trailhead and a posthike swim at 1,500-acre Redfish Lake’s sloping beach. To catch your ferry, simply show up at the Redfish Lake Lodge Marina and ask for a lift. The 10-minute trip drops you at Redfish Inlet trailhead (circumventing a long, dusty approach via a horse path). Follow the Redfish Creek Trail northeast for .5-mile; turn right at the signed junction. Continue on the Bench Lakes Trail, which starts off with a brisk climb, but soon moderates into a more forgiving grade and offers motivating views over Redfish Lake. Celebrate your arrival at the first Bench Lake, but press on another half-mile to the second lake for better tent sites and mesmerizing views of snaggled peaks. (There are two more Bench Lakes above; intrepid bushwhackers can explore for more views.) Next day, return to the trailhead and flag a boat shuttle (they pass at least every hour) back to the lodge to sprawl on its sun-warmed sand beach, take a dip in Redfish’s turquoise water, and indulge in some soft-serve ice cream. Trailhead 140 miles northeast of Boise; 44.142344, -114.922664 Best season July and August have warmest beach temps. Permit Required; free at trailhead Water taxi Round-trip $16 adults, $8 kids age 6 and under; (208) 774-3536 Contact (208) 727-5013; fs.usda.gov/sawtooth


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