Bench Lake and Snow Lake, Bench Lake and Snow Lake Trailhead, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Bench Lake and Snow Lake - 2.4 miles

Bench Lake and Snow Lake Trailhead

Bench Lake (4,556')

Bench Lake (4,556')

Round-Trip Length: 2.4 miles (includes both lakes)
Start-End Elevation: 4,515' - 4,672' (4,717' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +157' net elevation gain (+884' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Bench Lake and Snow Lake - 2.4 Miles Round-Trip

Snow Lake (4,672') is located 1.2 miles from Bench Lake Trailhead in a large cirque under Unicorn Peak (6,971'), the tallest peak in the Tatoosh Range. This short, undulating trail rises into a meadow and drops to a spur for Bench Lake.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

It steepens back to Snow Lake and ends in the open inlet area, where a way-trail continues up the cirque wall for a challenging Class IV-V scramble to Unicorn Peak. Only experienced climbers should attempt the summit.

The Snow Lake basin faces north and may hold snow well into July. The trail can be muddy and campsites not fully dry until then. The Bench - Snow Lake Trail is ideal for families and those with limited time. Visitors will enjoy abundant blueberries and huckleberries en route, and open space along Snow Lake's inlet:

The trail rises steadily into a fire-touched meadow rife with bear grass, flowers and berries (.5 miles : 4,520'). Naturally occurring, low-intensity fires are essential to a healthy ecosystem by clearing space for new growth and returning nutrients to the soil.

It crests and drops to the split for Bench Lake (.67 : 4,582'); a short spur leads down to its confined shore. The main trail continues on a rugged, undulating path to the Snow Lake Campsite spur near its outlet (1.0 miles : 4,685').

It levels up the shore and opens to big, level space along the inlet stream (1.2 miles : 4,672'). This area is often when not snow covered. 

Continue on established paths to the tumbling inlet, or backtrack to the campsite spur and explore the outlet, which has terrific views of the headwall.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N46 46.067 W121 42.469 — 0.0 miles : Bench - Snow Lake Trailhead
  • N46 45.719 W121 41.969 — .67 miles : split to Bench Lake
  • N46 45.727 W121 41.946 — .69 miles : Bench Lake
  • N46 45.480 W121 41.934 — 1.0 miles : Snow Lake - split for campsites

Worth Noting

  • Be mindful of bears, especially in the meadows where berries are abundant. 

Camping and Backpacking Information

Wilderness Permits are required year-round for overnight camping in the backcountry. Wilderness Camping Permits are free (*see notes for climbers below). Snow Lake has two campsites. There is no camping at Bench Lake.

  • Permits and current trail conditions are available at all wilderness information centers, visitor centers and ranger stations (360.569.2211).
  • Camp only in sites designated on your itinerary. Fires are not permitted anywhere in the backcountry.
  • All trail-side camps have primitive toilets, marked sites, poles for hanging food and a nearby water source.
  • Cross-Country Zone Camping: there are no maintained trails, campsites or amenities in cross-country zones. Camp at least 1/4 mile away from any road or established trail, and 100' from water sources. Cross-country camping is not permitted for those hiking the complete Wonderland Trail.
  • Summer Party Size Limit (May 15th - September 30th): 5 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation. Families are an exception to this rule (parents + children).
  • Winter Party Size Limit (October 1 - May 14th): 12 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation.
  • Groups (defined as 6 - 12 people) are permitted in 25 designated sites throughout the park, and when camping on snow in Alpine Zones.
  • Climbing Permits are required year-round for any day or overnight travel on glaciers or above 10,000', including Little Tahoma. The Climbing Permit also serves as the wilderness camping permit for overnight trips. Wilderness Camping Permits are free while a Climbing Permit requires the purchase of an annual Climbing Pass for each member of the party.

Fishing Information

A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Mount Rainier National Park. Fishing is not permitted in Tipsoo Lake:

  • A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters.
  • Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Always contact the Park before setting out for the latest guidelines.
  • Fishing for Bull Trout, Dolly Varden, Coastal Cutthroat and Chinook (King) Salmon is strictly prohibited in Park waters.

Park Lakes:

  • There is no catch limit in Park lakes.

Streams and Rivers:

  • Daily catch: Six pounds of fish plus one additional fish, not to exceed 12 fish
  • Possession: 1 day's limit
  • Minimum size: none
  • The Ohanapecosh River and its tributaries are open to fly fishing only. The use of bait or other lures (except artificial flies) is not permitted.

The following areas are closed to fishing:

  • Klickitat Creek above the White River Entrance water supply intake
  • Ipsut Creek above the Ipsut Creek Campground water supply intake
  • Laughingwater Creek above the Ohanapecosh water supply intake
  • Edith Creek basin above the Paradise water supply intake
  • Frozen Lake
  • Reflection Lakes
  • Shadow Lake
  • Tipsoo Lake

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park (good for 7 days). Annual Passes are $50.
  • Pets and Bikes are not permitted on hiking trails or climbing routes in Mount Rainier National Park.
  • Fires are not permitted in the backcountry in Mount Rainier National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Bench Lake - Snow Lake Trailhead is located 18.1 miles east of the Nisqually Entrance Station on Stevens Canyon Road. Drive 15.2 miles from the entrance station and bear right toward Ohanapecosh at the split for Paradise. The trailhead and parking lot are located on the right.

Contact Information

Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304

Paradise Visitor Center

Paradise Climbing Information Center (CIC) | Guide House

White River Wilderness Information Center

Longmire Wilderness Information Center

Carbon River Ranger Station

General Information

Lost and Found

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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