The Bench Lake Trail leads from the Kings Creek Falls Trailhead, on Highway 89, to the Pacific Crest Trail, one mile north of Warner Valley Campground. The total mileage of this route is five miles and it passes some spectacular scenery. It leads through the Kings Creek valley then traverses eastward along the northern rim of Hot Springs Creek canyon.
Begin your hike at 7,286 feet along Highway 89 where Kings Creek crosses the highway from Upper Meadows. The route descends along the creek and through meadows surrounding the stream to a trail junction at four tenths of a mile. The trail joining Kings Creek Trail from the right is the Sifford Lakes Trail. Keep to the main trail (left).
A short distance eastward you'll reach another junction. Both of the trails at this fork lead eventually to Kings Creek Falls. The left side is an alternative route for equestrians and backpackers with heavy loads, being less steep than that to the right. The right side of the fork follows Kings Creek closely. A stairway has been cut out of the rock along this steep section of stream called the Cascades. Once past this steep section of trail the left fork joins the main path again.
From this point it is a quarter mile to the falls. The trail continues to descend, but on a more moderate grade. A few hundred feet before you reach the falls you'll notice a trail leading southward across Kings Creek. This is the Bench Lake Trail, before you turn right at this junction walk to the falls and enjoy the scenery.
Once you've seen the falls go back to the Bench Lake Trail junction and walk southward crossing the stream on a log bridge. Immediately after the stream crossing the trail ascends out of the valley. The ascent is short and under the forest cover. The trail flattens at the base of a 140-foot volcanic rock wall. Follow the base of this wall for two tenths of a mile when you'll ascend slightly to Bench Lake. (The lake is often severely evaporated by summers end.)
The route contours the northern shore of Bench Lake then descends 160 feet from the bench. At the bottom of this short descent is a trail junction. The joining trail reaches our route from the south and Sifford Lakes Trail.
As the Bench Lake Trail leads past this junction it continues to descend. The next half mile drops 230 feet to an overlook of the Hot Springs Creek canyon. Beyond this overlook the trail turns northward leaving the rim of the canyon. The trail meanders along the ridge slightly north of the canyon rim for another three quarters of a mile. Along this portion of the route it descends 320 feet, meeting the Pacific Crest Trail at 6,300 feet almost directly east of Bench Lake.
Directions from Southwest Entrance: Drive north on the park road, Highway 89, 12 miles to the Kings Creek Falls turnout.
Directions from Northwest Entrance: Drive southeast on the park road, Highway 89, 17 miles to the Kings Creek Falls turnout.
Mid-June through September
(NOTE: The trail may be snow covered in the Early Summer and Early Fall.)