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Re: Hiking to Benson Lake

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avatar Hiking to Benson Lake
February 14, 2015 12:04PM
Hi all,

Looks like, I might actually be able to get out to Yosemite this year after all! :-)

It will be a bit of a last minute trip, or seems like it, as my last one took 18 months to plan.

I posted about this sort of trip quite a while back, but a change of job meant that it had to go on hold, as the finances wouldn't allow it. Well, after another change of job next month, the finances should be good to go!

So, I'm aiming for 8-10 days, heading out of Tuolumne Meadows, to Glen Aulin, up Cold Canyon, and towards Benson Lake. Some days later, I would expect to pick up the Tuolumne river, just east of Hetch Hetchy, and follow it towards Glen Aulin. Then, fitness/time/supplies permitting, heading down to May lake for the final night, or otherwise, just exiting via the Glen Aulin trail to Tuolumne Meadows.

Anyway, my specific question, to help with planning, how long do you think it would take to reach Benson Lake? I would aim to set off from Tuolumne Meadows by 6am, stop briefly near the Glen Aulin HSC for breakfast, then head up into cold canyon. I would imagine that night 1 camp would be somewhere at the end of Cold Canyon (I have a good level of fitness, and like to move quick). Is it reasonable to camp in that area?

From there, it looks like quite a distance to Benson Lake, so another stop over would probably be required, possibly Smedberg Lake.

Anyone got any thoughts?

Thanks in advance for your input guys!

Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 14, 2015 09:21PM

Hello Steve. I went through Benson Lake last summer as part of a 5 day trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes. Here is the link to the TR.

Most of Cold Canyon had great spots for camping, and Smedberg would definitely be a great spot. In retrospect, I would have preferred to spend a night at Smedberg rather than at Benson Lake.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/14/2015 09:27PM by pakoR.
Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 15, 2015 09:13AM
You never mention if you are fishing...
Agree that Smedberg makes an amazing destination with great camping sites at the SE end...great fishing opportunities exist there too, (if you know what you are doing). Additionally, the ups and downs from Cold Canyon...(Virginia Canyon and Matterhorn and Wilson Creeks route) makes a long hiking day, especially if going all the way to Benson in one day from Cold Canyon. Strongly suggest staying at Smedberg. BTW Rodgers Lake also worth a visit along the route too if wetting a line. ('nuff said there).

Depending on when you do this trip, elevation comes into play too. Smedberg (at 9200') can make an ideal camping spot mid summer - perfect - one of my favorites in July and August. Benson (at 7500') often gets hot and muggy mid/ late summer. Benson does have the famous white-sand beach..."known as the "Riviera of the Sierra" for this feature...good swimming there but the rest of the shoreline is mostly inaccessible to fishing without a one-man raft...essentially a big warm lake with no easy shore access. Smedberg is much more scenic. Benson does/did have otters..

Suggest taking your time and staying at both?
but HYOH.
avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 15, 2015 11:52AM
Thank you both for your valuable input.

And, thank you for the link to the Caltopo site - that is going to be very, very handy! I have begun mapping out my proposed first few days, and looking at mileages.

I'm not going to be fishing, would even know where to start lol, and timewise, I would be looking at sometime in July, most likely, but I am willing to take advice on that one.

I think, what I might do, is a very early start, and long first day, passing through Glen Aulin, and getting as far up Cold Canyon as possible. Is it feasible to camp all the way through there, up until the trail junction? How's the water suppy up that end?

Day two would be another very long, and ttough slog, hopefully ending up with an overnight at Smedberg Lake, as you guys seem to think it is worth a visit. After two big days, I think I would be able to take a half rest day, and make the short trip from Smedberg, to Benson, to relax. The idea of spending a hot afternoon relaxing on it's beach, and camping on those sands really appeals to me, and would be a well deserved re-charge after the first two, hard days.

I know I am unlikely to be alone at either lake, but I figure there will be much more solitude from there on out.

What do people think?

Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 15, 2015 10:23PM
In July, especially late July of a dry winter (which this one is shaping up to be), water in upper Cold Canyon may be in short supply. However, you should be able to make into Virginia Canyon the first day without a problem, where you can camp along the river.

If you stay near Smedberg or use it as a layover day, be sure to check out Sister, Tallulah and even Doe Lake. You will find much more privacy there and the area leading up to Tallulah is quite nice.

Benson is worth a look, but depending on how your timing works out, I love the ponds around Seavey Pass - you could spend a day exploring those alone. Plenty of remote, private places to camp.

Since your plan is to go back through the Grand Canyon, I would try to go as early in the season as possible to catch the waterfalls at their peak. Again, since this is likely to be a dry year, the show may be over by July.
avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 18, 2015 06:35AM
You should be able to get to Benson in 2 days from any of:
Twin Lakes (via Peeler / Seavey Pass) (easiest ... about 18 miles... could be done in 1 day)
Glen Aulin Passthru (30 miles)
Pate Valley / Rodgers Meadow / Murdoch (25 miles)

If you are so inclined and in shape.
All are worthy of doing in all forms and variations and there are many more variations.
Dunno what you mean by EAST of Hetchy... but... I'd highly recommend staying
Matterhorn / Cold / Slide / Kerrick Canyons ... over other routes you may be thinking of.
There is just way too much to see.. imo... and I'll throw it out there again for the
9 millionth time... Go up Volunteer Peak.
And check out Rodgers at the least.
If you are starting at 6am... then you should be able to at least get to the Spiller Creek
on day 1. (14 miles... great granite spot.. )

Have fun

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 20, 2015 07:10AM
Smedberg is nice, and has some good camping around the west side away form the trail.

Then again, Benson is really special, the Benson Rivera.

avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 23, 2015 06:04AM
Thanks for your thoughts everyone.

Chick-on, I am indeed inclined, and in good shape. If it is possible to reach Benson Lake in two long days, I will make it. That's great, as it will save me a bit of time.

And, by east of Hetchy, I mean, going up the Grand Canyon of The Tuolumne, back to Glen Aulin, so it will be a circular route.

I've begun creating a bit of an outline, hopefully the link will work...


And I will amend day one, so that camping at Spiller creek is the target.

I'm looking for hopefully a late June, early July visit, but it does depend on finances, and my new job.

avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 23, 2015 06:42AM
Argh. And I give my wife a hard time about not knowing left from right.
I knew you were thiking Bear Valley though... and that is why I tried pushing
you to go UP Matterhorn Canyon instead... although you will be missing
my beloved Loch Tablae... I can tell you the route up Matterhorn
and down thru Kerrick and up Seavey... down to Benson... over to Smedberg,
over to Rodgers, down Rodgers Canyon... and then over...
heck, you could still zip over to Loch Tablae ... well minus Table.. is
only 7 more miles than the route you drew.
I cannot stresh it enough... that the route I just described is far superior to
what you have in mind. Of course this is my opinion ... but even
Wilson Creek where the trail is... that is not the best part of Wilson...
you need to go up higher ... get above treeline... and then it just
is a feast for the eyes.
Bear Valley is nice.. but Upper reaches of Matterhorn, Slide,
and Kerrick trump them by quite a bit...
You can't really go wrong though since you have not been any of these
places... but the route above is about 80 miles... and is def. do-able
in 8 days.
That's my 12 dollars worth.

Have fun

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 23, 2015 09:33AM
Nice route. When you hike day 7- Pate Valley, walk downhill toward the bridge- there is a good swimming hole there and it's likely to be hot
or hike uphill about a mile or so, where there is a nice cascade and swimming hole.
I agree with Chick-on, of course, about going up Matterhorn Canyon.

Upper Matterhorn Canyon near Burro Pass

Lower Matterhorn Canyon, your proposed route, also ha it's charm.

Lower Matterhorn Canyon from the PCT

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/23/2015 09:40AM by lschaaf.
avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 28, 2015 10:41AM
OK, thanks for the input guys, that's exactly why I come here :-)

I'm really liking what you guys are saying, so I am just heading back to my maps....

avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 28, 2015 02:56PM
OK, I've revised it.

I hope this link works: Map
It's just a quick outline, can be tweaked as input dictates. I think this has even, with a couple of long days, shaved a day or two off of what I orriginally intended, which is nice, as time either side of the hike would have been tight otherwise, but I still want to spend time in the Valley chilling out, and maybe a leisurely day in SF again before flying back.

Thanks for your input and advice guys - keep it comming!


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/28/2015 02:57PM by TechieSteve.
avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
March 02, 2015 07:33AM
My suggestions are the following:
camp 1 - nice
camp 2 - nice
from here you can simply drop down and avoid going back to the trail...
camp 3 - Arndt is nice but don't nec. think you have to go there and camp
there's a zillion places to camp along Rancheria Creek before you hit the
junction up to Seavey. Depending on how much time you have and
how tired you are at that pt. Spent 1/2 day at Arndt. There some nice spots
above the lake. but you may be tired by then to explore much. That valley
is just so darn nice.. just trying to say... you won't be settling if you don't go to Arndt.
camp 4 - nice
... from here... I'll say it again... go past Rodgers... and I'd highly recommend either
adding a day or nix the out Murphy. I dunno why you are going out Murphy...
honestly that route isn't super scenic. It has very very limited views... and the
best part beyond McGee is actually next to Murphy which can get gotten to
in about 1/2 hour from the Tenaya Lake Murphy TH.
I'd highly recommend nixing that portion and going out Pothole Dome route.
camp 5 - um... I dunno how much you gonna like this lake. if you add that day...
camp at Rodgers Lake ... and go up Volunteer... and then next day go all the
way down to Pate... from there it's 2 days out to TM for you.
camp 5 ... it's looks simple... but this is an area that is disjointed and one
line can be a 40 ft. cliff. I've been to this lake a couple of times and slept
near here both times.. I guess all I'm saying is that don't think that it's as
simple as what it looks like on the Topo map.

Hope this helps some.
Have fun
n really... you got a good plan... so don't fuss too much ... just some food for thought

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
March 02, 2015 07:36AM
For the "extra" day ... from Benson... up Volunteer.. past Rodgers...
down Rodgers Canyon... find nice place to camp...
Found really great place in this canyon before... then went back
another time with Z old guy n his Daughter... and my wife and
I couldn't find the same spot. Somebody must have moved it.

Something like that. Just my opinion... you ask for comments... smiling smiley

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
March 03, 2015 01:45AM
I agree completely with Chick-On about the McGee/Murphy out plan. Done both routes many times. One because of scenery, other because of necessity.
Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
February 28, 2015 08:02PM
The new route looks beautiful and challenging. I look forward to the trip report.
avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
March 08, 2015 08:20AM
Thanks for the input guys.

I'm a meticulous planner, sometimes overly so, so I am having fun, tweaking this route.

Chick-On, if I have the energy, then a trip up Volunteer, seeing as it comes highly reccomend by yourself, will be on my agenda. So, do you think I should alter my route to take in the slight detour of Rogers Lake, and Neall Lake then? If I climb Volunteer Peak in the morning, after breaking camp at Benson Lake, maybe lunch by either of the lakes, before pushing on for a camping spot somewhere down Rodgers Canyon?

How should I best approach Volunteer Peak?

avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
March 09, 2015 10:43AM
Yes, I thought I said it a couple of times already. But I will say it again, it is no problem.
I highly recommend that you visit Rodgers. Your route went by Murdoch... and skipped
Rodgers. I mean I don't want to make it all out to be the best in the world... but the view
of Rodgers is pretty sweet coming from the north. You can get up Volunteer from the
saddle ... just zip off trail and get to here
from there it is a scramble to the top... the boulders are very large... but nothing technical
If you have the time you might as well visit Smedberg a bit. What are the chances you
are gong to be back anytime soon?

My guess.. is... no matter how much you plan... you will invariably alter it a bit... so I
wouldn't go too crazy with "gotta be here" .. if you just go with an extra day.. then you are
golden and can relax if you want to ... or go up a peak and such...

Have fun.

Will post something if get to Benson before you. Had something in my noggin for many years...
may actually do it fairly soon... we will see

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
March 21, 2015 04:11PM
Hi all, thanks for the input.

I will be sure to go past Rogers Lake, and do Volunteer Peak :-)

About the final portion, after getting back to Glen Aulin HSC, I have chosen to head South there, but Chick-On, you reccomended going out the Pothole Dome route? Would that be the same route I came in via, on my first day? I'm not a fan of backtracking, or covering ground I have already seen, which is why I chose to head south instead. This is where the input from this forum is really great, because, as much as the route looks good, and logical on the map, if it's not particuarly impressive, I might strike it off.

Striking it off means that I can either take more time on the rest of the route, or get out earlier, and take an extra day to enjoy my holiday. I'm not sure yet.

The good news, however, is that my new employer is happy for me to book holiday, so I can start looking at flights :-) I'm thinking around July time. I am imagining that it will be really really dry by August. Does July sound like a good bet? I last visited in July 2013, and the weather was perfect. Great temperatures, and not one spot of rain in my whole 14 day visit :-)

avatar Re: Hiking to Benson Lake
March 23, 2015 06:46AM
Rodgers. smiling smiley

Everybody must be out having fun in the park... (we've been going to the Valley for a special occasion
for a number of years now at the Spring Equinox... and have never seen sooooo many people...
so it must be the case) smiling smiley

Anywho... The only portion that would be the same would be from Glen Aulin HSC to the Twin
Bridges above Tuolumne Falls... which... you will be happy to do again...
Pothole Dome route is pretty simple.. although it brings you at at... Pothole Dome ... which
you may not like being there at the end... although you can pick up the bus right across the street-ish...
from what I recall..
yup... took two minutes.. .and Pothole Dome is a stop...
Ok, anywho..
For your research project try this:

There are other routes and you can make up your own also.. but the more
you can climb up some domes and such ... imo.. that is the way to go.
So... in conclusion... I again highly recommend that you take the extra time
and go up Volunteer, go visit Smedberg, etc.. rather than go out Murphy Creek.

I would go in July... but be well aware that if you go in Aug there will be no
mosquitos... although this year... July may be August... it's nuts out there dry-wise.

If you need more details about Pothole Dome or whatnot... shout.

Have fun

Chick-on is looking at you!
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