Seavy Pass to Smedberg Lake via Bensen Lake

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 05 September 2013

Seavy Pass
Smedberg Lake 

North Yosemite Backcountry

This forum is for comments, additions, corrections, and questions from the trail guide covering the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails backpacking South through the Seavy Pass Bowl to the descent to Bensen Lake in the North Yosemite Back Country. 

From Bensen Lake this page covers the Southbound climb to Smedberg Lake on our way to cross over Bensen Pass. 

The distance this page in the trail guide covers between the enterance to the Seavy Pass Bowl to down to Bensen Lake descends 1539 feet over 3.39 miles.

From Bensen Lake our combined Southbound TYT PCT route climbs 4.5 miles up 1859 feet of elevation up to Smedberg Lake. We can add at least a hundred feet of climbing elevation because of the descent we make following the Rodgers Canyon trail junction before again climbing to Smedberg.

Bensen Lake Loop 
The trail junction in Kerrick Canyon leading over Seavy Pass to Bensen Lake is where Bensen Lake Loop hikers coming out of the Twin Lakes Trailhead in Hoover Wilderness meet up with our route on the TYT-PCT. We'll meet and hike with hikers on the Bensen Lake Loop for the next 15.23 miles, to the ford in Matterhorn Canyon.

Bensen Lake Loop hikers will continue hiking up Matterhorn Canyon back towards Twin Lakes while hikers on the Southbound TYT-PCT will ford and begin the hard climb up to Miller Lake.

This Segment of the TYT-PCT 
Of the total 7.89 miles of travel over this segment covered by this trail guide page, .8 of a mile is taken up by hiking the .4 of a mile spur trail to and from the Bensen Lake trail junction on the PCT TYT route to Bensen Lake itself.

It's worth the walk. Consult the trail guide about the shortcut to Bensen Lake from the North.

Your impressions, experiences, insights, questions, and comments are welcome here. Water and fording conditions, trail information, campsite updates and any information you have or need about this section of Yosemite Trail through this forum.


Trail Guide Page

Seavy Pass to Smedberg Lake


Backpacking Topo Maps 
Bensen Lake Loop

Stubblefield Canyon to Bensen Lake

Bensen Lake to Miller Lake

Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake 30 minute map


Miles and Elevations

Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows

Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon



Alex Wierbinski's picture

Thanks for posting up on the forum. It got me to update it with the new Bensen Lake Loop Map, and your question really puts this segment of trail into a good aesthetic, as well as physical context.

I like planning trips that give me the chance to both cover a lot of terrain and "go deep," to explore, if not spend my nights in the especially beautiful places.

Those are Happy Trails!

Alex Wierbinski
tmorton23's picture

I'm attempting to plan an itinerary for a trip next year. I'm trying not to have days that are no longer than 12 miles. My current itinerary has a possible stay in Seavy Pass, but I'm unsure about campsites there.

I know Benson Lake is not much further down the trail, but that would give me a 14.5 mile day. Has anyone had experience camping in Seavy Pass?

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Hey T,

What's the framework of your trip? I'm thinking how to line up a set of twelve-mile segments around your loop to see where your "natural" stopping points will be.

Then I figure we can adjust them to suite your preferences.

So, coming over the Crest from Twin Lakes will set you up differently than coming down from Jack Main Canyon.

I've hiked in from Twin Lakes to Bensen Lake in one day, after arriving at Twin Lakes at ten in the morning. But I carried an ultralight day pack with only my sleeping bag and clothes. My buddies on a Yos trail crew at Bensen provided everything else.

I have the distance from the Trailhead at Twin Lakes to the trail junction over Seavy Pass at 12.9 miles, here:

Bensen Lake is listed as 3.4 miles from that trail junction, across Seavy Pass. Scroll up from the above link to see the trail junction sign. I suspect it's longer than indicated by the sign. I have it at 3.73 to Bensen, and that's taking the shortcut.

Miles and Elevations

I've got a new map up of the Bensen Lake Loop you might find helpful, here:

I figure Seavy Pass is just beyond your first day's suggested miles coming out of Twin Lakes, and I personally hate starting strong. I'd rather warm up slowly, but that's me.

You could spend the first night in Upper Kerrick Canyon. It's nice in there, then spend most of the second day exploring the Seavy Pass Bowl. That will give you a shorter first day to acclimate and recover from the big-assed climb in from Twin Lakes.

You have options if you are coming in from the North, up Kerrick Canyon along the Southbound TYT-PCT. There's a nice site about halfway between Stubblefield Canyon and Seavy Pass in Kerrick Canyon.

That would set you up for the next night in the Seavy Pass Bowl.

Our next concern would be finding the best spot in the bowl for camping. I'd want to do some informed exploration.

I'd shoot for exploring around the 1st, 3rd, and last ponds to find premium custom campsites. Or drop pack, stash food, and take off to explore all three before selecting. That would require arriving at the mouth of the bowl early, which means I'd get to the South end along the trail to see the still sunrise on the last pond and mountain, see here;

then I'd work my way back on the West side of the bowl as possible. But again, that's just me. Make plans that suite you!

Happy Trails!

Alex Wierbinski
tmorton23's picture
Looks like I was replying to GrizzlyMatt's post at the same time (or just after) your post. Thanks for the suggestions.

Just to put my 2 cents in, I did this a couple of years ago. I started out thinking 10 mile days would be the best I could do. It started out that way, I was really pushing it to do more than 10 miles.

By the time I got to Benson, I was easily doing 14-16 miles in a day. I'm an old guy and this was my first long distance trip. Did the entire TYT.

If I remember right, from Seavy Pass down to Benson is an easy downhill. I don't remember Seavy Pass, as far as camping. I'm sure you could find a spot there. The real challenge is the next day going up to Benson Pass. That was a killer for me. I did it though, and I think that was a 14 mile day for me also.

Happy trails.

tmorton23's picture

Thanks for the two cents! I didn't mention in my first comment that I was starting at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, so I won't have a lot of warm up time to crank up mileage.

It will also be my first long distance trip, so I'm trying to keep it reasonable. I've modified my itinerary a little. I may still end up camping in Seavy Pass, but the next night staying at Smedberg (or Rodgers) Lake so I can hit Benson Pass early in the day.

Right now, my potential itinerary is Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir (late start for this day), Snow Lake, Wilmer Lake, Seavy Pass, Smedberg Lake (or Rodgers Lake), Miller Lake, Lower McCabe Lake, Glen Aulin, Tuolumne Meadows.

Thanks again for the input!

Alex Wierbinski's picture

This is a tough one, T!

Here's the deal: Seavy Pass, Bensen Lake, Smedberg Lake, and even a custom set of sites under the N Flank of Bensen Pass are all exceptional sites, all deserving proper exploration, and they are too close together to explore them all on one trip.

I have planned trips to get to Bensen Lake early, spend one night there, then only hike a half day to Smedberg to spend more time there. Other times I spend two nights at Bensen or Smedberg to give me the proper time to hike all around.

I figure you have to make tough choices about your selection of sites through here. Picking one sequence leaves another to explore next time!

That's not a bad problem.

Happy Trails Dude,


PS, OK, KM to TM? How many days? At 12 mpd that's 6.25 days on the trail requring six campsites. Then I'd spend a night at the TM backpacker's camp and hang out at TM for at least a full day...

Alex Wierbinski
tmorton23's picture


I agree. There are some tough choices to make. I originally thought about staying two nights at Benson Lake, but I think that will have to be a return trip.

This will be my first time in this area, so I'd like to see all that I can. I'm purposefully having shorter days later in the trip to leave open the chance to explore. So, maybe I'll adjust the schedule on the fly.

I think I'll end up with several itineraries and bring them with me so I can modify, if needed. I certainly appreciate your site! It has been so helpful for planning/visualizing!

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Hey T-Bro,

You are going to have the perfect plan by the time you depart. If you start at a reasonable level of fitness your flexibility will grow as you hike.

But, this is a very difficult section of trail physically, so I think the 12 mpd is a wise standard. Here's a "trick:" figure on 15 mpd, pack for five day's food, but pack a sixth day's food as a full "day off," meaning TWO nights at one spot, or two half-days of hiking.

Then you can shift your plans between 12 and 15 mile days as required by changing capacity. You can adjust your schedule to suite yourself. You will have to food to run it either way...

I'm a tricky old hiker.

You Are Going to Have a Blast!

PS: But, my "trick" could require extending the time-span of your trip. That never bothered me, haha...

Alex Wierbinski
Alex Wierbinski's picture

Hey T,

I'd be thinking Relief Reservoir, the lake just West of Grizly Peak, TILDEN LAKE, Stubblefield Canyon, Bensen Lake, Miller Lake, Glen Aulin.

Yeah, that's seven nights, but it's the best I can do starting with a four mile day!

Pushing up to Lunch Meadow makes a 9.23 mile first day. And, it's a hard hike. But, that could put you at Tilden Lake on day two, which is around 15.65 from Lunch Meadow, across three moderate climbs and a six mile run down Jack Main Canyon. So seven of the fifteen are downhill, and the three climbs are not very bad at all. The first day pushing up to Lunch Meadow would be the killer.

It all hinges on how many days you can spend on the trail.


Alex Wierbinski

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