Bench Trail is a 4.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Paicines, CA and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible year-round.
Directions from Highway 146, Eastern District: Follow 146 toward the East Entrance Station of the Monument. Before reaching the monument entrance turn left into Pinnacles Campground. The trailhead for Bench Trail lies within the campground.
We did the portion of the Bench Trail between the Peaks View Day Use Area and the Bear Gulch Day Use Area specifically. We chose this portion for its unique contrast to the rest of the park (and actually did it in conjunction with the High Peaks Condor Gulch Trail).
This portion is an out and back totaling about 2.7 miles. It begins adjacent to the road in Peaks View, but soon you encounter a double foot bridge and the trail heads away from the road (or at least to a point where you can no longer see it).
Unlike the rest of the park, this area is marked by deciduous trees, a stream (that stays full despite water shortages), a waterfall, ferns, flowers, and butterflies. It also goes past a meadow, where we saw 3 deer.
You cross the stream several times over wooden foot bridges. There is a steep portion but it doesn't last long. Oh and one point you cross an employees driveway, which can be confusing if you're not expecting it.
We only saw 2 other people on this trail. Very sweet and enjoyable.
Did the section connecting Old Pinnacles to Bear Gultch as part of a 10 Mile loop around the park. If you are doing the loop clockwise from the visitor center like I did, this is the last section of trail, and also the first time you see cars and roads in many hours. I found that to be off putting but that had nothing to do with the park or trail and everything to do with how I hiked it. The loop is so awesome that when I got to this point I was a little saddened because I didnt want it to be over. I would recommend starting here so you get the civilization out of the way early and dont see cars again until Chaparral, and even then its very Brief.