Friday, September 15, 2017

Twin Sisters

Distance: 7.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,090 ft  – 11,430 ft
Elevation gain: 2,340 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: yes across the road at Lilly Lake
Tags: #RMNP, #coloradooutdoors


Twin Sisters viewed from Hwy 7
Twin Sisters on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park is a great trail that has elevation gain, panoramic views, and proximity to the Front Range. Its large rocky summit, with multiple piles of scree, will make you feel like you have climbed a 14er without busting a lung.
Lily Lake, located across the road from the trailhead
While in a mixed forest for most of the way, the trail does have periodic views of the Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, and Mt. Lady Washington, which are located right across the valley. The density of the trees themselves is thin, which at least creates a sense of airiness. Finally, the entire route is strewn with angular rocks that were coated with chartreuse lichens. They are so bright, you'll be reminded of Graceland. Long live chartreuse.

Longs massif viewed from the trail. From left to right is Mt. Meeker (13,911 ft), Longs Peak (14,255 ft), and Mt. Lady Washington (13,281 ft).
Despite its daunting elevation gain, the route is not difficult. The ascent is accomplished through a long series of switchbacks with few large step-ups. Very little quadricep action is required. Flatlanders in tennis shoes were easily navigating the trail although boots with ankle support will protect you  from the small, angular rocks which can easily cause twists, particularly on the descent.

A typical section of tree "encrusted" trail
Rocks and green turf near treeline
The view from treeline looking towards the summit ridge
There is a very interesting transition near treeline when large twisted rock formations come into view. These formations are bordered by stones jutting out of the turf and by Limber Pines, which have been sculpted by the wind into bent, twisted silhouettes.

Looking back down the trail
Just beyond these trees, there is a portal into the world of sun, wind, and stone. Within the span of two footsteps you suddenly travel from a forested realm into a long bare rock field. You might want to turn around here to make sure the doorway is still there. I half expected to find a dragon perched nearby or at least an ogre or two.

Another shot looking back down the trail
It is 0.75 miles from this transition line to the summit. The views of Estes Park and beyond will make you stumble as you try to navigate the rocks and ogle the view at the same time. A long pitch along the ridge and a series of short switchbacks takes you to a large saddle surrounded by two large domes of scree. The one to the right, next to the park’s radio tower, is where most people end up. The views there of the Longs' massif will boggle the mind.

View of the summit
The summit is a great place to watch clouds form. At one point, directly over the lower dome we could actually see tendrils of air curl and wind their ways upwards only to be consumed by an even larger cloud. I have a theory about Twin Sisters. It has a large, exposed block of scree, and I wonder if the heated rocks provide extra lift near its summit. Even when I have not been on the summit, I have seen large storms form right on top of it. Who knows if this is true, but the wary hiker of Twin Sisters should get an extra early start.

View of the Longs' massif from the summit
If you have the chance to visit this trail, you won’t need your park pass but you might need a few weapons of mass destruction since it does seem to be popular with folks who look like they just stumbled out of the Winnebago. You would think that the altitude gain would deter most of these visitors, but it does not.

Looking northwest from the summit
The trailhead is located on Hwy 7 between Estes Park and Allenspark. There is a parking lot across the road at Lily Lake, which has a bathroom or you can drive directly to the trailhead up a short dirt road. Parking in this lot is more limited.

4 comments:

Ann said...

Enjoyed seeing your nice pictures, also your earlier post of Montezuma's castle, it brought back nice momories of my trip there last year.

Janice K said...

I thought the look and names of some of the mountains looked familiar. About 55 years ago my husband and I spent some time during our honeymoon at the McGraw Ranch, near Estes Park, and did some horseback riding in some of those mountains. We've gone back many times and enjoyed taking our children riding in the Glen Haven area..so many wonderful memories.

Janice K said...

I thought the look and names of some of the mountains looked familiar. About 55 years ago my husband and I spent some time during our honeymoon at the McGraw Ranch, near Estes Park, and did some horseback riding in some of those mountains. We've gone back many times and enjoyed taking our children riding in the Glen Haven area..so many wonderful memories.

sylvia murphy said...

Janice,

Thanks for stopping by. Glad I could remind you of happy times.