The Pawnee, it is said, found their way around the Colorado plains by noting the location of “the Twins,” that great pair of peaks we know as Longs and Mt. Meeker. The very best view of those twins, a close up, may be from another pair of twins, the Twin Sisters.
If you are interested in one more good hike before the snow blankets the high country Twin Sisters trail, just south of Estes Park, may be for you.
Hikers go for the view, a mighty 360 degree panorama. There is Longs Peak with its cohorts, Mount Meeker and Mount Lady Washington. The peaks of the Continental Divide extend to the right, then the Mummy Range joins in. Continue around and Estes Park is below, and on the far horizon you might see Cheyenne.
The trek to either summit is 3.9 miles, with an elevation gain of about 2,200 feet.
It is an effort. And a little more of one since the flood of September 2013 brought a landslide that cut out portions of three switchbacks that once made a gradual way up the mountain. Now at the maw of that deep and wide gash user trails ascend steeply to intercept the next section of old trail. These ascents do get a heart pumping.
On a recent Saturday I saw hikers of all ages—families with kids, teens, the fit trail runners and the old yet spry. And there were a few, typically visitors from sea level who were gasping for breath, that wisely decided to turn around and head back to town.
The trail begins in a healthy lodgepole pine forest with nary a beetle-kill snag in sight, ascending a well-built trail that has many monolithic stone stair steps. The first time the trail reaches the flood damage it crosses it, giving a great view of what a lot of water in a little time can do.
Eventually, after ascending those three user trails, views of Longs begin to tease through the trees. The trees get shorter and twistier, some nearly lying down, until you come out above them on a packed path through the scree of the mountain’s top.
The trail continues switch-backing up to the rocky saddle between the twins. On the right is an old hut built of rock with a tall radio antenna on top. After inspecting the construction you’ll spy the route marching up behind it to the top of the lower of the two peaks, at 11,413’. A fire tower once reigned here but now only foundations remain.
The other twin, at 11,428’ (you see, they are not identical, but fraternal…), has no trail to its summit. A cairned route marks one way. It is a scrambling clamber.
You’ve done it. Enjoy your packed, smashed lunch and take in the spectacle of one of the Front Range’s best views.
If you go…
From Cheyenne, WY, take I-25 south to US 34 at Loveland, going west to Estes Park. Just past McDonalds turn southeast on Colorado 7. Continue about 14 miles to Lily Lake and, on the left, the Twin Sisters, marked with a road sign. Take a gravel road about ¼ of mile to the trailhead. There is little parking there. If full you can park at the lot on CO 7 and walk up the gravel. Parking and entry is free.
There is no water or facilities at the trailhead. The closest privy is just across CO 7 at Lilly Lake. Sorry, no dogs. No trail map is needed but if you have one, Trails Illustrated “Rocky Mountain National Park” includes the Twin Sisters.”