Hiking up to Twin Sisters Peaks and back is a moderately difficult trek of 7 miles with about 2,500 ft elevation gain that winds through both Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest. On this hike we saw some of the best panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains since we arrived in Colorado.
There is ample parking to visit Twin Sisters Peaks, whether at the Lily Lake Trailhead parking lot or Twin Sisters Trailhead parking lot across the street. The Lily Lake Trailhead has a restroom and there is a clearly marked crossing on the street to get to the other side to the Twin Sisters Trailhead.
From the parking area you can see Mt. Meeker (far left), Longs Peak (next), and the Estes Cone (middle of picture).
Twin Sisters Trail
On maps it seems the Twin Sisters Trail starts somewhere around the Twin Sisters Trailhead parking lot, but with all the snow on the ground, we had trouble finding it. There was something that looked like it could be the trail, but there were no footprints on it. Instead, we followed the dirt road up about half a mile to a point where there was a clear junction with the trail that we could enter.
It had snowed the previous week and when we started our hike around 8:30 am it was quite chilly. Once we got on the trail, it was clear that the trail was mostly under snow and ice, so we put on our microspikes for added traction. This helped a lot.
Much of the first couple miles along the trail goes through a lovely forest.
About a mile in you can start seeing peeks of views through the trees of Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak –
This view can be seen from an area like this, which is rocky, with less trees.
Looking back along the trail at a cliff that we passed from the upcoming landslide area –
At 1.3 miles along the trail you come to an open area that shows the clear effects of a landslide that happened during the massive flooding of 2013. You can see how the water must have powerfully gushed down, eliminating everything in its way.
From stories I’ve heard from people who were living here in Colorado at the time, it rained for one week straight and the flooding was devastating. Houses near rivers were destroyed.
The area is now closed for restoration, except for the trail where hikers can pass through.
The view looking up the landslide area –
Continuing on Twin Sisters Trail
After passing the landslide area, the Twin Sisters Trail continues up a challenging hill using a series of switchbacks.
At one point we had to climb up this steep snowy hill. You can get an idea from the pictures what the incline was like.
But after all that tough climbing, we started to see sweeping panoramic vistas.
Talus above the Treeline
Not long after, at about 2.7 miles along the trail, we came out above the treeline at about 11,000 feet in altitude. The open views without the trees was quite something to experience.
Looking up the mountain –
Looking back out –
Climbing up this last part of the mountain was moderately challenging. We were definitely feeling the lack of oxygen from the high altitude.
Hiking near the top –
In the above picture you can see an antenna. There is a small solar panel station and radio antenna attached to a hut that is used by emergency services for rescue operations and the like.
Twin Sisters Peaks
Following the recommendation of an excellent new guidebook by landscape photographer Erik Stensland – Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park – we took the trail behind the hut to the west peak of the two Twin Sisters Peaks because he recommended it had better views to the north and of Estes Valley.
This is what the two peaks look like from the top of the west peak at 11,413 feet elevation –
A couple of helpful hikers took a picture of us with the amazing views we could see of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains from the peak –
Inspired by the gorgeous views, we had a photo session for about half an hour on the summit. Being so up high, and not protected by the mountains or the trees, the wind was quite strong and we had to put on all our layers as well as our Buffs to get warm.
Wide-angle lens panorama –
Telephoto lens panorama –
Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak –
Close-up of Mt. Meeker –
Close-up of Longs Peak –
Close-up of the Lumpy Ridge area, where we had gone hiking the previous week to Gem Lake and Balanced Rock –
It was interesting to see where we had been from a different perspective, and up so high.
The Return Trail
The weather forecast had said it would be 60 degrees Fahrenheit that day. Even though it was chilly at the summit, the effects of the strong sunshine and growing warmth of the day were showing by the time we started heading back at midday – the snow was turning into a slippery mush. Although our microspikes helped somewhat, they could not completely prevent slipping and sliding in the snow as we went down steep downhill areas. I’m not sure anything can.
If you want to avoid such slushy conditions, I would recommend starting this hike early in the morning – perhaps as early as 6 or 7 am – in order to be able to finish by the time the snow starts melting.
Recommended as a Hike for Rocky Mountain Views
This hike featured some of the best panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains that we’ve seen so far. From such a high vantage point, it’s amazing how much you can see in all directions. If you can handle the athletic challenge of hiking up Twin Sisters Peaks, the views are well worth the effort.