“The Twin Lakes Trail makes a delightful loop trail with the adjacent Pacific Crest Trail around two cascade lakes.”
— Kathleen Walker
Lake · Swimming · Wildflowers
The Twin Lakes Trail is generally snowed in from late-November to mid-June. The trail is marked with blue diamonds and is used in winter by nordic skiers and snowshoers. The upper part of the trail (above upper Twin Lake, including the upper part of the PCT) is in wilderness where group size-limits apply. Twin Lakes, especially the lower lake, is very crowded in summer, and is popular with equestrians.
The Twin Lakes Trail is a three-mile loop located 1.5 miles up the Pacific Crest Trail. The main access point is at the Frog Lake Sno-park along Hwy 26, or you can go in from the north at the Barlow Sno-park off of Hwy 35. Another option is to stash a car at one trailhead, and hike through to the other. Both options require a 1.5-mile jaunt along the PCT from the trailhead to the Twin Lakes Trail.
Hiking from the Frog Lake Trailhead along Highway 26, start to the left of the trailhead toilets a short distance and head north (right) on the PCT at the junction. Just 350 yards up the trail, pass the intersection with the Frog Lake Trail. The PCT trail has a steady climb and makes a large hairpin turn at the half-mile mark. Continue north to the 1.3-mile mark where you reach a saddle and come to the Twin Lakes Trail.
Head east (right) on the Twin Lakes Trail and follow a fairly flat section of trail for 2,000 feet, admiring the Lower Twin Lake below you. The trail then drops down another 1,600 feet to a trail junction for the Lower Twin Lake. As you work your way down to the lakeshore, head clockwise around the lakeshore trail, and pass some campsites and a junction with the Frog Lake Butte Trail #484.
Hiking around the lake adds another 3/4 mile to the overall journey. Continue around the lake and head back up the short connector trail to the main Twin Lake Trail. For a shorter trip, return to the car. Otherwise, turn right and head to the Upper Twin Lake.
The trail narrows slightly as it has slightly less use and is steeper. Climb up a couple of switchbacks for 3/4 of a mile over the saddle separating the two lakes and then head down into the upper lake with a view of Mt. Hood. There is a trail around this lake also that will add another 1/3 mile to the trip with a couple of campsites in the area.
On the east side of the lake, you come to a junction with the Palmeteer Trail #482 on your right (east). Continue along the east shore the lake and at the point where it starts climbing out of the basin, you cross into the Mt. Hood Wilderness. There is a short, steep climb up out of the lake basin, another short spur junction with Palmeteer Trail, and then the trail drops gradually towards the PCT before a hill to climb back up to a trail junction with the PCT.
From here, you can return to your car by heading left (south) on the PCT. After 1.5 miles, you come to the lower intersection of the Twin Lakes Trail. Continue another 1.4 miles to the trailhead.
Flora & Fauna
The Twin Lakes Trail passes through high elevation forested stands of old growth and younger stands of Douglas fir, mountain hemlock, silver and noble fir. There are also some lodgepole and western white pine as well as a few larch. In fall, vine maple and huckleberry provide nice color. Huckleberries are ripe in August. Rhododendron and bear grass start blooming in early summer.