As the days get longer and the sun warms up our mountain landscape we all eagerly await the snow to disappear and the hiking trails to open up without the need for traction or floatation. One of the first high places to melt out is always the Twin Sisters trail that leads to the summit of Twin Sisters Mountain which stands at a respectable 11,427 feet, so this mountain always seems to get a lot of early season traffic.
The trail is easy to follow and very well maintained. Though the round trip is now only 6.6 miles, more on that later, it’s relatively steep with the total elevation gain hitting 2,363 feet.
When I got up on the morning of June 10th, the thermometer ready a chilly 29 degrees F. I was a bit surprised, but the sun was out so I figured it would warm up quickly. I threw an extra layer on and drove up to the trail head and quickly hit the trail. At five to seven there were just three other cars at the trail head. This trail doesn’t ease you into anything and starts off at a pretty steep grade right away. For the most part, the trail is pretty uneventful, rising up through dense forest with the exception of a spot or two with some views over the Tahosa Valley below. At about one and a quarter mile up you reach the site of the huge landslide that happened during the flood event of September, 2013. It’s a pretty impressive sight and it wiped our quite a bit of the trail. Hikers made social trail of sorts in the following year and, only in the past year, the park service reestablished a trail through the area. It’s much shorter and much steeper than the old trail, hence the ‘now only 6.6 miles’ comment above. I think it shaved off a quarter of a mile, or a bit more, on the one-way distance.
Before too long you near tree line and wind through some stunning outcroppings with magnificent views to the north overlooking Estes Park and some of the northern mountains in the National Park (Mummy Range). Tree line ends abruptly and the views of the forthcoming summit push are always reason to stop and snap a quick photo.
This stretch always goes by quick, but seems to take longer than you’d expect when you first set eyes on it. But soon you’ll pop out on the little summit plateau with two main ‘summits’ before you. Most people head up the slightly closer, and lower, summit on your right while the true summit is the big block on your left. Pick your way across tundra (look for a variety of tundra flowers on this stretch) and a short, steep boulder field which will pop you out right on the summit. Turn to your right (west) and try not to let your jaw hit the rocky summit as the views are absurd!
Take your time up there, weather permitting, and make you way back down the way you came.
Distance: 6.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,363 Feet
Summit Elevation: 11,427 Feet
Trail Head Elevation: 9,206 Feet
For more info, be sure to check out Erik Stensland’s hiking guide: Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park. The Essential Guide. (Purchase on Amazon)