Twin Sisters, Twin Sisters Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Twin Sisters - 7.0 miles
Twin Sisters Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||7.0 miles (distance updated to reflect 2013 re-route)|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,040' - 11,428' (11,428' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,388' net elevation gain (+2,477' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Twin Sisters - 7.0 Miles Round-Trip
The Twin Sisters ridge runs nearly two miles along the east-central boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park. A short but strenuous trail leads to a small saddle, and splits up scrambling routes to each summit (11,413' and 11,428').
A landslide caused by the 2013 floods wiped out a portion of trail between 1.3 and 1.65 miles. While terrestrial damage is extensive, only this short segment was actually affected, and has since been re-routed across and up the far side of the slide.
The re-route is steep with deadfall in places, but sufficiently marked by cairns (though snow and mud can present greater challenges). Call ahead for trail conditions, especially in winter and during the thaw.
Visitors will enjoy rangy panoramas across Longs Peak, Estes Park and the Continental Divide, along with interesting alpine ecology leading to the summits:
The trail heads south on a steady climb across a west-facing slope through uniform lodgepole. Longs Peak (14,259'), Mt Meeker (13,911'), Mount Lady Washington (13,281'), Powell Peak (13,208') and Estes Cone (11,006') emerge through gaps in the forest at 1.0 miles (9,780').
Look for Mills Glacier in Mills Moraine, a gash in the landscape at the base of Longs Peak's east-facing 'diamond'. Mills Glacier forms the headwaters of Chasm Lake and Roaring Fork Creek.
Timber breaks suddenly on the edge of the landslide with a good look at its entire path (1.3 miles : 9,840'). Cairns lead across the slide and turn sharply up newly-created switchbacks on the far (south) side. Sections may be obscured by deadfall and runoff channels, but are generally easy to follow.
Travel normalizes on the original trail past 1.65 miles, resuming a steady climb on switchbacks across the National Park Boundary into stands of limber pine and bristlecone pine (2.25 miles : 10,650'). These high-alpine trees are specially adapted to poor soil and harsh growing conditions found on this wind-buffeted mountain.
The trail clears treeline (2.9 miles : 11,040') and winds across an exposed talus slope up to a small saddle between the Twin Sisters (3.35 miles : 11,348').
A clear path breaks right above a research facility to the West Summit (3.45 miles : 11,413'), and a vague route leads left on a more challenging scramble to the East Summit (3.5 miles : 11,428'). Exercise caution on these sharp and potentially unstable rocks, especially in windy conditions.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N40 18.191 W105 32.119 — 0.0 miles : Twin Sisters Trailhead
- N40 18.150 W105 31.833 — .5 miles : Steady climb in lodgepole forest
- N40 17.742 W105 31.979 — 1.0 miles : Brief reprieve with views of Longs and Estes Cone
- N40 17.594 W105 31.844 — 1.28 miles : Cross big landslide area
- N40 17.590 W105 31.735 — 1.5 miles : Steep travel on makeshift switchbacks
- N40 17.717 W105 31.572 — 2.0 miles : Travel normalizes on methodical climb
- N40 17.757 W105 31.444 — 2.5 miles : Exit RMNP | Enter National Forest
- N40 17.650 W105 31.330 — 2.5 miles : Steady climb through limber pine and bristlecone stands
- N40 17.547 W105 31.313 — 2.9 miles : Clear treeline and enter exposed talus field
- N40 17.447 W105 31.232 — 3.0 miles : Steep, winding travel trough talus
- N40 17.352 W105 31.124 — 3.35 miles : Saddle between the Twin Sisters summits
- N40 17.342 W105 31.163 — West Summit (11,413')
- N40 17.317 W105 31.051 — East Summit (11,428')
- The trailhead is actually located just east of the Park Boundary, and portions of the trail pass through National Forest Land. No entry fee is required to hike this trail.
- There is what some refer to as the 'butterfly burn' on Twin Sisters Mountain's west face. This area - more visible from the trailhead than the trail itself - is an aspen grove whose autumn colors resemble a large 'butterfly'. This is especially visible from the Longs Peak Trail Head.
- 11,428' - East Twin Sisters Peak | 11,413' - West Twin Sisters Peak
Directions to Trailhead
The Twin Sisters Trailhead is located 6.2 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7. There's a large sign for the trailhead on the west side of Highway 7 just before the turnoff.
Follow the turnoff .35 miles up the dirt road to the parking area. Parking is only permitted on the right side of the road, and spaces are limited. Walk the remaining 75 yards to find the trailhead on the left side of the dirt road.
Rocky Mountain National Park