The Twin Lakes Trail (not to be confused with the Lakes Trail) climbs for 7 miles through typical if somewhat mundane Sierra pine forest before reaching its namesake glacial lakes. The forest gradually thins as the trail climbs but never disappears completely.
The Twin Lakes Trail connects to a wealth of long-distance hiking routes and is mostly used by backpackers to access Ranger Lake and the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. As a day hike, it doesn’t have the grand vistas or otherworldly scenery of the Pear Lake or Alta Peak hikes. Except for the lakes, the hike is pretty monotonous; the really good scenery is just beginning at Twin Lakes. On the other hand, the Twin Lakes Trail is less-used and doesn’t have the wide, dusty, over-used look that the first few miles of the Wolverton trails have.
The trail can be covered with snow well into summer and as early as October. Unlike other trails in the area, the Twin Lakes Trail is not blazed above the Wuksachi cutoff and it becomes essentially invisible when covered with snow. Check the parks trail conditions web page before hiking.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
The trail starts in the Lodgepole campground right next to the Tokopah Falls Trail. Skirting around the campground, the trail is initially wide and well-used but gradually becomes narrower. The trail climbs through dense pine forest; as the trail rounds the hill and passes through a flat, the trees lining the trail are impressively tall.
At 2.7 miles you get a brief glimpse of Cahoon Meadow off to your left. The meadow is often promoted as a hiking destination, but if you want to see a meadow you’d be much better off visiting one of the many other meadows, such as Long Meadow or Crescent Meadow, that are much easier to reach, more scenic, and can be better viewed from the trail.
The rushing sounds of a nearby stream can be heard for much of the hike, and there are a few stream crossings. In late summer the streams are still sizable but can be easily crossed on some handy stepping stones. It’s unclear whether the streams ever get too deep to cross.
The trail crests Cahoon Pass and then descends slightly into a lush, attractively-wooded little valley. There’s a nice campsite next to a stream. Ahead, a faint track leads off to the left to J.O. Pass.
The trail becomes fainter somewhat hard to follow in this area. As it resumes its climb, the vegetation thins out and the trail again becomes clear (if rocky), although it’s definitely less well-used. The woods also open up and the scenery takes on more of a high-country appearance, with lots of bare granite visible through the trees. There’s a stairstep cascade to your right.
Finally, the trail levels out in a wooded flat between the two Twin Lakes. The big lake is clearly visible to your right, but you have to cut through the woods to see the small lake. This is the turnaround point for the hike, but ahead, the trail climbs (still through woods) up to Silliman Pass and continues on to the especially picturesque Ranger Lake, a popular camping spot.
© 2011 David Baselt