Twin Lakes Trail

Hike Rating: Difficult
Hike Length: 7.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,050’ (from new trailhead)
Trailhead Elevation: 5,620’
Best Season: July through September
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle

Plus Points
• A strenuous climb into a high, glaciated alpine basin with two cirque lakes
• Glacial features include polished rocks, lateral moraines and steep headwalls
• Colorful rock strata and outcrops in the basin — oranges, greens and browns
• Mountain goats are commonly spotted near the lakes or on rocky hillsides
• Wildflowers persist into late summer in moist alpine meadows below the lakes
• Trail is well-built and well-graded for the last 1.7 miles in the upper basin

Minus Points
• For the first two miles, the trail climbs nearly 1,400' on an unrelenting grade
• Afternoon thunderstorms present a lightening hazard in the upper basin
• ATVs and dirtbikes can access the first mile of trail from the new trailhead

Download (PDF, 767 KB): Photos of Twin Lakes Trail
Download (PDF, 732 KB): Topo Map for Twin Lakes Trail
Download (PDF, 790 KB): Road Map for Twin Lakes Trail

Trail Notes
Map of Twin Lakes Trail
One has the choice of two trailheads to begin this hike. The old, lower trail is unmaintained, with several downed trees to cross, but it follows a shorter, somewhat steeper route up the west bank of Lake Creek. The newer, upper trail is a bit longer, but starts 230' higher, and follows abandoned roads up the ridge between the two forks of Lake Creek. Be aware that ATVs and dirtbikes can access the first mile of this newer trail. Both trails converge after one mile, at a log footbridge over Lake Creek.

From this footbridge, the trail climbs steadily for another mile up the east side of Lake Creek, through a thick forest of Douglas and true firs. This is the steepest and most challenging section of the hike. At the 2.1 mile point, the trail begins to flatten out as it enters a treeless, alpine meadow with wildflowers even into mid-August. For the next 1.6 miles, the trail switchbacks gradually back and forth from bench to bench on a good grade as it climbs the east side of the basin.

As the trail ascends, subalpine firs appear, with a few whitebark pines at the highest treeline. Spectacular views of the 8,500'-high Elkhorn crest unfold, as well as long vistas back down the canyon to Sumpter Valley and the Strawberry Mountains beyond. At about 3.6 miles, the trail traverses a long, lateral moraine next to lower Twin Lake, where one can strike out cross-country for the water. Look for mountain goats here, around the lake or on the rocky hillside. Do explore the basin, including the upper lake, but be sure to leave if thunderstorms start to threaten overhead.

Road to Trailhead
From Highway 7, just east of the old town of McEwen, turn north onto Deer Creek Road (aka County Road 656, which will turn into Road 6550 at the forest boundary) and drive 4 miles on this main gravel route to a road junction. Go straight at the junction onto Road 030 and follow it for 2.5 miles to the first Twin Lakes Trailhead sign. This is the old trailhead for the now unmaintained trail up Lake Creek. Note that this last 2.5 miles of road has some washouts and rocky areas that require a high-clearance vehicle.

To get to the newer, upper trailhead, continue up the steep hill and curve around for another 0.5 miles to the second trailhead sign.

Camping Options
For tent campers with high clearance vehicles: At the major road junction 2.5 miles below the trailhead on Road 030 (and 4 miles north from Hwy 7 on Deer Creek Road), turn east on Road 6530 and drive about a mile to a dirt road branching right (south) down into USFS Deer Creek Campground. This rustic camping area has about 6 tent sites, some walk-in and others with short parking spurs, plus a pit toilet, but no drinking water. There is no fee here and it appears this campground receives only minimal maintenance.

For all campers: The nearest camping area is the USFS Southwest Shore Campground, off Hwy 7 on the south side of Phillips Lake, about 9 driving miles from the trailhead. From Hwy 7, about 3.8 miles east of Sumpter Junction, turn south onto paved
Hudspeth Lane and go 1.2 miles to gravel Forest Road 2220 on the left (east). Drive about 0.5 miles east on Road 2220 to the campground sign. Here are 16 sites for any type of camping, plus two vault toilets, but no drinking water. The sites are nicely spaced in a ponderosa pine forest, with nice views of the Elkhorn Range, but the reservoir is drawn down by late summer. Fees were $10.00 per night in 2013.

A second USFS camping area on the south side of Phillips Lake, Millers Lane Campground, is 0.8 miles further east on Road 2220. Here are 7 sites in the trees with views of the Elkhorns, plus a vault toilet, but no drinking water. Fees were $10.00 per night in 2013.

Agency Contact: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Baker District, (541) 523-6391

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 11/12/13