During Colorado winters, there are a few criteria that make the perfect hike a little more special than doing the same one in the summer. Proximity to a plowed road, a great view, a packed trail, and being off the I-70 corridor where everyone else in traffic waits to ski can be very enticing on a sunny Saturday morning. Twin Sisters Peak is one such winter adventure.
Just south of Estes Park, across the street from Long’s Peak, sits the prominent set of peaks at 11,433 feet with commanding view of Long’s Peak's east face and much of Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountain is part of the northern Front Range skyline and is the highest summit between Estes Park and I-70 east of the Peak to Peak Highway.
The hike starts at a large parking lot across from Lily Lake, and combined with the Lily Lake trailhead can be used for several trails. The road is closed during the winter, so you’ll need to hike a bit more than if you were to do the climb in the summer. Start up the road until the trail veers left into the woods at the signed trailhead in the upper parking lot, then continue gradually uphill until reaching the landslide area from the 2013 floods. Past the landslide area, the switchbacks get much shorter and steeper, but they flatten out again while gradually moving up to the saddle.
At the saddle, turn more to the south toward the northern aspect of Twin Sisters Peak. In the winter the switchbacks here turn into a steep snow climb, but the trail levels out fairly quickly at treeline. Once at treeline it becomes a straightforward zigzag toward the upper saddle between the two peaks. The east peak is slightly taller, 21 feet higher than the west peak, but the west peak has better views. Be sure to climb both!
Check conditions online before you go, but likely you’ll need microspikes at a bare minimum, and snowshoes are a good idea if there has been a recent snow event in the mountains. High winds are common above treeline, so be prepared for the cold. Take your time at the summit enjoying the views while everyone else is out skiing, then return to your car the way you came up.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.