Twin Sisters Lakes: 100 Classic Hikes of Washington

Hiking near Mount Adams is a rugged and vastly under traveled area. Twin Sisters Lakes is not only the perfect destination for hikers looking for a new area to explore but an amazing beginner friendly backpacking trip.

Female hiker standing in front of the first lake on the twin sisters lake trail

Having lived in Washington for five years, the Goat Rocks-Mount Adams area has been on my list of places to explore. I was not disappointed.

It almost felt like I had discovered a secret spot with how few people I saw on the trail.

Comprehensive Guide to Twin Sisters Lakes Trail

In this comprehensive guide, I will share everything you need to know about getting to the trailhead, hiking the trail, how to backpack in the area, and of course decide if Twin Sisters Lakes should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. Follow along!

Twin Sisters Lakes Stats

Lake view with trees and rocks

Region: Mount Adams-Goat Rocks

Distance: 5 miles

Level: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 900 ft.

Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

When to go: July – Oct. 

Pass/Permit?: Northwest Forest Pass

Dogs Allowed?:  Yes

Map to Trailhead

Twin Sisters Lakes is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Yakama tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.

Why should you visit the Mount Adams-Goat Rocks Wilderness Area?

The Goat Rocks – Mount Adams Wilderness is truly a special and breathtaking wilderness area in the Northwest region of the United States. It offers a combination of stunning natural features and diverse ecosystems.

Smiling Dog on the trail surrounded by evergreens

The Goat Rocks area was actually named in part for the resident mountain goat. So as you’re trekking through the rugged terrain, keep an eye out for these beautiful animals on the cliffs and in the meadows. 

The opportunity for beautiful hikes, magical backpacking, and exhilarating climbing draws people to the area. I truly believe you’ll love it! 

General Information

Hiking the Goat Rocks – Mount Adams wilderness is a rewarding and unforgettable experience. In this section I will cover all the essential information for accessing the area. Here are some important things to know before embarking on the Twin Sisters Lakes hike in this wilderness area:

Getting to the Trail

The Twin Sisters Lakes is accessed from the Deep Creek Campground at the end of Forest Service Road 1808. The route to the trailhead begins by turning off State Highway 410 onto Bumping River Road.

Check Out a Local Trail: Naches Peak Loop

Trail Signage for the Twin Sisters Lakes Trail

Continue straight on bumping river road until it turns into USFS Road 1800, a dirt road. Follow the dirt road until it turns into 1808 and eventually ends. 

The dirt road to Deep Creek Campground is extremely rocky with large washouts. I highly recommend only taking this road if you have a high clearance vehicle and off road tires.

Trailhead Facilities

The trailhead has a pit toilet and an area for horse trailers. The campground was well occupied but the parking lot for the trail only had a couple cars. There are no garbage cans so you’ll have to pack out your trash!

Season to Visit

The Goat Rock, William O. Douglas Wilderness area is prone to having significant snow that lasts long into the summer. Visiting between late July to October is the optimal time to visit. 

Once snow hits the area, the forest service road to the trailhead will become impassable.


This area is managed by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Since the area is technically in the William O. Douglas Wilderness Area under the jurisdiction of the Naches Ranger District, you will need a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass.

Northwest Forest Pass/America the Beautiful: This is the pass that you will need to keep in your car while you’re on the hike. 

Registration: When you backpack Twin Sisters Lakes, you will need to sign-in at the trailhead and this will act as your registration for the trail with the forest service. This is used to track the traffic of the trail as well as aid in keeping track of people in case of an emergency.

Hiking the Twin Sisters Lakes Trail

Brown Toad hidden in the pine needles

The Twin Sisters Lakes are a pair of beautiful alpine lakes located within the Goat Rocks – Mount Adams Wilderness in Washington. Known for its stunning mountain scenery, pristine lakes, and diverse flora and fauna. The Twin Sisters Lakes hike will take you to two picturesque lakes and offers a glimpse of the natural beauty of the region.

How long is the Twin Sisters Lakes Trail?

Before we get into what it’s like to actually hike the Twin Lakes Trail, let’s clear up some of the different mileage that is reported on the trail.

Washington Trails Association lists the trail as 4.0 miles, it’s not on AllTrails, and the “100 Classic Hikes of Washington” Trail Book clocks the trail at 7 miles. When I completed the trail, I clocked it at 5.0 miles. Elevation gain was accurate on all referenced sites.

Hiking to the First of the Twin Sisters Lakes

Gradual dirt trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

When you venture onto the Twin Sisters Lakes trail, you will not see a sign indicating that you’re actually on the correct trail. But you will see a trail marker sign that reads “980” and if you’re like me and don’t have service, you’ll search the registration box to make sure you’re on the correct route.

Blue Mountains in the distance with evergreens in the foreground
A stream along the hike to Twin Sisters Lakes

The trail to reach the first of the Twin Sisters Lakes is easy to follow. Walking through dense forest, lush with undergrowth and wildflowers you will gain about 800 ft of elevation gain.

Trail sign for the douglas wilderness

After a few longer switchbacks, the surrounding Goat Rocks Wilderness peaks through the forest. The stunning ridges are indicative of just how much elevation you’re gaining in two miles.

The First Lake of Twin Sisters Lakes Trail

When you approach the first lake on the trail, there will be a sign indicating that you’re on the Twin Sisters Lakes Trail. Continue straight to access the first lake.

Dog enjoying the water at the first twin sister lake

Off to the right is a beach area which I found great for filtering water! I imagine backpackers would utilize this space for lounging in the sun as right across the trail, there were plenty of established backpacking sites.

Hike to the Second of the Twin Sisters Lakes

The trail to the second Twin Sister Lakes will likely require the use of a GPS since there are multiple trails that split off of the main one. I found that I could identify the largest, most established trail that led to the lake, but it definitely got confusing.

Sign pointing to the second twin sister lake

The Second Twin Sister Lake was beautiful. The water was a clear turquoise and fish were jumping high out of the water to catch unsuspecting bugs.

The second twin sisters lakes lake

This trail was extremely pleasant and accessible to anyone wanting to hike it… so long as you have a high clearance vehicle.

How to Backpack Twin Sisters Lakes

The Twin Sisters Lakes Trail would make both an excellent beginner backpacking trip or a hike for anyone looking for a secluded area. The grade of the trail was manageable and could be easily navigated with a bulky pack.

What permits do you need to backpack Twin Sisters Lakes Trail?

At the trailhead there are self-issued permits. One attaches to your backpack and one goes in the dropbox. This aids Forest Service Rangers in understanding how the trail is being utilized. Be sure to fill out the permit, because this helps with fund allocation.

Where can you set-up camp at Twin Sisters Lakes Trail?

A lake with trees and rocks

There are established campsites along the trail across from the Big Twin Sister Lake (the First Lake). Stick to the established sites to minimize high-alpine trail damage. 

There are additional sites along the Little Twin Sister Lake! Keep going on the trail and you’re bound to find a beautiful site close to one of the trails. 

What wild animals will you come across on the Twin Sisters Lakes Trail?

Elk and deer frequent the area. This area is located in a popular hunting area. To be safe, be aware of hunting seasons and wear very visible clothing during low light times of day. 

If you’ve ever been interested in backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, you’re in luck because 0.6 miles of this trail overlap!

Should it be a 100 Classic Hike?

I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. But the question is, Should it be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?

Man in blue shirt and hat looking out at the lake

While I believe Twin Sisters Lakes to be a great and accessible trail, I am not sure it belongs in the “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. The pristine lakes partially formed by the eruption of Mount St Helens speaks to the historical importance of the area, but I was left wanting more from the hike. I was hoping to see some of the impressive peaks of the Goat Rocks surrounding the lakes. 

Let me know in the comments if you think Twin Sisters Lakes should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington! 


If you’d like to complete your own 100 Classic Hikes journey, you can purchase the book here. 

Happy Hiking!

Twin Sistes Lakes Pinterest Pin

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