Back to index Twin Peaks Hike
Trip Date:  09/16/2014

: 12.0 Miles

Vertical Gain: 2530'

Group Size: 1

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Twin Peaks hike Trail Route
Download GPX GPX for this trip
Twin Peaks Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 39 04.629, W 120 14.096     End Coordinates:   Same as starting coordinates
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 89 to Barker Pass Road, which is just north of the town of Tahoe Pines.  Drive about 7.4 miles up Barker Pass road to the parking area on the right for the Pacific Crest Trailhead.  The last half mile or so is unpaved dirt road.
Hazards of Note:   Significant up and down, plus a long section of switchback trail which has a lot of granite rock on the pathway. Crowd Factor:   Moderate.  This is a popular trailhead for both the Pacific Crest trail heading north toward Donner Summit as well as for the section of the Tahoe Rim Trail which ends about 16 miles beyond in Tahoe City.
General Notes:
From the parking at the trailhead, the trailhead is clearly marked as this is a prominent entry to both the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Pacific Crest trail.  For about the first mile you head through the forest around the west side of Barker Peak (attainable with a tangent trail about a mile up the way) until you come out into some open views of Lake Tahoe.  There is a basalt formation on the east side of the trail which is worth checking out.  
Further along the trail it drops down slowly as you wind around a draw, and then once you head north again you start to lose elevation pretty rapidly.  By the time you bottom out at nearly the elevation you started the hike from, you will cross a couple of natural springs along the path and then 3 and a half miles into the hike you will start up a long section of seven switchbacks which will consume over a mile and get you headed back up to the elevation that you just left.  Once these are done you will continue to climb, finally reaching a sign for Granite Chief wilderness about 4.5 miles from your starting point.  
At the 5 mile mark you will head right at the junction indicated, following the path of the Tahoe Rim Trail toward Tahoe City for about 3/4 of a mile.  At a spot marked with rock cairns you will head left and start your final ascent up to the top of Twin Peaks, doing a lot of boulder climbing as you near the top.

Looking up from Barker Pass road toward the ultimate destination of Twin Peaks, including the official summit on the taller peak on the right. Ultimate destination
PCT and Tahoe Rim Trailhead marker giving distances to various locations along the way.  The Twin Lakes peak is just under a mile further than the PCT/TRT trail junction. Trailhead marker 
Even from early on during the hike there are some nice views down toward Lake Tahoe. Early views of Lake Tahoe
Similar to along the Ellis Peak hike to the south, there are great views into Desolation Wilderness from up here as well. Desolation
This spot afforded a nice view all the way down Blackwood Canyon to Lake Tahoe, and even some of the Nevada side of the lake in the distance. More Tahoe
This was a good view toward Twin Peaks, right before the trail went down for a good bit before then leading the way back up to this elevation and more via a series (7 of 'em) of long switchbacks that seemed to go on forever.  Both there and back. Closer to Twin Peaks
Terrain like this is why the trail was routed down into the canyon for a bit, only to then have to subsequently climb right back out of it later on.  Pretty rugged. Not the way
A couple of signs about 4.5-5 miles along the way announced both entering the wilderness area and then the split of the trail between the PCT and the TRT. signs     signs
Not quite a mile past the junction of the PCT/TRT is the spot where you have to leave the trail and head up the spine to the top of Twin Peaks.  Lots of bouldering ahead. Off trail
On the way up the last bit toward the peak broad vistas of Alpine Meadows ski area kept me entertained. Alpine Meadows
The last couple of hundred feet to the top are very slow going, as you have to pick and choose your way along the boulders which are piled on each other all the way up. Last section
As expected, the views all around from the top were amazing, and pretty clear considering the amount of smoke from the Pollock Pines (King) fire not too far away. Views
Desolation Wilderness far to the south. Looking south
Looking at the smoke from the King fire in Pollock Pines, which an hour later actually changed direction and filled this entire area with smoke. King Fire
One more summit view shot, this time looking north toward Alpine Meadows and beyond. North
By the time I was getting back to the car, the smoke had almost completely obscured the peaks from view.  To the south you could barely even see across the canyon toward Ellis Peak. Twin Peaks smoke
GPX image of the hike. GPS track of hike