Twin Sisters Lakes

Area: Chinook Pass
Hike Type: Kid & Dog Friendly Pass: none
Distance: 7 mi RT Duration: 4 hours Difficulty Level: moderate
Snow-Free: July-Oct High Point:  5,190 feet Elevation Gain: 930 feet


Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, wildflowers, backpacking, backcountry lakes

The hardest part about this hike is the drive. It’s a bumpy dusty road to this popular family and dog friendly hike. The hike however more than makes up for any driving inconvenience. This fairly easy hike to two beautiful lakes in the heart of the William O Douglas Wilderness is perfect for adventurers young and old alike. Set on a pumiced plateau pockmarked with hundreds of small lakes and adorned with ancient cinder cone volcanoes, the Twin Lakes also make for a great basecamp for further explorations. Wildflowers and elk are abundant—unfortunately, so are mosquitoes. So pack your bug dope or plan your visit in autumn.

Hit the Trail

In cool old growth forest start hiking and immediately enter the William O Douglas Wilderness. This sprawling 160,000-plus acre wildland bordering Mount Rainier National  Park to the west is named for Yakima son, William O Douglas who served on the US Supreme Court for over 36 years—the longest serving justice in history. A champion of the environment, Douglas had a place in nearby Goose Prairie and spent many days roaming this high country now named in his honor.

The trail gently climbs up a ridge above a deep gorge cradling Deep Creek. The creek is mostly out of view, but not earshot. The way makes a few sweeping switchbacks on its way to the lake-laden plateau. At 2.3 miles reach a junction with the Sand Ridge Trail at the smaller of the Twin Sisters Lakes. It’s a pretty good size lake with a handful of small islands and several small coves. Watch for spotted sandpipers along its shores looking for tasty insects—which are not hard to find here. While this Twin Sister is a pretty body of water, the larger lake is more inviting with good camps and wading spots. To reach it, hike right continuing on the Twin Sisters Trail.

After skirting the northern shores of the smaller Twin, pass through a small gap, descend slightly and soon reach the larger Twin. The trail continues along its southern rocky shore coming to a junction at 2.9 miles. The trail straight heads 1.3 miles across a plateau of pothole ponds to connect with the Pacific Crest Trail. You want to go right on a 0.6 mile shoreline trail leading to good camps, quiet coves, and shoreline forest groves. Find a favorite spot and spend an afternoon or evening. Enjoy aerial performances compliments of the resident dragonflies.

As you while away the day, pull out your map and look at the hundreds of ponds, lakes and mud holes south, east and west of you. It looks as if Providence fired buckshot all over this wooded and grassy plateau. Many of the water bodies are unnamed. Trails, game paths and abandoned trails crisscross this plateau leading to scores of these aquatic jewels. You can spend weeks exploring here—and without breaking too much of a sweat too, due to the fairly level terrain. You will however expend quite a bit of blood if visiting during early and mid-summer.

With all this shallow water, mosquitoes are legendary here. The valley to the west is named Mosquito. Of course where there are lots of mosquitos, there are lots of birds, amphibians and other critters. The area is also home to a large number of elk. Come in fall (be sure to wear orange) and you’ll probably hear bugling bull elks.

The Big Twin is the largest of the hundreds of lakes in the area. It is deeper and truly a lake. Its sandy bottom is the result of recent volcanism.  In May of 1980 nearby Mount St Helens rained ash and pumice all across this region. Someday Mount Rainier probably will, too. In the meanwhile enjoy the placid lake and its serene surroundings. If you’d rather do more exploring than lounging there are many options for extending your hike. One of the more interesting side trips is to follow the Cowlitz Trail south from the smaller Twin Lake. Hike this trail 2.0 miles to 6340-foot Tumac Mountain, a cinder cone volcano that once served as a fire lookout. Then take in a great view of the William O country from this little peak.

Notes: Wilderness permit required, free, self-issued at trailhead. Popular elk hunting area—be sure to wear orange in season. FR 1800 and FR 1808 require high clearance vehicles.


Naches Ranger District, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (509) 653-1401,

Maps: Green Trails Goat Rocks William O Douglas Wilderness No. 303S

Trailhead directions

From Enumclaw follow SR 410 east for 64 miles turning right onto Bumping Lake Road (From Yakima, follow SR 12 west for 16 miles bearing right onto SR 410. Then continue 28 miles turning left onto Bumping Lake Road). Continue 11.2 miles on paved Bumping Lake Road passing Goose Prairie and reaching Bumping Lake Campground. Then continue on rough gravel FR 1800 for 2.3 miles. Bear right onto FR 1808 and continue 7.1 rough and bumpy miles to trailhead at Deep Creek Campground at road’s end.

Trailhead facilities

Primitive campground, privy

Craig Romano, is an author of more than a dozen hiking guidebooks including the newly released 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books) which includes several hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park.


Starting Point:  N46 45.129, W121 21.710
Notable Waypoints:

Junction at Smaller Sister Lake:  N46 44.299 W121 22.106

Junction at Larger Sister Lake:  N46 44.156 W121 22.818