After the snow pack we encountered on last weekend’s trail, our objective today was to find a trail with southwestern exposure. The Twin Sisters trail in Rocky Mountain National Park fit the bill. Plus it starts out 1000 feet lower around 9000 feet. This trailhead sits east of Lilly Lake just off Hwy 7, a few miles north of Long’s Peak Trailhead. We spent the night nearby at the Estes Park Resort. A very nice lodge and spa on Lake Estes. We drove there Friday evening after picking up Ellie from the last day of her computer programming summer camp at CSU in Ft. Collins. The drive to Estes Park from Ft. Collins is similar to the drive from Longmont. You take Hwy 34 via Loveland instead of Hwy 36.
The Weather Channel had us set for 50° and rain. Instead it was gorgeous. Clear skies and 60°. Parking at the trailhead was nearly full. Mostly for a wedding across the road at Lilly Lake. This is clearly a very popular trail, but we got there early enough with our short drive from Estes Park. The trail begins for a few hundred yards on a dirt road that’s closed to traffic. It then veers off to the left with a large sign. The first mile is a bit of a workout up to these cliffs. The slope flattens out once it completes some switchbacks and turns south. I think these cliffs are part of the Grags formation, which are more popular for climbers than hiking.
Karen I turned around when we encountered this landslide that obliterated a hundred yard swath of trail. Brit and Ellie were undaunted. They maintained course for the saddle that sits between the Crags and the Twin Sisters Peaks. This avalanche was pretty impressive. Apparently caused from flooding, it knocked out trees clear down to Hwy 7 leaving quite an ugly scar on the mountain. We reached our turn-around point at just over an hour of hiking which gave us a two hour hike total. We waited for the girls on a bench over-looking Lilly Lake.
Brit and Ellie took another hour or so to climb up the steep switchbacks that lead to the saddle. They said they had to scramble a bit using their hands – the trail was so steep. Doubtful Karen would have liked that. I wouldn’t say this trail was crowded but we encountered quite a number of other hikers – including a couple of shirtless boys that Ellie said were eying Brit. Brit told Ellie she thought the boys must go to CU – because they were “buff”.
I highly recommend this trail for family hikes. The views of Long’s Peak to the west are awesome. It’s definitely a workout but very doable by all skill levels. And if you want to let the kids hike, you can choose to hang out at Lilly Lake. There’s a short mile trail around the lake that I wouldn’t mind visiting for a run. The trailhead has a restroom, and the scenery is stunning. We drove back home along Hwy 7 and stopped for lunch at Oscar Blues in Lyons. Looks like it might rain now but we had a beautiful Saturday morning.