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Twin Lakes

Moran State Park

June 27th, 2010

3.0 miles
1370 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:33

Starting elevation
2306 feet
Max elevation
2402 feet

Rating: 5/10

Directions: From Eastsound, take Crescent Beach Drive east, then turn right at the T-intersection onto Olga Road. Follow the road into the park, past Cascade Lake. Turn left onto Mount Constitution Road. At the next intersection, bear left to head up to the peak (instead of right to head to Mountain Lake). Follow the road all the way to the top.   View Driving Map

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The best part of this hike may just be the views from the trailhead. That's because it starts at the top of Mount Constitution. When we arrived, there were only about 4 or 5 cars in the lot, perhaps because it was a cloudy morning. There are restrooms here, and a gift shop / information center.

To start, we made the short walk up to the lookout area. From here, we could see down to Twin Lakes, our destination over a thousand feet below. Our view was dominated, however, by the waters surrounding Orcas Island. There's also an observation tower you can climb to the top of to get better views.

View from the top of Mount Constitution. That's Twin Lakes visible in the forest below.

After taking in the view, we tried to find the trailhead. We wandered around but could only find the trail to Summit Lake. Eventually I decided that the trailhead had to be on the other side of the parking lot. We returned to the parking lot and spotted the trailhead, indeed, on the other side. The woman at the information center asked us where we were going. When I told her we were going to Twin Lakes, she saw our two kids and wanted to make sure we knew it was steep and a long way down. I assured her we did, and we were on our way.

If I had a choice, I'd prefer not to do a hike where the trail descends a long way before heading back up. I'd much rather have it the other way around. But sometimes you have no choice, and this was one of those times. If our kids were a little older, I probably would have combined this hike and the hike we did around Mountain Lake into one longer hike. The book I had described a hike just like that, a 6.7 mile loop hike starting at Mountain Lake, going up to Mount Constitution and back down. I think a bit longer hike, maybe 8 miles or so, including more of Mountain Lake, would be nicer (going around Mountain Lake in a counter-clockwise direction).

The trail descends immediately, steeply -- usually a 20% grade and sometimes even steeper. A series of switchbacks leads through the forest without any views of the surrounding area. It flattens out ever so slightly before descending steeply again. Along the way, we saw lots of mushrooms and some slugs.

One of the first switchbacks


We passed an unsigned spur trail on the right. I think it leads to a viewpoint, but we didn't check it out. At a sign, the trail continues left (another old spur trail, leading right, was mostly covered with downed tree limbs) and begins another series of steep switchbacks. The switchbacks here are stacked nicely right on top of each other, so you can look down and see the entire trail, as if looking down a wall.

Heading down the trail

At 0.3 miles from the lakes, we came to a trail intersection. The left fork leads to Cold Spring. We continued straight toward the lakes. The trail here mercifully begins to flatten out and the forest opens up a little. We shortly came to another intersection 0.1 miles from the lakes. The right fork leads to Mountain Lake, while the left fork (which we took) leads to Twin Lakes.

Almost there

The first lake, on the left, is Big Twin Lake. Lily pads covered a small area near the shore. We continued past it and came to a saddle between the two lakes, with views to both. The view of Big Twin Lake from here is mostly obscured by trees. There are loop trails leading around both lakes -- 0.6 miles for Big Twin Lake, and 0.4 miles for Little Twin Lake. While we walked around trying to find a good lunch spot, it started to rain. We decided we'd just stay on the saddle, looking out at Little Twin Lake. We quickly set up the tarp above us, although of course as soon as we did that, the rain let up.

Little Twin Lake

Lily pads on Little Twin Lake

Lily pads on Little Twin Lake

We pretty much had the lakes to ourselves. We did see a couple of hikers emerge from the Little Twin Lake loop, and then met two hikers reaching the lakes as we were leaving them, but that was it. After lunch, I explored the shore of Big Twin Lake, noting that I could actually see the top of Mount Constitution from here. Then we went back on the trail, headed up the way we came down.

Mount Constitution above rain-tickled Big Twin Lake

Looking back at Little Twin Lake

We made slow but steady progress uphill. It started to drizzle again when we reached the top. After the hike, I took one more trip up to the lookout, climbing up the stairs to the top and taking some pictures from there. It's a nice view, but again perhaps the best part of the hike.

Top of the wall of switchbacks

View from the top of Mount Constitution

Viewing area at top of Mount Constitution

Lookout tower

Panorama from the lookout tower
(Click image to view full size)

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