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Twin Lakes

Kaiser Wilderness

June 25th, 2013

7.9 miles
1400 vertical feet
Total Time: 5:43

Starting elevation
8330 feet
Max elevation
8990 feet

Rating: 8/10

Directions: From Huntington Lake, take Kaiser Pass Road up to the large California Riding and Hiking parking area on the right. The trail starts on the opposite side of the road.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

When we arrived in the large parking lot, there was only one other car. There are pit toilets here, along with several bear boxes for storing food while you're away from your car. It was still a bit overcast, but the weather forecast called for it to improve, so we hung out a little while, waiting for it to warm up.

While we were waiting, a truck came by and parked in the lot near us, its two occupants waiting around, talking. Later, a van pulled up next to it and also waited. I couldn't figure out what they were doing (I'll admit it made me a bit nervous).

Just as we were about to start our hike, we got our answer. A group of what looked to be about a dozen boy scout backpackers came down the trail. They were apparently picking them up (the van for the boys and the truck for all their gear).

We crossed the road and started hiking up the trail around 10:50am, just as the sun was starting to come out. The trail starts climbing immediately, through the forest. It levels off a bit, then climbs some more. Along the way, we had repeated encounters with meadows, wildflowers, and snowplants, along with a couple stream crossings.

Crossing a small meadow

Snow plant

Snow plants

Small stream crossing

As we climbed further, the views started to open up and we could just make out Huntington Lake above the tree tops to our left, far below (nearly 2000 feet below). Soon after that, we reached a trail intersection, with a trail coming in from the left below. This was the trail that came from the Potter Pass Cutoff trailhead. We reached the top of Potter Pass, about 600 feet above the trailhead. We stopped here for a break as we enjoyed the views of the meadow below us to the north.

Views leading up to Potter Pass

View of Huntington Lake

To the right was a faint unmarked trail that I would guess leads to Idaho Lake. A ranger had told me it's not maintained, so I don't know what shape it's in. From the map it looks like the lake is less than a mile away from the pass.

After our break, we continued along the trail downhill from the pass. Soon we made a left turn onto the Twin Lakes trail. To our right we had a view down to a nice meadow below that we'd skim the border of on the way back. We then reached Lower Twin Lake. It's small and not too inviting, so we didn't stay long.

View of meadow on the descent from Potter Pass

Heading toward Twin Lakes

Meadow to the right on the way to Twin Lakes

Lower Twin Lake

Lower Twin Lake

Continuing along the trail, just a few minutes later we reached much larger Upper Twin Lake, in a much more dramatic setting. There's a rock island in the middle, and the lake is backed by tall mountains. We could see small remnants of snow up on those mountains. To top it off, the sun was finally winning its battle with the clouds at this time.

Upper Twin Lake

Upper Twin Lake

Rock island in Upper Twin Lake

Snow on mountains above Upper Twin Lake

Flowers at Upper Twin Lake

Flowers at Upper Twin Lake

Upper Twin Lake

After a break of over an hour here, we started back onto the trail. At the same time, a group of backpackers (possibly another group of boy scouts) was reaching the lake, planning to camp here or at George Lake. These were the first people we'd seen since the trailhead.

We continued the Twin Lakes Loop, heading further downhill toward the meadow. We ran into two more day hikers coming in the opposite direction before we skirted the edge of the meadow, battling a few mosquitoes along the way. We also had to cross a couple small streams, but it was easy to do so.

Another small stream crossing

Corn lilies

Eventually we made a sharp right turn back onto the main trail, and shortly completed the small loop section of the hike, back at the intersection where we'd previously turned left to head toward the lakes. We now climbed uphill back up to Potter Pass, under the much warmer afternoon sun. We reached the pass just as a large group of backpackers reached the pass from the opposite direction.

From there, we descended back down to the parking lot, where there was still only 1 car in the lot. Despite all the people we'd seen on the hike, there were only 3 groups on the trail (and only 2 other day hikers).

More views on the way back after Potter Pass

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