The Twin Lakes Loop is an easy loop hike to two lakes on the slope of Mount Hood. Upper Twin Lake is a quiet, peaceful pond with a nice view of the mountain peak, while Lower Twin Lake features a rustic hike-in campground that’s popular in the summer months. The route is well-signed and well-maintained, and it also travels on the Pacific Crest Trail for a good distance — meaning if you’re hiking this in the mid / late summer you have a decent chance of meeting some thru-hikers along the way. Also be sure to keep an eye out for huckleberries and beargrass!
Place your federal lands pass on your car at the trailhead, use the restroom if you need to, and look for the clearly-marked trailhead in the northwest corner (ish) of the parking lot.
Very quickly, the trail is completely enveloped by new and old growth forest. Even on a warmer day, you may want to bring some layers with you because the shade can get very dense … but the canopy is lush and lovely for almost the entire trek.
The nice thing about all that cooling shade, though, is that it will help out with the elevation gain — which is still honestly pretty moderate but most noticeable toward the beginning.
At 1.3 miles, keep left to stay on the PCT and continue the route as described. But if you are just heading to Lower Twin Lake to camp or swim, you can take a right here instead and you’ll be lakeside in a handful of minutes (I like going clockwise on this loop to save the lakes for the end of the hike, especially as most of the scenery along the rest of the hike is going to look a little same-y).
The trail is pretty easy to follow and by the 2 mile mark you’ve done most of the elevation gain you’ll do on this route. If you find yourself settling into a nice cruising pace, enjoy it — this is some top-notch forest bathing right here!
After that 2 mile mark, the trail levels out a bit and makes a very gradual descent. At 3.1 miles, keep right to leave the PCT and join the northern section of the Twin Lakes Trail #495.
There’s a slight incline again as you make your way through a saddle near Bird Butte, and soon you’ll be at the shore of Upper Twin Lake.
Both lakes have faint trails that circle the shores, and if you’re in the mood to add a slightly longer, casual stroll to this section of the hike, it’s a great place to do that.
It’s worth noting that the only view of Mount Hood you can get from the lakes is from the south shore of Upper Twin Lake, which also just happens to be a most excellent spot to take a break for a snack or lunch or swim if the mood should so strike you.
Once you’re done here, head south on the Twin Lakes Trail. It’s about 0.8 mile to Lower Twin Lake on a trail lined with beautiful vine maples, stretching for sun underneath the coniferous canopy above.
There’s a short spur trail through the campground at about 7.8 miles, which will lead you to the lake shore. There are several clear sites for camping and an outhouse as well, if you need it. When I visited in the late summer, there were a few people floating or kayaking in the lake.
Spend as much time as you’d like here, then rejoin the Twin Lakes Trail #495 for a short incline before meeting up with the PCT and returning back to the trailhead.