This very popular summer hike and backpack becomes a big ski/snowshoe outing in the winter. Thus, on weekends at almost any time of the year, don’t expect solitude! That said, you’ll be hiking through old growth montane forest to a pair of mountain lakes that are backlit by the snowy peak of Mount Hood. The area is part of the 2009-designated Mt. Hood National Recreation Area, which makes it close to an official wilderness except that mountain bikes are permitted on the trails. If you don’t want to do the double loop around both lakes, it’s only a four-mile round trip to Lower Twin Lake, and you can add another mile to hike around it.
Access to the Pacific Crest Trail #2000 is to the left of the restrooms at the vast Frog Lake Sno-Park. Walk a few yards past a picnic table to a T-junction and go right under mountain hemlocks and silver firs shading a bear-grass carpet. The trail passes the Pacific Crest-Frog Lake Trail Junction, which leads right to Frog Lake. Keep straight in old growth hemlock and Douglas-fir forest with a few western white pines. The Pacific Crest Trail rises gradually and switchbacks at a large western hemlock. Then, continue to traverse upwards to a ridge with a huckleberry/rhododendron/bear-grass understory below tall mountain hemlocks, silver firs and noble firs. Here, reach the Pacific Crest-Twin Lakes Trail South Junction.
Take the Twin Lakes Trail #495 down to the right, passing a large noble fir. Blue diamonds indicate this is a cross-country ski trail. Descend the east side of a ridge and notice the waters of Lower Twin Lake sparkling below. From the Twin Lakes-Lower Twin Lake Trail Junction, descend to the lakeshore at an area of campsites. To circle the lake, one can follow the trail around the shore to the left. The trail undulates in the dry forest and comes to the Frog Lake Buttes-Lower Twin Lake Trail Junction. Continue to follow the trail around the south and west shores of the lake back to the campsite area. Take the spur trail up to the Twin Lakes-Lower Twin Lake Trail Junction and go right.
The trail traverses up and switchbacks, makes another rising traverse and switchbacks twice in mountain hemlock, noble fir, silver fir, and Douglas-fir forest. The path heads up past a trail sign and a talus slope with a view back to Lower Twin Lake. Then the tread drops to the shore of Upper Twin Lake and the Twin Lakes-Upper Twin Lake Trail South Junction. Mount Hood’s snowy peak rises above the lake shore woods. Go left here and follow the lake shore, passing a couple of camp sites. Come to the Twin Lakes-Upper Twin Lake Trail North Junction, from which the Twin Lakes Trail continues on to meet the Pacific Crest Trail. Keep along the lake shore, passing another campsite, and reach the Twin Lakes-Palmateer View Trail Junction. Stay close to the lake’s east shore and close the loop.
From here, retrace your steps back past Lower Twin Lake to the trailhead