Old Twin Peaks Trail

Date Hiked: 10-15-16

Mileage: 4.8 mi

Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): One or two.

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With three largely separate approaches to the summit, Twin Peaks is probably one of the most attainable trails in Ouray, but that doesn’t deter from the solitude.

Gaining all of its 2500+ feet of elevation in less than two miles, it is the shortest, and the most direct route. But in my experience, the old Twin Peaks trail doesn’t see nearly the traffic as the new trail or the Silvershield Approach do.

From Pinecrest and Queen Street, the old trail starts out on an easy climb along the Perimeter Trail towards Henn’s overlook. Wrapping westward, and just before the bridge over Oak Creek, an easy to miss sign at foot level signals the exit for Twin Peaks. Another sign posted to the trees heeds warning to a steep and dangerous trail. Don’t ignore that advice.

As the trail leaves Oak Creek, it navigates a harsh battlefield of loose terrain and steep dropoffs, 300-some log and rock made steps aiding in the ascent up a rocky gorge that feeds off from Oak Creek. .

In the mid-80s, a devastating rockslide tore through the mountainside, wiping the Twin Peaks trail out. After nearly two decades, and only through extensive trail work, the route was re-opened in 2004. Now more than ten years later, the trail is still holding up, thanks to 607 feet of cribbing put in place to stabilize it.

The fact that the route never strays from this unstable talus slope, real caution should be taken. This hike is truly an undertaking, but it’s the most rewarding.

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.7 miles from the Perimeter trail, the slope eases up at a four-way intersection with the Silvershield trail. To the left, the new Oak Creek trail meets with the old, while the right eventually leads to the Silvershield trailhead.

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Beyond the intersection, the Oak Creek trail flattens through an expansive field of aspen trees. Don’t let the tranquility fool you, this area is a minefield of deadfall. Keep your eyes and ears open for any subtle groaning above you, because I counted 4 or 5 massive trees that forced me to reroute, and a couple handfuls of smaller trunks that had fallen on or near the trail.

The climb stays relatively level for the next half mile before building again in one last push towards Sister Peak. At mile 2.1, the trail summits to the bald ridge connection Sister Peak to Twin Peaks.

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The view at Sister Peak.

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The Amphitheater and Ouray

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Practicing some class-3 climbing at Sister Peak.

Turning west, Twin Peaks lies just 1/3 of a mile uphill, with unbroken views to Ridgway, Ouray, Yankee Boy Basin, the Amphitheater, and every high peak within a five mile radius.

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A rainy day at Twin Peaks.

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Looking west towards the Amphitheater and Highway 550.

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Looking south towards Ridgway.

An alternate route makes a loop out of Twin Peaks and the Oak Creek overlook. Continue west along the ridge for 500 feet, then hoof it along a faint (and I mean almost nonexistent) trail through the woods. While this kind of hiking is where the real fun lies, it takes some very careful wayfinding, and a GPS is helpful. All in all, this option makes a 7.3 mile loop.

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This is about as good as the trail gets. I’m not even sure it’s human-made, but it took me all the way to the Oak Creek overlook.

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At the overlook, looking southeast towards highway 550.

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Looking west towards Whitehouse Mountain (the bald flattop peak just right of center) and the Oak Creek gorge.

Map

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Green is the Twin Peaks Trail. Cyan is the route over to the Oak Creek Overlook. And gray is the Oak Creek Trail.

Directions

From Ouray, take either 7th or 3rd across the river. Then from Oak Street, turn onto Queen Street. The trailhead is just a little bit further where the road ends at Pinecrest. There is a pullout for a couple cars at this point, otherwise park further down on Oak Street.

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