Twin Peaks: The Snow Makes a World of Difference

Date Hiked: 12-12-16

Mileage: 4.8 mi

Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 0 hikers

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For a better look at the route, click here.

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Leaving the parking lot, the trail doesn’t take long to find elevation. At about eight-thousand feet, as the route turns towards the Oak Creek Gorge, the trees clear to your first bird’s-eye view of Ouray and the Amphitheater.

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Ouray Ice Park: the first of it’s kind.


Heed the warnings. This trail isn’t a walk in the park. Far from it, in fact.2s

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It takes a while for the snow to stick to the sunny lower elevations. But don’t let that fool you. The upper half of the trail would have been miserable without snowshoes.

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The upper extremes of the Old Twin Peaks trail.


Looking down on the mouth of the Million Dollar Highway and Abrams Mountain from about halfway up the gorge, a few hundred feet shy of nine-thousand feet:3s.JPG3


During the snow-free months of the year, this section of the trail offers a nice respite before the coming workout. But come wintertime, the snow keeps your legs pumping hard – especially when breaking trail.

This trail can be faint, and sometimes even hard to follow during its better months, so with the snow cover here to stay, some level of familiarity of the area is a must. Even though I had my GPS on me, I was still having some difficulties keeping track of the correct route.4-0-34w


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Snow settling in over the Amphitheater.


It’s not that I want to meet a bear or a mountain lion alone on the trail, but nothing can compare to witnessing a wild animal, not behind a cage or the scope of a gun, but free in the wild, the way it’s meant to be. That thrill of discovery is the most exciting part of hiking to me. It’s my greatest fear, too.

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Panning across the Amphitheater, Abram’s Mountain and Yankee Boy Basin from Sister Peak, just three-tenths of a mile from the summit of Twin Peaks:oak-creek-2-37w.jpg

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The Hayden Mountain ridgeline. Point 12,578 on the left and Hayden Mountain North on the right. The true summit of Hayden Mountain lies just out of sight on the right.


The remainder of the trail follows this ridge connecting Sister Peak to Twin Peaks:8-29w


Going by the 14ers classifications, climbing to the summit during the summer is an easy class-two affair. But during the winter, with every handhold and foothold snowed in, the exposure and ice make for a class-three adventure . It was a good chance to practice my kick-step technique on the climb up, but an ice axe would have been beneficial with the downclimb.9-1

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This is where things start to get difficult.


Ridgeway, Highway 550, and Grand Mesa in the far distance:9-2

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The climb from the summit. It’s much steeper than it looks, and the rocks become very icy.


Ouray from the summit. Framed by the Amphitheater and Cascade Mountain, this may be my favorite view of town:10s10w


Upper Oak Creek Gorge with Whitehouse Mountain taking center stage:11s11w-1

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Courthouse Mountain and Chimney Rock.

TRAIL MAP

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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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