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Hike to Twin Peaks via PCT

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

We headed down Hwy 89 to Barker Pass Road on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, winding through leftover fall colors, and drove up to Barker Pass Trailhead on the Pacific Crest Trail. (PCT).




My current season's hiking shoes were ready to be retired to everyday shoes, and I had worn my brand-new shoes for this hike. After several seasons hiking in Hoka trail running shoes, I've had really good luck with not having to break them in, but I was a little bit nervous about going on a 11.5-mile hike as the first outing in new shoes. (Turns out, I had zero issues.)


It was a beautiful, sunny, blue sky fall day, but not overly warm. While grabbing our gear and heading toward the trail, unexpectedly, a chilly wind gusted, and I was glad I brought layers.


Not long into the hike, however, the wind subsided and it was quite pleasant hiking weather. In no time, I was working up a sweat as we quickly ascended about 600 ft. in the first 30 minutes, then descended about 500 ft. before tackling the final 1,200-ft. ascent leading up to the rocky peak. In all, the hike totaled over 2,100 ft. of vertical gain.


We saw very few people on the trail today: Six hikers and two dogs on our way in, and three hikers on our way back to the trailhead. Oh, and one mountain biker. More about that later.


Even early on, the views along the way were awesome.




I imagine earlier this summer, this spot was a sea of yellow flowers bloomed by mule's ears.


We even came upon several small water crossings on this hike, with running water, and a few lingering wildflowers, both of which are pretty impressive in the Sierra in the middle of October.


Asters still hanging on beside a trickling creek.
Asters still hanging on beside a trickling creek.

Queen Anne's lace.
Queen Anne's lace.

Checker bloom
Checker bloom.

In addition to seeing all the late-season wildflowers, we also noticed numerous spotted tussock moth caterpillars on the trail.


Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar.

Did I mention the views were awesome?



The trail terrain ranged from dirt to slightly muddy to rocky, and really rocky at the peak.





We saw lots of giant trees surrounding the trail, many of them coated in neon lichen.






Nature is full of resilience and adaptation!


About 45 minutes into the hike, maybe around mile 2 of ascending, the trail opened up and revealed a rocky crag out on a point facing Lake Tahoe. Awesome panoramic views from here.






After wandering out on this spur to the crag, the trail started its descent before we would reach the final section of trail that leads to Twin Peaks and start climbing once again.






We could finally spot our destination in the distance.

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks.




Once we crossed into Granite Chief Wilderness, we started to catch up to a lone mountain biker, slowly walking his bike on the trail. I looked at my husband and said, "Doesn't he know that bikes are not allowed on this trail? There are several trail signs that indicate this."


We were puzzled and admittedly slightly annoyed. As we got closer, we could tell he was talking on his phone and his body language suggested he didn't know where he was going.


Once he realized we were coming up on him, he turned around and expelled an audible sigh of relief as he told his friend on the phone that "two hikers just showed up."


"Do you know how I can get to Sunnyside from here?"


The middle-aged man explained that he was lost, was a novice mountain biker, and was trying to get to Sunnyside (in Tahoe City) to meet his friends. Lucky for him, my husband knows the trails pretty well and was able to show him the route on a map on his phone.


"Man, as I was walking along, lost, I asked God to send someone to help me find my way and then you two show up."


The biker accompanied us a short distance until we reached the trail intersection where he would start to ride again and head down into Tahoe City. He thanked us and off he went. Hopefully, he found his way.


We eventually reached our trail intersection that would be the final ascent up to Twin Peaks. It was steep, it was rocky, and presented an undefined trail near the end, which is not my favorite scenario.



After hiking up to this brief overlook stop, the trail got substantially harder and sketchier.



We were headed to the top of that rock pile at the peak. And I honestly wasn't sure if we would make it all the way.



But, we started bouldering.


It was not easy and paying close attention to your footing and verifying the stability of each rock you used was paramount. I was thinking how glad I was to have worn my new shoes today with their grippy tread at its peak stickiness.


When we had about 100 more feet to boulder to the top, we paused and had some snacks before proceeding. At this point, we'd been hiking for about 2.5 hours. Because the remaining 100 feet was so steep, we decided it was best to leave our packs at our snack spot and climb the remaining ascent without them.


To be honest, I almost bowed out. I looked up at the massive pile of boulders above us, did the math, factoring in how short my legs are, and I wondered if summiting was worth the risk. Of course, my husband talked me into proceeding, and we just took it one boulder at a time, each navigating our own routes up.



We finally made it to the top and I could breathe my own sigh of relief.


At the top was a survey marker implanted into one of the boulders, as well as a green ammunition box. We opened it and found loads of notes and trinkets, including a small notepad where other hikers (likely PCT thru-hikers) signed in. Even though we were just in it for a day hike, we signed it anyway.



Oh, and did I mention the views were awesome?


West shore of Lake Tahoe from Twin Peaks.
West shore of Lake Tahoe from Twin Peaks.





It was windy at the top and we didn't linger too long, as we'd start losing daylight and temperature quickly.


Going up was one thing. Now, we had to find our way safely back down the steep boulders to retrieve our packs. One boulder at a time, we slowly and carefully descended. I was glad when that part was over.


In the end, our sixth mile took us over an hour to complete.


I could feel the temperature starting to drop as I hurriedly hiked along, descending, followed by another section of ascending, and closing out with a final section descending to the trailhead. Even though I was working hard and building up a sweat, I paused to add my outermost layer to maintain a more comfortable temperature as the sun sank lower in the sky. I also grabbed a bar out of my pack to snack on.


After over 11 miles, I was famished and in a hurry to return to the Jeep at the trailhead.


If I had to compare the hike to Twin Peaks to another hike, I would say it's like a combination of Rifle Peak, Castle Peak, and Mt. Tallac, only longer: Challenging, rewarding, and amazing views.




Twin Peaks

Total Distance

11.56 mi

Total Time

5:19:54

Total Ascent

2,106 ft

Max Elevation

8,897 ft


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-Brianna

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