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Stories from the valley

Twin Lakes: A Beautiful Destination on the Edge of Desolation Wilderness

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Tucked away on the edge of Desolation Wilderness out of Wrights Lake are the Twin Lakes. This is one of the few day hikes available in Desolation Wilderness and is very rewarding for the effort.

To start your adventure, take Highway 50 to Wrights Lake Road about 35 miles east of Placerville. After turning left, you will climb and travel about 10 miles on a twisty mountain road, enjoying a beautiful view of the American River Valley below. 

hikers inspecting a trail map

When you arrive at the Wrights Lake recreation area, turn right at the kiosk and follow the road all the way to the parking area at the trailhead. A wilderness permit is usually required to enter the wilderness area, but it’s currently being waived for day hikers during the pandemic. If you’re planning on staying overnight, you will need to get a wilderness permit online by clicking here

Starting from the trailhead, you pass through a mixed forest with some great views of Wrights Lake. You will soon start gently climbing. The trail easy to follow, however, don’t get lax. After about 1.5 miles, you will come to a split in the trail. Take the left fork to Twin Lakes. The right fork goes to Grouse Lake, which is a good destination—and the subject of a future blog.

hikers resting on rocks and logs at a lake side

Quickly, you will start traveling over granite surfaces where the trail becomes a bit harder to follow. Looking for worn places and strategically placed cairns will help keep you on the right track. As you look around, you’ll notice lots of evidence of glacial polish.

You will see the valley in which the Twin Lakes are nestled as you climb. Soon the pleasant sound of rushing water and views of cascades in the creek that drains Twin Lakes will be evident. The trail will level out, lead you over some delightful stepping stones, and then deposit you on the shore of lower Twin Lake. For folks with more energy, there’s a trail around the Twin Lakes up to Island Lake, about another mile.

The trip back is all downhill, with great views of the western slope of the Sierra. On a clear day, you can Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area. 

little waterfall over rocks along hiking trail

I have found this to be a delightful hike, one of my favorites in the region. I especially enjoy the peacefulness of the lakes and the cascades in the creek at the upper end of the trail. The total distance is six to seven miles, depending on where you stop on the lakes, and the elevation gain is 1,200 feet.

For more information click here. The parking lot fills up quickly, so make sure you arrive early. Also, there is currently construction on the Wrights Lake Road, so expect some delays. Sturdy hiking shoes and water are recommended. And always check the weather and be on the lookout for thunderstorms.

I hope you have a wonderful time.