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Hiking The Twins

Where's Waldo? About 1,950 below the north summit of The Twins.

As its name implies, The Twins is a two-peaked volcano that rises over Waldo Lake, the crystalline, ultra oligotrophic lake near the Willamette Pass. From viewpoints along the ridge to The Twins north summit, it's possible to see most of Waldo, something that's challenging because the lake stretches nearly seven miles long.

On a clear day, several other smaller, crisp blue lakes color the landscape, but even more impressive are views of the Cascades peaks — Mount Bachelor, the Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mount Jefferson. Other lakes and summits, including Maiden Peak and Diamond Peak, are among the sights from the neighboring, slightly higher, 7,362-foot south summit.

The Twins' two summits are about a quarter-mile apart, separated by a grassy meadow in what was the mountain's summit crater. Although the trail formally ends at the north summit, a well-established, easily visible path dips to the crater before zig-zagging up to the south summit. It looks intimidating, but it's worth the effort.

Hiking to The Twins is also worth the effort. The official round-trip distance to the north summit is 6.6 miles with a 1,600-foot elevation gain. Visiting the south summit adds another half-mile.

The Twins is an easier alternative than hiking up Maiden Peak, a 7,818-foot mountain that also overlooks Waldo. The Maiden Peak Trail requires a far longer hike, about 11 miles one way.

Reaching the Twins trailhead is easy. It's about three miles west of Willamette Pass and the Willamette Ski area to paved Road 5897, which leads to Waldo Lake. Before reaching the lake, about six miles, is the signed Twin Peaks trailhead. The initial 1½ miles gradually climbs through lodgepole pine and mountain hemlock forests to an intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail, where the grade steepens, passing near some small tarns. Shortly after a junction with the Charlton Lake Trail, the graded trail turns to crumbly, slippery cinder as it steeply grinds its way uphill.

Approaching the rim, the trail improves, as do the sights, including amazingly contorted, gnarly whitebark pines. Openings through the trees reveal Waldo, Oregon's second-deepest lake — 490 feet compared to 1,943 at Crater Lake.

Like Crater Lake, Waldo is extremely clear, or ultra oligotrophic, because of its lack of organic material. Again like Crater Lake, Waldo was stocked with fish until 1990 when the practice was halted to protect its clarity. Originally called Pengra Lake after Byron Pengra, an early railroad booster, its name was changed to Waldo to honor John B. Waldo, an Oregon Supreme Court judge who explored the Cascades from Central Oregon into far Northern California and spearheaded efforts that led to establishing the Cascades Forest Reserve in 1893.

Where's Waldo? From atop The Twins, it's a sight for soar eyes.

— Lee Juillerat has been writing about outdoor adventures in Southern Oregon and elsewhere for more than 30 years. He is also a regular contributor to the outdoor-travel website High On Adventure at www.highonadventure.com. He can be contacted at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.


A well-worn, unofficial trail connects the north Twin with the South Twin. Photo by Lee Juillerat
Fraggled whitebark pines near the summit of The Twins. Photo by Lee Juillerat