OverviewThe Stanford Rock-Twin Peaks loop is located on a popular trail network connecting West Tahoe neighborhoods with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Although the loop itself does not involve the PCT, this is a gateway to the back country of the Northern Sierra, with spectacular views of craggy peaks and scenic vistas including all encompassing views of Lake Tahoe.
If reaching the summits of Stanford Rock and the lower Stanford Rock overlook, as well as both of the Twin Peaks, then 14 miles and nearly 3,050' of elevation will be gained. Most of this is on trail, except for the final scramble up the Twin Peaks and a very brief boulder hop up Stanford Rock's true summit.
Since this is a loop, you can start at either the Ward Creek turnoff to Forest Service Road 15N3S or the Tahoe Rim Trail. The Forest Service Road crosses Ward Creek and climbs up to the ridge to Stanford Rock. Then continues on to Twin Peaks via a trail ending at the base of the scramble to Twin Peaks highest summit at 8,878'. The Tahoe Rim Trail starts as a dirt road that is relatively flat, and then heads up to the ridge about 0.8 miles from Twin Peaks at a little over 8,100'.
Either way, it is a great trip, with well-maintained trails and exquisite views. Although the forest will reduce views at lower elevations, the views higher up are well worth the effort.
It is highly recommended that this loop trail be done when snow has mostly melted. Although it gets hot in summer months, if there is a lot of snow, it is easy to lose the trail, and then easy to get lost. July through October are good times to hike here.
Getting ThereThere are two potential starting points on Ward Creek Avenue. Either at the Tahoe Rim Trail or at Forest Service Road 15N3S.
To get to Ward Creek Avenue, requires getting to Highway 89 near Tahoe City, CA. The road to Ward Creek Avenue is 2 miles south of Tahoe City, CA.
Here are directions from Reno, Nevada: Take Mount Rose Highway 431 to Incline Village. Continue west on Highway 28 to Highway 89 - the junction is in Tahoe City, CA. Take 89 south for 2 miles to Pineland Drive (on the right heading west). Follow Pineland for 0.4 miles and turn left on Twin Peaks Drive. After 200 yards, you run into Ward Creek Avenue. Take a right.
For the Forest Service Road 15N3S (Coordinates: 39.136322°N, 120.1805°W), head 1 mile up to an obvious turnout near the creek. There is a gate on the edge of the dirt parking area, with the Ward Creek behind it on the left side of the road.
For the Tahoe Rim Trail (Coordinates: 39.140402°N, 120.191732°W), head another 2/3rds of a mile past this turnout, to a dirt road that marks the Tahoe Rim Trail on the left side of the road. Park just west of the dirt road.
Route DescriptionIf starting at the lower trailhead - Forest Service Road 15N3S at 6,460', you cross Ward Creek via some rocks, and get back on the road. Continue up the road for a little over 3 1/2 miles, and you will be at a very nice overlook. It will seem like you are nearing the summit. Continue up the trail a little further and there is a road on the right side of the trail. It leads up to the summit rocks in about 5-10 minutes from the main trail. The summit of Stanford Rock is at 8,500'. Views are mostly blocked by trees. Head 1/8 of a mile north and you reach the slightly lower Stanford Rock overlook at 8,473'. Views are extraordinary, with Lake Tahoe and the Granite Chief Wilderness and many other miles of views in the distance.
Head back down to the main trail, heading west (not the way you came). The trail is kind of at a southern edge of the ridge, so not too hard to find. Continue on the trail (which goes up again briefly) but after another mile or so reaches a low point on the trail where there is a junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail. Note that before reaching the TRT junction the trail seems to meander a bit heading south, but this is the correct trail, so no need to worry. Once at the junction with the TRT continue west up the trail towards the base of Twin Peaks. Head straight up the class 2 slope, scrambling up boulders to the rocky summit. Twin Peaks looks a lot harder from a distance than it actually is. Once at the summit, you will see the lower lower summit at 8,858' to the west. Head to the saddle between the two Twin Peaks at about 8,790' and head up a class 3 climb to the top. The true summit is in the middle, but most people go a couple minutes further to the northern edge. It is pretty incredible up there.
To complete the loop, descend back to the Tahoe Rim Trail junction. Once at the junction it is 5 miles back to Ward Creek Avenue. En route, you pass a waterfall and cross a bridge over Ward Creek. The trail turns into a dirt road and parallels Ward Creek Avenue. It is another 2/3rds mile on the paved Ward Creek Avenue back to the trailhead.
If doing the reverse loop, start at the Tahoe Rim Trail parking area at about 6,550'. Head up to the ridge in about 5 miles and then follow the route described above to Twin Peaks. Go back to the TRT junction, but keep going east along the ridge towards Stanford Rock, then back to the Ward Creek crossing, just below Ward Creek Avenue. Take a left heading west, gaining 90' in 2/3rds mile back to the trailhead for the TRT.
Either route is 14 miles total if hitting all summits noted, with about 3050' of elevation gain.