North Twin Cone Peak (12,323’), South Twin Cone Peak (12,340’) and Mount Blaine (12,303') make up a gentle conglomerate of summits that reside in the Platte River Mountain Range. This small range essentially runs parallel with US 285 from Bailey to Kenosha Pass. All three summits are in Park County and the Pike National Forest, although South Twin Cone and Mount Blaine are also located in the Lost Creek Wilderness. All three peaks are approximately three to four miles due east of Kenosha Pass
Traveling north on US 285 near Jefferson, a wonderful vantage point appears for viewing these summits. Ahead, and to the right of the highway, a row of peaks emerge in an east to west direction just making it past the timberline. North and South Twin Cone Peaks, of course, are the gentle cone shape crests at the western edge of this mountain range. Taking into consideration all of Colorado’s ranges, the summits in this particular collection are relatively low in elevation with the highest point being South Twin Cone Peak at a whopping 12,340’. An advantage about this area is its close proximity to Denver and Colorado Springs, but a drawback is the limited trails that lead to North and South Twin Cone summits.
As some of you may already know, North Twin Cone Peak actually has a fairly difficult 4WD road all the way to the summit. You may be asking, “Why complete this peak when I can drive up.” The reasons to contest this peak is for it’s wonderful winter hike or snowshoe. Also, the view from the top is breathtaking, even the Southern part of Sawatch Range is visible. The trail is easy to follow since it’s a road, plus the gentle slopes on this hike are less prone to avalanche. Finally, the majority of the hike is up a south facing slope so you will get the benefit of the sun all day long. A long and strenuous day in the winter will emerge if your starting point is at the first gate. A suggestion is to try and make it the second gate to park, but this jaunt can also be daunting in the winter. If you prefer solitude, bypass the area after the spring snow melt, since it’s a popular area for 4WD and ATV enthusiast. During the winter, you will have the entire area to yourself.
From the first gate, at 10,000’, hike 1 ½ miles to a second gate,10,300’. Please close both gates behind you and hike this road up it’s numerous switchbacks. Pass the "adopt a trail" sign at 10,900’ and continue to a camping area at 11,100’. To the right, at a series of rocks, the first glimpse of South Twin Cone Peak appears and is an excellent viewing area. Continue on this road and even losing some elevation for a mile and a half until the road veers in a northerly direction and approaches the sign, “4WD vehicles only beyond this point”. From here the road concludes its final 1,100 foot climb to the summit. This section of the road is hard to maneuver in the winter, but that ok you will need to leave it anyway, North Twin Cone Peak is visible, from the front, with a small communication shelter on the top. Hike or snowshoe to the ridge that extends down the south side of the summit. More than likely this area will be snow free. Once on the ridge, continue up to the tundra of the summit. If attaining other peaks is your desire, Mount Blaine (12,303’) is an additional mile walk and 220’ of elevation gain to the north-east, and South Twin Cone Peak is also an additional mile and 300’ of gain south of Blaine. A possible descent of the South Peak is down the south-west face and back to the road. If this is not an option, make your way back to the North peak and then descend.
From the first gate (10,000’) to the North summit (12,323) the day entails 12 miles RT with a 2,500 vertical and includes a 200’ increase on the way back. Starting at the second gate will cut off three miles on the day. If South Twin Cone Peak and Mount Blaine are desired then add an additional four miles and 500’ of gain.
As for National Forest campgrounds the closest is Kenosha Pass CG right on the pass. It has 25 sites and is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There are a few camp spots along the road, but one in particular is a prime spot. It’s one of those few spots in Colorado that if you wanted to go camping with friends or family this spot would pop up in your mind first, the views from here are incredible. A 4wd or a backpack trip is required to get to this place, and is at 11,000’. I’m sure this spot is used frequently in the summer.
Here are a few images from the campsite with the viewpoint.