Twin Sisters West

Page Type
Colorado, United States, North America
San Juan
Hiking, Mountaineering
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
13374 ft / 4076 m
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Twin Sisters West
Created On: Oct 1, 2016
Last Edited On: Oct 2, 2016


Twin Sisters
Twin Sisters from V 5 - the closer one is East, and on the right is West
Twin Sisters West
is a ranked 13er, usually climbed together with its twin - Twin Sisters East, located in the San Juan Mountains, near the historic town of Silverton. Some people climb only Twin Sisters East because it is higher and easier to approach. Twins sisters are usually approached from South Mineral Creek. The views from its summit are spectacular. Expect some scree and talus higher up, but not real technical difficulties. 

Guide to the Colorado Mountains with Robert Ormes (sort of a bible of Colorado Mountains) briefly mentions: "Twins Sisters on the opposite side of the valley (from Rolling Mountain), is guarded with cliffs here and there and booby trapped with frustrating pockets of scree. It is perhaps more easily climbed by way of its southwest ridge above Colorado Trail."

Colorado Rank: 341

Parent Lineage: Twin Sisters, East

Saddle between the sisters: 12,980 feet

Class: 2

Nearby Mountains

Getting There

From the town of Silverton drive north on US 550 (Million Dollar Highway) and in a little over 2 miles turn west onto FR585, well signed for South Mineral Creek campground. If coming from Ouray, drive south on US 550 over Red Mountain Pass and watch for this turn off on the west side of the road before reaching Silverton. Take a sharp turn onto a graded dirt road all the way to the campground, about 4.7 miles. The road is passable by passenger cars. Some people may choose to park here, but if you have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive further on a dirt road which turns west and then south past the South Mineral Campground for another 1.6 miles. This section of the road is much rougher and does require 4WD with high clearance. Park along the road at a large open meadow at 10,640 feet. Don't drive all the way to the end of this road, which would be Rico-Silverton TH (great for Rolling Mountain). 


Hardrock Trail
Hardrock Trail
Hardrock trail
Hardrock trail
Beattie and Fuller Peaks
Beattie and Fuller Peaks
As any mountain there are many ways to get up.
I will describe my approach, which I found scenic, using a trail and trying to avoid scree, but this is not the shortest way. Climb13ers (link below) describes a shorter alternative, but negotiating with more scree a talus, also sounds like a steeper way. Basically, I started at the west side of Twin Sisters East, used the "Hardrock Trail" to walk around Twin Sisters East north side and gained the high country on the east side of Twin Sisters East slopes. Continued south to gain the saddle. 

From the place where you park your car along the 4WD road (limited parking) try to find the unmarked trail on most maps. This will safe you a lot of energy and scree hiking. The trail as mentioned is not marked on most maps, but is in excellent condition. It is a part of Hardrock 100 mile Mountain Run - popular race out of Silverton, Colorado. It does show on The Mountains of Silverton, Telluride and Ouray map by Drake Mountain Maps. 
About 1 mile back from the Rico-Silverton TH, or ~ 1.6 miles from South Mineral Creek Campground, look for a small cairn on the site of the road. The trail leads down to the creek, loosing about 100 feet and then begins climbing on the other side. Above the creek the trail follows along the forest edge and begins climbing steeply along the north edge of a steep, shallow gully with no water. There are series of switchbacks and the trail is pretty steep here - poor Hardrock runners. Around 11,200 feet, the trail moderates some and begins to contour more, winding through forest and bringing you out into a clearing at the foot of a great, rock glacier. This section of the trail is really pretty. Follow the trail down some to the east, crossing a flower filled basin with some water and then contour through through more forest to a crossing of Porcupine Creek. There are interesting boulders covered with moss and many cairns along the road - I am assuming Hardrock watchers building those. 
On the other side of Porcupine Creek, the trail climbs east, then south through a field of gorgers flowers during the summer. The trail climbs through a switchback into a small level area with some waterfalls, ascends another rock band and emerges at another large, level meadow. From here, head for the pass at 12,200 feet on the eastern flank of Twin Sisters East. Basically, you are completely walking around Twin Sisters, East. 

From the pass you can walk over tundra with some ponds towards an unnamed lake on the eastern flanks of Twin Sisters East. You can either first ascend up the slopes of Twin Sisters East, initially over tundra, then more scree, nothing more than class 2 hiking, or you can choose my approach. I continued south over the tundra along the eastern slopes of Twin Sisters, East until I could see an approach to the saddle between Twin Sisters East and West. Going up to the saddle involved a lot of scree hiking, but it went pretty fast. Once at the saddle between the Twin Sisters, I ascended the the ridge up Twin Sisters West - easy, and then descended the same ridge and ascended Twin Sisters East and walked over the summit and descended towards and slightly north of the unnamed lake and return to the Hardrock trail and back to my vehicle. 

The summit has a cairn with a sign in register. The views are outstanding, especially Rolling Mountain looks very dramatic. To the south get a great view of Engineer Mountain B, then as you turn towards the west, you see Grizzly Peak B, Rolling Mountain, San Miguel, Wilson massif in the back, Beattie Peak, Fuller Peak (Vermillion is sort of hiding behind Fuller), Golden Horn, further north Ulysses Grant with V 4 look impressive. And as you continue to turn, more and more peaks, even all the way to Mount Sneffels. The views east over Grenadier and Needles are impressive as well. 
Twin Sisters East
Twin Sisters East false summit as seen from the approach

Twin Sisters West
Twin Sisters West - view from its east side, and you can almost see the saddle

Twin Sisters East
Twin Sisters West as seen from the summit of Twin Sisters  East

Up Twin Sisters West
Up Twin Sisters West

Twin Sister East
Twin Sister West summit with a view of Twin Sisters East

Twin Sister West summit
Twin Sister West summit cairn and register
Engineer Mountain
Engineer Mountain
Vermilion group
Vermilion group

Red Tape

There is no red tape. Driving 4 WD roads is free. Passenger cars can make it without difficulties to South Mineral Campground. The 4WD road from here requires high clearance 4WD vehicle. 
Hiking is free. 

When to Climb

Summer is obviously the easiest since the roads are open. Winter is possible, but count on a long approach through avalanche prone terrain. Check avalanche conditions prior venturing out in the winter - here


There are plenty of camping opportunities on your drive in along FR585 - some in developed campgrounds, and some primitive back country camping without a charge.
South Mineral Campground - no reservations, vault toilets, popular destination