Twin Lakes


Forest Service Trail #383

Why? Scenery

Season: Late June through October.

Ease: Moderate. It’s about 4 miles via the connector and trail to a view of Twin Lakes, with about 400 feet in elevation gain and 800 feet of loss.

I’ve only hiked a couple miles down the trail from Square Mountain toward Johns Creek, but even that short distance was worth the effort for the scenery. I didn’t go farther because that meant either hiking down off the trail to Twin Lakes or continuing down hill toward John’s Creek. Neither was in my plans for the outing, for I was after a short, relatively easy trail near the long hikes I’d done the two days before.

Getting to the John’s Creek trail necessitates either almost 2 miles of connector trail #384, or a steep drop down a shortcut and another ¾ mile more. But once that’s done, there are almost instantaneous views. First, there’s the high, rocky Buffalo Hump to Elk Butte portion of the wilderness on the right. On the left, there’s a dramatic rocky cliff that’s part of a short ridge jutting north from Square Mountain. Past that ridge and farther west, the Gospel Peak and Hill area is in view, as is a small piece of the patchwork that is the prairie beyond the wilderness.

The views do stop when the trail plunges down a hill into the trees and toward a side trail to Twin Lakes. Just before that side trail there’s a flat area. If you climb the rock pile on the right at the end of the flat area, the lakes are visible. That was as far as I went that day, and it made for a fine, short day hike.

Trail Notes: There is a shortcut to the #383 trail, so to speak, that omits it’s first mile or so. I don’t really recommend it, but since you’ll probably see it, here it is. The shortcut drops precipitously off the ridge about 50 yards from the Square Mountain lookout. It stays steep until it picks up the main trail at a rock cairn you’ll need to remember to spot on your way back.

If you take the shortcut, be sure to check out the scenery in the Square Mt. Lake drainage.

If you take the regular trail, as I recommend, there also are nice views at its beginning into the Anchor Creek drainage and toward Sheep Mountain and the saddle below it.

Directions: Turn right on Road 221 after driving through Grangeville, then go straight on the same road about 1 mile later at the drive-in-movie screen. Stay on 221 for 41.2 miles, turning left before milepost 30 to the Gospel Hump. This road ends 14 miles later at the Square Mountain Lookout.
The trailhead for trail #383 is 1.1 miles back down the road from the lookout. (It’s on the right going up, signed for John’s Creek and Buffalo Hump.)

Information: Nez Perce National Forest, (208) 983-1950.

Maps: USGS Marble Butte and Sourdough Peak, Idaho (the Twin Lakes actually are on both maps, one on each; Marble Butte covers almost all of the hike above); Forest Service Gospel Hump Wilderness Map.