Ashland & Twin Falls Lakes

A trip report for these lakes this past week reminded me that I have been meaning to make a return for years. A look showed that it had been one month short of 20 years since my first visit. A little longer that I thought. I did go to Upper Ashland Lake only about a dozen years ago. I pulled into the parking lot at 9:20 to find six cars already there. Now that was a surprise. This is not all that well known and it is still early season. The lot is small and I had to turn around and park on the shoulder. By 9:30 I was on my way.

The trail starts on an old road and it has a thick layer of sharp rocks on it. Skunk cabbage began immediately and never let up. The whole way I never went far without seeing more. It was past the peak down low but just coming out of the ground in some places higher up. An amazing display. Except for a few violets they were the only flowers but the sheer volume was terrific. There is one bench along the trail that is big enough for a group of a dozen.

The gravel road finally peters out and the route enters a long ago clear cut. Huge stumps and pretty big new growth. The boardwalks begin soon after. There is very little actual dirt on this trip. Gravel road followed by boardwalk. Some sections are several hundred feet long with a little dirt before the next one begins. In fairness, there is not a lot of elevation gain and a lot of flat wet ground. It may be over done but much of the boardwalks are useful in keeping the trail from becoming a muddy mire.

The old clear cut gives way to old growth. There are some big trees up there. A few near the trail were at least eight feet in diameter. I met one hiker already on his way down from a day trip. At the junction I went left to Beaver Plant Lake. It is just a few minutes away. There was one group camping and another day hiking. A nice little lake. Especially nice to sit down in the sun along the shore. It was already shorts and short sleeves weather.

Back at the junction I passed another group heading down. I had already accounted for four of the six cars. The climbing mostly ended as the trail proceeded flat then began a short drop to Upper Ashland Lake. This was a rare trip when I reached the upper lake before the lower. There is a trail around the lake but I chose to continue on the main trail. I met two folks sitting on a wooden platform along the shore enjoying the warm morning.

It did not take long to reach Lower Ashland Lake. I cruised along the shore and stepped up onto the outlet bridge for a look down the length of the lake. The sign said there was a loop trail around this lake too. The lower lake is the largest of the lakes I visited this day. The signs at the end of the lake are old and no longer point anywhere. I took the route that seemed to be heading towards Twin Falls Lake.

I did see a sign at the end of Lower Ashland stating the trail to Twin Falls Lake is closed. Knowing that another group hiked the trail earlier in the week I chose to check on the damage. The first thing I found is that a number of the 8 or 16 foot long boards laid lengthwise which make up the boardwalk are in bad shape. More than two dozen have broken in the middle. I broke one just walking on it. Not a problem when they are a few inches above the ground. More of a problem when several feet high. When one breaks you will fall to the ground. Fortunately, this far down the trail the boardwalks became less used. It's nearly all down hill from the Upper Ashland to Twin Falls Lake. Not a lot of elevation loss but a steady descent.

The trail is obvious enough though it requires a little searching in a few spots where it crosses rocks. There are half a dozen trees down across the trail though none were a problem. I crawled under several and over a few more. Near the lake the route crosses a steep slope on two bridges. Cables hold them in place and proved a hand rail. At least for the first one. The second one has broken right in the middle. One must drop steeply down about 8 feet and back up the other side. This is a bit of a scramble and not for many trail hikers. It is the reason for the closed trail sign.

A hundred feet farther I reached the bridge over the outlet. This is a big one high over the water. I had a peek at the falls and a few minutes later I reached the shore. The falls plunge into the lake over a cliff. One of the most interesting lakes I have visited. I heard voices and met a group of about five young men who had hiked in the previous day and camped at the lake. There were some small bugs but none that were biting. It was sunny, warm, with no mosquitoes. I love spring. I laid on a big log jutting out into the lake. My pack made a great pillow. I spent 40 minutes eating, resting, and taking photos and movies of the falls and lake. What a great spot.

I recalled slabs along the outlet creek and the other Twin Falls. On the way out I crossed the outlet and headed downhill. It's a little scramble alongside the falls to get a good view. Twin small falls drop then make a much longer plunge. I'd guess the lower falls is at least 150'. I don't know where you could see it. This was another good sunny place to sit down and enjoy the views and the roar of the falls.

From here it was almost all uphill to the Ashland Lakes. At the lower lake I chose to try the trail around the other side of the lake. It sounded like a good idea at the time... At first it was easy. It suckered me in until I was 2/3 of the way around. Then the forest gave way to brush. Dense brush. There was a trail through it though it was very overgrown. With shorts on I my legs were sliced and diced. Only a few devils club but some serious bushwhacking is required. The inlet creek took a little doing but I got across with dry feet. At long last I broke out of the brush and onto muddy ground. Well, it was a little better. The trail continued along the shore and I finally lost patience waiting to meet the trail and headed straight uphill. A few minutes later I reached the trail.

The rest of the way down was pretty easy. I did take a break at Upper Ashland Lake. When I reached the cars there were now 9 others. The road drops a short way to a junction with the Bear/Pinnacle Lakes road. I found another dozen cars there. I don't know if those folks headed to Ashland or parked a mile before the Pinnacle trailhead. The whole trip was about 9 miles with 1400' of gain according to my altimeter watch. I had not visited four lakes in one day in quite a while. I took 2 1/2 hours on the way up with many photo stops. I took just as long coming out with several stops plus an extra 25 minutes fighting my way around Lower Ashland Lake. All in all, a fine warm spring day on the trail. One final point. I found small huckleberries all along the route. At least here it is shaping up to be a great berry season.

Begins On Old Road
First Skunk Cabbage
Big Bench
First Boardwalk
Lone Skunk Cabbage
Beaver Plant Lake
A Little Snow Left
Upper Ashland Lake
More Skunk Cabbage
Unfurling Leaves
Many Broken Boards
Sketchy Trail
Tree Across Trail
More Logs Down
Suspended Bridge
Broken Bridge
Outlet Creek Bridge
Old Info Sign
Twin Falls Lake
Close Up Of Falls
View From Lunch Spot
Open Leaves
Top Of Lower Falls
Twin Smaller Falls
Scrambling Broken Bridge
Roots Over Rock
Bright Green Moss
Poking Through
Shoreline Cabbage
Bushwhacking Lower Lake
Inlet Skunk Cabbage
Brushy Trail
Different Boardwalk
Last Skunk Cabbage
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010