Take a nice long walk up the old Monte Cristo Road grade and stop by the townsite on your way. Rougher terrain begins on entering the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness area, and past Silver Lake, the trail becomes difficult to find. Trek along a steep mountain-side before finally cresting the ridge to look down on Twin Lakes and make the steep descent to the campsites.
Start the trip at Barlow Pass, following the old railroad grade to the Monte Cristo Townsite. This now-closed gravel road only gains about 500 feet over 4.1 miles as it meanders along the South Fork Sauk River, so this first part of the trip is a gentle warm-up for the rugged terrain past Monte Cristo.
At the townsite, cross the field and picnic area to find an informational billboard about Silver and Twin Lakes. To the left across the river, the main Monte Cristo interpretive site continues, but go straight past the billboard to head toward the lakes. Make your way around the farthest building to the back of the townsite and follow the trail up and to the right.
The next 1.9 miles and 1500 feet of elevation gain are a steep ascent to Poodle Dog Pass, but at this point the trail is still in good condition. On the way up, you’ll be rewarded with views of spire-like Wilmans Peaks and the surrounding ridges as you climb higher. At Poodle Dog Pass, turn right for a 0.4 mile detour to Silver Lake or continue up and to the left toward Twin Lakes.
The trail narrows here, and much of the next 1.9 miles is rough terrain with a minimalistic trail. As the footpath crests the ridge overlooking Seventy-six Gulch, the route becomes difficult to find. Heading toward towering Columbia Peak, the trail hugs the North-Eastern edge of the ridge for the next half mile or so before crossing back to the South-Western side of the ridge at the junction with the Columbia Peak climbing route. From here, Twin Lakes are just around the bend.
Looking down on them, Twin Lakes seem closer than they are. From this vantage point, the campsites on the lake shore are still 500 feet down and a half mile away, and this last trek is almost steep enough to be a scramble in places. However, the descent (and ascent later) is well worth the lovely camping spots below. From the shore, Columbia Peak and its ridgeline tower above to the East, and the unnamed peaks and ridge across the Lake to the West peek out from across the valley.
WTA Pro Tip: Be sure to fill up water before you leave! The water below and at Monte Cristo is contaminated with Arsenic exposed during early mining in the area, so the first water source is a stream about a mile beyond the Monte Cristo Townsite. Farther up, the water from Silver and Twin Lakes is most likely safe to drink as well. However, if you’re concerned about it, just plan to pack in all the water you’ll need, to be on the safe side.