The Twin Pillars Trail is a hidden gem in the Mill Creek Wilderness with spectacular views of unique stone monuments. In the 1990s, fires burned through the thick forests carpeting the area, which is now steadily recovering with new growth. Some places remain free from trees, but much of the hike winds through forests with full tree cover. The trail becomes more exposed as you approach the Twin Pillars, the majestic towering rhyolite formation for which the trail is named. The upside of the fire damage is that it made this monument even easier to see and photograph as you approach it. Among the wildflowers that grow here are purple shrubby penstemon and checkermallow, white snowbrush and American bistort, and yellow sagebrush agoseris. Other noteworthy sights along the trail include distant peaks of the Cascades and the cliffs of Desolation Canyon.
There are trailheads on either end of this trail, allowing you and your pup to hike it either as an 8.3-mile point-to-point trail, or as an out-and-back trail for a total of 16.6 miles. Of course, you can hike to any point in the trail and back to match your hike to time and energy constraints. Plan and prepare accordingly! The southern trailhead shares a parking lot with the Wildcat Campground and includes vault toilets and running water. The northern trailhead shares a parking lot with the Bingham Spring Campground and has a single vault toilet and no running water. The northern trailhead is closer to the Twin Pillars, which still require a six-mile hike to reach. Note that there are fees to camp at Wildcat Campground, but that Bingham Spring Campground is free. Most of the trail is devoid of amenities, though, so come prepared with water and clean up bags.
The challenges of this hike are many. In addition to taking on a longer trail with significant elevation gain and steep sections, prepare to navigate around downed trees and over streams. Your rewards for embracing the challenge will be the spectacular scenery and relative solitude you'll enjoy on this surprisingly lesser-known hike. As you make your way along the Twin Pillars Trail, take time to pause and contemplate the resilience of nature and the hopeful signs of new growth you see everywhere. The time you spend with your favorite four-legged companion here will send you both home with a refreshed spirit.