One of the most scenic – and also the most popular – hikes in the Mt. Hood National Forest is the beautiful Mirror Lake Trail. The small back-country lake, carved out centuries ago by glacial action, is nestled in the lush pine forests of the region; the well-graded trail that encircles it provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, ridges, and the glacier cirque headwall. At 2.9 miles round-trip, the hike is relatively easy for all ages and skill-levels, with 700 feet of elevation change over its duration and a max elevation of 4,100 feet.
Mirror Lake Hike
Easily accessible from a trailhead on Highway 26, hikers quickly leave the roadway behind as they descend into the glacial cirque valley that Mirror Lake Trail calls home. Carved in much the same way as scooper hollows out a block of ice cream, the steep slopes of the glacial headwall are visible to the south and southwest of the lake (the valley slope is much gentler in the other direction). Towering above this idyllic lake and the gentle hike are the pinnacles of Mount Hood and Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, each of which poses in picture-perfect fashion thanks to the clear mountain air and vibrant green forests adorning their slopes.
Getting to the Lake
The hike to the lake crosses Mirror Creek on a series of log bridges, leaving the dense forests for more open woodlands and then a series of switchbacks across a field of loose scree rocks. Far below you will glimpse Zigzag Valley. At the third log bridge you will reach the loop junction for the trail that encircles the lake at the 1.4 mile-mark; head to the left to enjoy the best picnic area on the lake’s eastern shore. After your pit stop, continue around the lake and through the marsh (crossed by a convenient boardwalk) to the southern end where you will enjoy beautiful views of Mt. Hood before completing the loop. Those in search of a more advanced hike can opt to go straight at the junction, which leads you to the Tom Dick and Harry Mountain Hike (considerably steeper and more advanced).
Because the trailhead is easily accessible, the Mirror Lake hike is quite popular – and quite crowded – on weekends. Be sure to park only in posted areas, otherwise you will be ticketed. The loop hike is perfect for families, including those with young children. Hikers of all abilities will enjoy the stunning panoramic views, the unique geology, and the pristine wilderness around this gorgeous lake.