A quick, easy, and accessible hike featuring breathtaking views of Mount Hood, Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular and well-traveled trails in Oregon. The trailhead is right off Highway 26, just a few miles away from Mount Hood. Mirror Lake Trail leads up through the woods to a small lake and a photographic view of Mount Hood. If you’re lucky and the light is right, the lake will provide a perfect “mirrored” reflection of Mount Hood, with the actual view directly above. For further adventure, you can either spend the night camping near the lake, or you can extend the hike up through the Tom Dick and Harry Mountain Hike--a hike that begins following Mirror Lake and then extends up the Tom Dick and Harry foothill. Both these trails, Tom Dick and Harry and Mirror Lake, share a new trailhead since 2018 that provides more parking and public restrooms. The trail was also worked on during this time, providing an easy hike with low elevation gain and a wide, well maintained trail. In winter, Mirror Lake is a popular place for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
Mirror Lake Trail is extremely popular, so while there are no fees involved with the hike, it’s important to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon so that you can get a parking spot, or if you prefer solitude.
Once you’ve parked, follow the paved trail down a series of six switchbacks until you cross a small creek. Here the dirt trail begins to climb into the thick forest. The trail straightens out from here as you begin ascending into the woods. Slowly the sounds of the highway will fade as the trees grow denser. The trail was built by machine, so the ground is smooth and the elevation is gentle. As you move up, the trail will cover several footbridges as you experience the secondary forest of tall Douglas-firs, western hemlock, silver fir, noble fir, and western red-cedar trees. After the trail straightens out, you will do a final section of switchbacks before coming up on the small lake. Please respect the trail, and do not cut through the switchbacks!
The trail then comes up on Mirror Lake. There are camping sites for those doing an overnight, and you can explore the area at your leisure. Most often hikers turn left and walk around the lake counter-clockwise. There are many spots on the shore just off the looping trail that provide postcard views. When you come upon the wooden boardwalk next to the lake, make sure to take a moment to appreciate the view of Mount Hood. If you continue around the lake, you will find a few spots on the shore perfect for a late afternoon picnic. If you go during the fall or early spring, before the crowds get big, you might be able to claim one of these prime locations for an overnight camping spot. If they’re all taken, you can move up the trail and away from the lake, where you’ll find a signpost that points you left toward the Tom Dick and Harry Trail. You’ll find a series of camping spots right off the main trail here, or if you’d like to extend your hike you can do so. Otherwise, stay right at the signpost to finish looping around the lake and head back down the trail the way you came. Most day hikers complete the trail leisurely within two hours.
Trail reviews dating as far back in The Oregonian as 1934 prove that this hike has always been popular. Because of the lake’s proximity to Mt. Hood, maps from as early as the 1920’s show trails accessing the lake.
The Sherar Burn of the early 1900’s burned much of the forest around Mirror Lake, and the area was soon covered by huckleberry and fields of beargrass. After, an early trail to Mirror Lake was constructed in the 1920s, until highway development cut through the trail. In 1931 another forest fire burned through the area, again clearing out many of the trees. By the 1950’s, there was a pull-off trailhead, offering easy access. The trail has since recovered, and now is a secondary growth forest full of tall Douglas-firs, western hemlock, silver fir, noble fir, and western red-cedar trees.
By 2018, the popularity of the trail demanded a new trailhead with proper parking and restrooms. While the trail’s popularity has required balance with environmental concerns, the new trailhead shows continued trail development pushed by both popularity and environmental needs as the forest area develops.