The Trillium Lake Loop Trail goes around the eponymous lake in the heart of the Mount Hood National Forest. With very little elevation gain and boardwalks around most of the lake (one section has recently been undergoing construction, but you can still walk around the lake), this is the perfect trail to take small children on. The nearby Trillium Lake Campground, which has bathrooms and water fountains, is worth staying the night for, but if you don't have much time, walking around the lake will give you a quick dose of nature that will get you through the rest of your busy week. From Portland, it's less than an hour to the Trillium Lake Trailhead, which starts just outside of the day-use area parking lot. The lake is ice cold and only good for swimming on very, very hot days, but no matter when you decide to go, it's always the perfect place for a picnic and there are always beautiful views of Mount Hood to be seen.
If you're coming from Portland, you will take 26-East for a short drive through the forest that will last a little less than an hour. Shortly after you pass through the small town of Government Camp, you will take a right on Trillium Lake Road. If you want to hike this loop in the winter, you will need to park at the snow park area on Highway 26 and snowshoe in. During the rest of the year, you’ll find a parking lot after you pass the camping area on Trillium Lake Road. There are about thirty spots in the lot, and you will need to pay a day-use fee before leaving your car.
From the parking lot, you will find the marked trailhead near the dam. You can loop either way around the glimmering lake without any worries of getting lost. There is little elevation gain and the trail is made of tight-packed rock and wooden boardwalks, which make the hike accessible to young children and those with limited mobility. If you go counterclockwise around the lake, you will enter through a shadowy forest of hemlock, fir, and spruce. As you walk along the sandy shore of the lake, you will come to a boardwalk that leads you through an opening in the green brush. During midsummer, daisies blossom in full bloom as the trail leads you back through the spruce-filled forest.
Another boardwalk will lead you through a collection of willows that lead into a charming meadow. From here, the path gets boggy and you will pass over skunk-cabbage bottoms and a marsh where you might see a few mallards splashing in the water. The trail then splits and heads off to the campgrounds, but if you continue looping the lake you will find the Pond Lily Inlet, which is full of yellow water lilies floating on the surface of the deep blue water. Next, you will pass the campsite’s amphitheater and boat dock.
After walking by the picnic area, you will finish the loop. You can either return to your car, unpack your tent for an overnight stay, or unpack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the shade. Trillium Lake houses a few different types of trout, so you can bring your gear and fish if you would like. No motorboats are allowed on the 63-acre lake, but you can get in the water and play with paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes.
Trillium Lake is an artificial lake. Originally a much smaller lake called Mud Lake, Mud Creek was dammed in 1960 to produce the charming Trillium Lake that perfectly reflects Mount Hood in its still waters. Before its damming, Mud Lake was used as a film location for Bend of the River, Anthony Mann’s Western starring James Stewart, Julie Adams, Arthur Kennedy, and Rock Hudson.
Mount Hood itself was named after the naval officer Alexander Arthur by the British Lieutenant William Broughton. Lewis and Clark were the first Europeans to record the view of Mount Hood, though of course indigenous peoples lived in the area well before this. Tribes in the area were the Molalas, Kalapuyans, Chinookan Clackamas, and Shinookan Wascos. Many of these tribes called Mount Hood Wy’East.
The Mount Hood National Forest was first called the Bull Run Timberland Reserve in 1892. In 1893, land was added to the existing boundaries, and the space was called the Cascade Range Forest Reserve. In 1908, the space was dismantled into smaller forests and called the Oregon National Forest, and in 1924, the area was redesignated the Mount Hood National Forest.
From 1933 to 1944, the Civilian Conservation Corps was tasked with building campgrounds and trails. With the help of the Works Progress Administration, they built the Timberline Lodge, which was the largest project commissioned during the Great Depression in the United States and rests a little less than ten miles from Trillium Lake.