This summer at Oregon’s Mt. Hood we were looking for a short day hike, and I was determined that we had to be able to see the mountain on the hike. The Mirror Lake Trail met these criteria and so we headed out. The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived around 11:00; we got the last spot! (We found out later there’s a second section of the parking lot just a little bit further along on Hwy. 26, so if the main lot is full when you arrive, don’t despair. And definitely don’t give up, because this is a sweet little hike!)
The hike begins by crossing a little stream on a bridge at the parking lot, then goes straight into the forest. The path is fairly wide and begins climbing very gradually but steadily. It is not strenuous (the total elevation gain is just 700 feet), but some folks may want to pace themselves. We went in early July and the rhododendrons were in full bloom. It was beautiful! There is one switchback that’s a little bit steeper than the rest of the trail. At that switchback the trail has a bit of a steep drop-off on one side. We met some hikers coming down who asked if we minded passing them on the outside of the trail because they felt uncomfortable with the height. We didn’t think it was extreme or dangerous, but obviously, some people do. This would definitely be a good place to keep an eye on small children.
In about one and a half miles, after crossing the stream via a bridge and hiking up through the forest, you’ll see a clearing coming up and you’ll know you’re almost to the lake! The trail goes to the left or the right, circling the lake. (You can also continue past the lake at this junction up to Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain.) Be sure to walk around to the far end of the lake to see the mirrored reflection of Mt. Hood in the lake. It’s really beautiful. There are some campsites on the far side of the lake as well.
We didn’t think to bring our swimsuits, but we were apparently the only ones who didn’t get the memo, as nearly everyone else there was swimming! The day was warm, and even if the lake was cold, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We were pretty jealous, but we still enjoyed the view while we ate our picnic lunch.
This hike is popular, with parking filling early on weekends, so if you’re looking for a solitary experience in the woods, this is probably not the hike for you. But, if you’re looking for a fun swimming spot with an incredible view and/or a great family hike — about an hour’s drive east of Portland – we highly recommend this one. Bring a picnic and your swimsuits and spend the afternoon. And enjoy your week or your weekend!