Mirror Lake? a rhododendron-lined old-growth hike to a small sub-alpine lake reflecting the snow-clad peak of Mt. Hood, followed by a climb to a craggy ridge with spectacular, unobstructed views of Hood and other cascade peaks – and so easy kids can hike it.
This splendid combination of trails offers the best that Oregon hiking has to offer. The one-two punch of Mirror Lake and Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain is a favorite for first-time back-packers, day-hikers, anglers, snow-shoers, and photographers. Expect company even in the rainy season ? but don?t let the crowds deter you.
The well-maintained trail climbs 800 feet 1.4 miles through a beautiful old-growth forest. After crossing a small talus slope with hints of views to come, ascend to the lake after passing through a recovered logging area; look for notches in the cedar stumps where loggers inserted their springboards before sawing away.
At the lake, turn left and loop around to the opposite shore, where Mt. Hood towers majestically over the calm, reflective water. Soak your feet, meditate, and rest your eyes on the wildflowers and ridges.
When you?re ready, continue around the lake to the small campsite area and the junction with the 1.5 mile trail to Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain. This leads 700 feet up the back of the mountain (more of a ridge, really), and the views of Mt. Hood get better and better until you enter the forest again at a switchback. No one knows where that big pile of boulders came from, so keep going until you break into the sunshine and expansive views that make this an exhilarating place to eat lunch. Return the way you came or go off-trail east across the ridge and drop into Ski-Bowl to walk back to the parking lot.
A few words about camping here. Mirror Lake is shallow but supports fish. I’ve had great luck catching waterlogged twigs and losing lures, so try fly-fishing for rainbows. Of course, bring plenty of insect repellant. Respect the signs and stay out of the protected areas around the lakeshore; there’s plenty of places to fish or dip your feet without contributing to bank erosion. And strongly consider bringing your own wood or going without; downed wood is scarce here and better left for the forest. Whatever you do, pack out your garbage. Supposedly, there’s a small campsite just below the peak, and the same rules apply.
The trailhead is a few miles below Government Camp on the right side of Highway 26, between mileposts 51 and 52. A Northwest Forest Pass or $5.00 day pass is required.
I solo?d Mirror Lake last May. The weather was warm and the insects absent, but the rhododendrons weren’t fully bloom and there were patches of snow on the ridge hike. I had the lake to myself, and spent the evening watching the sunlight change colors and play on the cliffs and snow-covered slopes of Mt. Hood. Little garter snakes wiggled through the grass at the water’s edge, and I swept my eyes across the little meadow looking for deer. When the moon rose over the ridge I crawled into my tent, content and fortunate. Coming down in the morning, the day-hikers coming up asked about trail conditions, camping, and fishing, and their questions made me feel I’d discovered a secret.