Shaking things up a bit this weekend, we decided to try some hikes around Mt. Hood rather than our Columbia River Gorge usuals. On the docket for today: Mirror Lake and Trillium Lake hikes.
We’ve been waiting for the snow to melt and temperatures to warm a bit before doing any of the hikes along Highway 26 near Government Camp, given that the trailheads in these parts averages around 3,000 feet higher elevation than those along the Columbia Gorge.
We got the green light earlier than expected this year and set out to explore the lakes the first weekend in May.
We’re continuing our hiking regimen late into Lori’s pregnancy (she’s nearly 8 months along now!) The size of her belly hasn’t affected the frequency of our activity, but it has changed the types of hikes we’re opting to do these days.
In the interest of caution, we’ve been trading in the strenuous and more treacherous hiking we’ve been accustomed to for lower impact hikes, opening an array of hiking options we hadn’t previously tried out.
Mirror Lake and Trillium Lake hikes are excellent options for hikers wanting a great workout without torturing multiple muscle groups. These hikes might not offer the sweeping vistas of the Gorge hikes, but the up-close views of Mt. Hood more than make up for that.
Plus, if you’re pregnant and want to keep hiking, these are two great hikes for that! (provided that most of the snow’s melted…)
Both Mirror Lake and Trillium Lake trails are very close together. The trailheads for each hike are just before and after Government Camp, respectively.
Mirror Lake Hike
Mirror Lake was our first hike of the day. From the trailhead / parking lot just off of the Mt. Hood Highway (US 26), it’s a nice, easy 1.5 mile hike up to the lake with about 700 feet of elevation gain.
2019 Trail Update
Since we first published this post in 2016, the Mirror Lake trailhead has moved and the route has been re-oriented away from the highway.
The current trailhead is at 45.30242, -121.77551, and now shares a parking lot with Mt. Hood Ski Bowl.
The new trail has the added benefit of more parking and not having to walk along the highway for the first leg, with the disadvantage of the first leg now being paved (which may or may not be a disadvantage depending on your preference).
Current distance around the lake and back is 3.7 miles.
As of summer 2019, the trail is heavily used, so plan on getting here early or hiking midweek to avoid the crowds.
The route is well shaded for much of the hike. We arrived fairly early and didn’t encouter many hikers on the way to the lake.
That all changed once we arrived at the lake, where a couple dozen hikers were slowly making their way around the lake via the narrow wooden plank boardwalk.
Once you arrive at the lake, there’s an option to continue up to Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain (pictured above).
In the past, we wouldn’t have hesitated to continue on, but today we were content to keep the hike short. It’s only another 1.5 miles up to the West Summit, but another 1,000 feet of elevation gain (and snow to contend with).
Mirror Lake has a nice loop trail around it connected by a series of boardwalks that offer awesome close-up views of Mt. Hood.
We’ve heard that the trail can get very crowded on the weekends, but fortunately traffic was relatively light on this Sunday — even with the unseasonably perfect weather!
And Mt. Hood is never far from view…at least until these trees leaf out in a couple of weeks.
Mirror Lake offers a welcome departure from Gorge hiking — the hikes in the Gorge are amazing, but it’s nice to try something different, too.
All in all, we really enjoyed the Mirror Lake hike.
On to Trillium Lake!
Trillium Lake Hike
Back on U.S. 26, we continued east for a few more miles until we arrived at the well-marked Trillium Lake turnoff.
Much of the year, Trillium Lake is inaccessible to automobiles. In the winter months, you have to park off the highway and snowshoe, ski, or hike in from U.S. 26.
On this early May day, however, you can practically drive all the way up to the lake.
Again, we’re treated to close-up views of nearby Mt. Hood. If you look closely, you can even see one of Hood’s ski lifts (faint line running down the center of the mountain).
Trillium is a unique place. Historically, the Barlow Road (the last segment of the Oregon Trail) cut right through the middle of the present day lake. The valley was dammed and flooded in 1960 by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, creating what you see today.
On this particular day, there were a ton of young fishermen (mostly men) dressed like they just stepped off the set of the movie “Dazed and Confused” or “Clerks” — A lot of “fashion” I haven’t seen since the mid ’90s. Not sure if it’s like that every Sunday up here…
Not sure what’s up with these, either. They appeared to be giant drains with grates built in to the lake…I guess to regulate the water level, but where does the water go? Maybe to China…?
I enjoyed the Trillium Lake hike a lot more than the Mirror Lake hike.
For one, it’s a longer loop trail around the lake. It was also quite a bit less congested.
While there were 20-30 people hanging out at the Day Use area on the southern shore, only a handful of individuals bothered with the two-mile amble around the lake.
We did encounter a bit of snow on the trail, though it wasn’t exactly threatening…
I told Lori to go lean against a perfectly straight tree for a picture and this happened!!!
On the way back through the town of Sandy, we saw a sign for the Jonsrud Viewpoint. Little did we know, we were about to be treated to what is widely considered one of the best views in Oregon!
Back home in Goose Hollow (Portland), we kicked off our hiking shoes and enjoyed the beautiful spring evening on our apartment’s balcony, content to admire Mt. Hood from afar.