Located in the far eastern corner of Yosemite Valley near the mouth of Tenaya Canyon, Mirror Lake is formed by a shallow lake bed in which the waters of Tenaya Creek flow. The flat loop trail that circumnavigates the lake and continues east into Tenaya Canyon gives visitors an opportunity to explore this quiet and serene corner of the park.
The loop trail begins as a paved road (closed to cars) that doubles as bike path, but it quickly changes to a dirt trail at Mirror Lake. If you follow the northern edge of the lakebed in a clockwise direction, the views straight up the monolithic north face of Half Dome are nothing short of spectacular. The trail continues through wooded sections that open up to Mirror Lake at various points along the way. As a succession lake, Mirror Lake becomes a meadow during the summer and fall. Depending on the time of year of your visit, you may find two very different but equally pleasing scenes to enjoy. In the fall, when the lake is dry, blacktail deer frequently congregate in the meadow, affording great chances of spotting wildlife. In the spring, when Tenaya Creek is at its maximum flow, Mirror Lake fills its basin and lives up to its namesake, providing incredible reflections of the towering granite walls surrounding the canyon.
The trail continues into the lower section of Tenaya Canyon, passing the junction with the Snow Creek Trail. Depending on the rockfall hazard often presented by Ahwiyah Point which sits nearly 2,000 feet overhead, the trail may be closed before reaching the Tenaya Creek Bridge. If the trail is open, continue over the bridge and follow Tenaya Creek west for 2.5 miles back to Mirror Lake. Try visiting in the morning to get ahead of any potential crowds and take a walk out into the lakebed if the lake is dry. The quietness, coupled with the morning views of the granite canyon, are not be missed.