Though Mirror Lake is accessible all year, there are some good arguments to be made for why winter is the best season for a visit. The crowds that access this lake in the warmer seasons are significantly reduced to a few snowshoers and the occasional skier. Likewise, it would be uncommon to encounter campers around the lake in winter. Any traces of the heavy use the area receives in the summer are blanketed in snow, giving this popular site a more remote and pristine appearance. Finally, there are the stunning, close-up winter views of Mount Hood to the north and Tom Dick and Harry Mountain to the south.
In the fall of 2018, winter access to Mirror Lake was rerouted via a new trailhead at Skibowl West Sno-Park. Prior access required a drab commute from the car to the trailhead, but this is no longer the case. Park at the Skibowl West Sno-Park and begin the trail at the adjacent trailhead.
In no time you'll find yourself in the middle of a dense collection of western red cedar, western hemlock and Douglas fir, and the roar of the highway will quickly fade away. The trail crosses a small creek and proceeds to climb through a few switchbacks and gentler sections before meeting the lake in a little more than a mile. Most of the trail is in thick woods, but there are a few clearings for views to the west.
This is a great intermediate trail, as the climbs and distance are challenging but not overwhelming on snowshoes, depending on the conditions. It's easy to complete a rewarding snowshoe trip to the lake, a leisurely appreciation of the scenery, and quick downhill return, all in the span of a half-day. The trail is a little steep and narrow for a comfortable ski, however, so opt for snowshoes if you can. Keep in mind that early sections of the hike are best traveled with microspikes, conditions depending, and keep the snowshoes for later sections and deeper snows. And don’t let the easy access lull you into complacency; always check your backcountry avalanche conditions before heading out.
Before you head out on your next Mount Hood adventure, make sure you have the right gear!
Here's a list of our go-to snowshoeing essentials to get you started:
$189.95 • 35L, Carry-On Size, Hip Belt, Ice Axe / Pole Loops, Hydration Compatible
$79.95 • Aluminum, Adjustable with Lever Lock System, 21 oz.
Men's Powdercloud • $181.61 • Waterproof, Adjustable, Insulated, GORE-TEX
If you are snowshoeing into avalanche terrain, you should be prepared, equipped and educated on how to use avalanche rescue and snow safety gear - including but not limited to an avalanche beacon/transceiver, probe, and shovel.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.