Mirror Lake in Mount Hood National Forest is the perfect spot to shoot sunrise and sunset photos of the monstrous glacier volcano of Mt Hood.
About The Hike
Mirror Lake in Mount Hood National Forest is a 4-mile hike which includes a loop section around Mirror Lake. The trail is well-built with wide switchbacks making this a suitable hike for hikers of all ages.
The trail starts behind the restroom facilities and descends using the paved path for the first quarter mile. Once crossing the bridge the paved path turns to dirt and travels through the woods for about a mile before the steeper elevation begins.
The elevation is easy with the switchbacks and before no time you're at this sign and approaching the lake.
The lake can be hiked in either direction but most camping spots will be either on the right side or the backside making the counter-clockwise direction best if looking for camping.
The view of Mt. Hood reflecting off the lake is also on the backside requiring a little less than a quarter mile to hike to.
Mirror Lake Loop Trail:
Distance: 4.2 Miles
Elevation: 4100 feet
Ascent: 672 feet
My Camping Experience at Mirror Lake
Let me say I had one of my favorite camping experiences in Oregon at this lake. It was completely secluded even for a Friday night and only a couple other campers were in the area.
I arrived to the trailhead around five-thirty after coming from my day hike at Ramona Falls and was scrambling to get my gear together for the hike in before the sunset. I arrived to Mirror Lake no later than six-thirty and without knowing the area, I took the first campsite I saw and started setting up.
To be cliché, the fog this night was as thick as split pea soup! I couldn't even see the lake when I arrived and threw out all hope of seeing Mt. Hood that night. The weather forecast was showing partly cloudy for sunrise in the morning so that's what I had my hopes set on.
It was great to use all my gear from the Appalachian Trail again, if you're curious of what's in the bag and what my set up consists of you can view it here!
As I cracked open the first beer only to have it explode on me I realized I was looking down at the lake. Completely moved by this I ran down and to my surprise the fog was rolling off the lake and into the lush set of pines.
Deciding it was worth a look, I grabbed my photography gear and headed for a walk around the lake. The fog was coming in and out so quickly that the lake would disappear right before my very eyes. I scouted out what looked like the best viewing area of Mt. Hood (although I had no clue what direction the mountain was really in) but the clouds engulfed everything outside of the little alpine lake.
I shot a few moody af pictures closer to my campsite on this beach while enjoying local Oregon IPA's and said my prayers for the weather the next morning.
I woke up to the soft hum of a drone which typically would kill the mood and put me on the wrong side of the air mattress waking up but not this time. In my head I knew this meant there must be views of Mt. Hood.
I jumped out of bed and threw some pop tarts in my bag for breakfast and took my camera gear to the locations on the backside of the lake.
Literally one of my favorite spots to wake up to in the morning and shoot. The reflection of Mt. Hood on Mirror Lake is astonishing and so clear. This morning the warm water was creating a thick base of fog over the water due to the cool temperature of the air and gave the scene another moody vibe.
I spent about an hour that morning jumping around coastal spots before packing it up and heading down the trail. As I approached the parking lot a number of groups were hitting the trail to enjoy the morning hours at Mirror Lake but nothing beats being on location for first and last light.
I'd totally recommend making a camping trip out of this location. It was easily accessible, has a well-built trail, and the campsites are simply amazing. Go for it!
Getting There and Important Information
The trailhead is near Government Camp and located directly next to the Mt. Hood Skibowl Sno-Park. The parking lot has space for over thirty cars and is a popular hike in peak times.
The trailhead has bathroom facilities as well as a garbage can and water fountain around back.
A Mt. Hood Recreation Pass is required and backcountry camping is allowed but possible permits may be required if being done by the books.
The lake is at an altitude of around 4,100 feet which means temperatures will be lower than at sea level. Prepare for this if camping during the fall and spring, and honestly even the summer.
If you enjoyed these photos and have added Mirror Lake to your list, drop me a comment! I'd love to hear!
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Photography exclusively by Dan Oliver unless otherwise stated and cited. Embedded maps are provided by Embed Google Map (embedgooglemap.net) and map images shown are provided as stated and cited.
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