If you’re coming out from Portland, chances are you’ve seen the cars lined up on the side of the road accessing the Mirror Lake trailhead just past those hairpin overlooks and about 100 feet before you get that second lane and the turnoff to Skibowl and Government Camp.
Though it looks like this hardly constitutes a parking lot, you’ll need the forest rec pass to park here and hit the trail.
The Mirror Lake Trail is popular for all the wrong reasons: first, because it’s just too easy to find the trailhead right there on the highway.
Second, because it claims great Mt. Hood views and has a couple of different difficulty options depending on your hardiness and desire to stop at the lake and just call it a day (yep), or continue on to the summit of Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Yet the first part of this trail is actually quite challenging for younger kids (and some adults!). It’s a series of rocky areas and switchbacks.
Along this trail, which is busy even on weekdays, you’ll surely see plenty of backpacked babies and newly wet dogs. They are enjoying this hike more than everyone else.
Because, while the information read claims it is well-graded and gains just 700 feet the whole couple of miles to the lake, the truth is, the trail could best be described as “climb the whole way in and then get stung by mosquitos, enjoy stagnant brackish water, and never find a private picnic zone. It’s like walking through downtown Portland with everyone else on earth, but uphill with trees.
Fishing may help you appreciate this hike more than us.
At the top of the climb, you’ll see signs to continue toward Tom, Dick, and Harry mountain. The left-hand path heads around the lake to what only promises to be a steeper-yet hike. Take the right-hand path to find yourself at the lakeside loop, or to continue up the mountain (this part of the hike actually doesn’t really start gaining elevation right away).
In winter, you can snowshoe it, and on weekends, it’s still busy. You may have to park at Skibowl in any season and walk the highway — another situation that isn’t ideal for kiddos.
Ah, Portlanders, that this is one of your favorite hikes suggests you are way too cool and hardier than we are. Keep adventuring. Parents of younger kids — longer, forest hikes on even ground are abundant and keep little ones enchanted with the beautiful sights of the forest.