Summer has arrived with a vengeance! The temperatures on Mount Hood have shot up dramatically with the highs in Government Camp being in the 80s. Even though there is plenty of snow, still at lowish elevations – with the sun coming out – this was the perfect opportunity to get some miles in on trails up in Govy, rather than down in Rhododendron. Mirror Lake is a favorite – straightforward access from Highway 26, a relatively easy hike, and some great views of Mount Hood. The trailhead is just before Government Camp, at the same access point as Ski Bowl. It has been completely renovated a few years ago and now boasts pit toilets, bike racks, and a picnic table.
The trailhead is a fee area – you can use the annual Northwest Forest Pass. You can also buy a day pass for $5. These are available online at recreation.gov and you can download the pass directly to your phone. This is a nice new touch to being able to get a pass – of course, it requires that you have cell phone coverage. This works in Government Camp, but might not at other locations. Of course, you can always buy the pass in advance before you leave. The Northwest Forest Pass is a great annual deal.
This is a very popular trailhead – so consider arriving early or visiting mid-week. The parking lot has 49 spots and it seems in summer a good portion of the Skibowl lot is dedicated to the trailhead, as the Skibowl lot is divided into two and separated by concrete barriers.
The Mirror Lake Trail (#664) leaves from the far end of the parking lot, behind the pit toilets. The first quarter of a mile is on a paved trail, this ends at the first bridge and then becomes a regular hiking trail. This is a relatively easy trail. It’s about 2.1 miles to Mirror Lake from the trailhead with a vertical rise of about 450 feet. The first mile is rather leisurely – with the trail crossing across several small streams over bridges. You can study the forest, seeing how dense the firs are now packed together, but how relatively few large-diameter trees there are.
The second mile rises more quickly. There are a few small switchbacks. But before long you are at a junction that lets you decide if you want to circumnavigate the lake in a small loop or continue on towards Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. My goal for this trip was to just go around the lake – I’ll save Tom Dick and Harry Mountain for another trip.
I went around the lake counterclockwise. Mirror Lake is small and the loop is only around 1/2 mile. The best views of Mount Hood are from the far end looking back. However, there is also a clear panorama of Tom Dick and Harry. After a winter and spring of heavy snow – the peaks were relatively snow-free.
As you near the top end of the lake, the trail to Tom Dick and Harry leaves to the right and the loop trail continues around the lake. There are various campsites if you want to make this an overnight trip. And easy access points to the lake for water and swimming.
At the top end of the lake, the ground is marshy where the runoff collects as it enters Mirror Lake. To help the casual hiker, there are a set of boardwalks that look like they will provide you with safe passage. At least today these were more like pontoons. The passage was more like a game of Wipeout. The boardwalk is just floating on the surface of the water and with every step, it sinks and twists. Keeping dry was impossible and expect knee-deep dunkings.
One of the main reasons to make this hike is the views of Mount Hood. Any view of Mount Hood is worth a hike and from Mirror Lake the views are spectacular. Often the lake will be glassy smooth, but not today. A brisk wind kept ripples across the surface. However, the views of Mount Hood were still spectacular. Hunter was more interested in a quick dive into the lake!
Did I mention Hunter came along on the hike? Of course, he did. He’s been hiking all winter and spring and although he seems to like playing in the snow, he was quite happy to get out onto dry trails. Despite the fact that we left early, at around 7.30 in the morning, the warm air and rapidly rising temperatures meant that man and dog needed to stay hydrated. Especially important if you are taking your pup on the trails.
Mirror Lake trail is very dog friendly, and there were almost as many dogs on the trail as there were people. All very responsible – with the vast majority on leashes. It’s great to see this on such a crowded trail.
The small outflow from Mirror Lake is crossed by a small bridge. The stream eventually flows into Camp Creek. This is close to the headwaters of Camp Creek, which has various small tributaries that gather around Government Camp. Camp Creek joins with the ZigZag river just east of Rhododendron, which then runs into the Sandy, before finally draining into the Columbia River. So the water trickling out under the bridge will eventually flow into the Columbia River and out into the Pacific Ocean!
Round Trip Distance: 4.4 Miles
Max Elevation: 4146 feet
Min Elevation: 3613 feet
Dog Friendly: Yes
Fee Required: Yes, Forest Service Day Pass or annual pass