Although I’ve driven past Mt. Hood several times over the years, I had never actually stopped to hike in the area until this past summer. I didn’t regret the decision to stop here: the area is beautiful, and Mt. Hood, the main attraction, it totally awesome. Our first hike, and one of the most beautiful, was up to the popular Mirror Lake, a hike near Government Camp, OR. Here Mt. Hood is perfectly reflected in the still lake, and with the fall foliage around the lake, it is an awesomely beautiful picture that won’t soon be forgotten. The trail itself is only a little over 3 miles RT, so it is easily done in a few hours.
To get to the trailhead, from the town of Government Camp go 2 or 3 miles west on Hwy 26. Or drive a few miles east of Rhododendron on Hwy 26. Either way, the trailhead is located between mileposts 51 and 52 on Hwy 26, on the south side of the road on a big bend just before Ski Bowl. The parking area is small, but quite long, so there’s quite a bit of space to park. However, this is a very popular trail, so at some times of the year the parking area may fill up quickly. There are also a couple of port-a-potties in the middle of the parking area.
You will have to cross a stream (pretty fast-flowing in late September) to get onto the trail. A little ways down the parking area, this stream goes over a small waterfall. The view was mostly obstructed by bushes, but it didn’t look too impressive to me. Anyhow, it’s worth knowing it’s there if you want to look at it. Follow the trail over the bridge and then up the steep hill beyond. Much of the trail is hiking uphill, so it’s not an easy 1.4 miles up to the lake. Most of the trail is dirt, although it’s quite well-maintained, through the forest, but in a few places you will cross an avalanche area where the trees have been knocked over, and you can see the countryside around. This is quite pretty.
The trail switchbacks its way uphill for almost a mile and a half, then comes to a signboard. In this area there is a funny tree that looks like it grew sideways for a while. It’s cute to take a picture of, as trees don’t normally grow like that. The sign points the way to Mirror Lake and Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain. The trail to the lake goes in both directions, so you can choose which way you want to hike. We went right, and weren’t sorry we chose that route.
The trail is now quite flat and goes near the shoreline of Mirror Lake. About a quarter of the way around, the trail for Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain goes off on your right (the junction is marked). We did not have time to hike the 1.5 miles to the top of the mountain, but I’ve heard that the views are quite good from the top. We continued around the lake, stopping occasionally when we were near enough to the shore to look at Mt. Hood reflected in the quiet water. Not quite half way around the lake is a campsite right next to the lake. It is not extremely easy to access, and you might need to bush-whack a little to get to it, but if you’re looking for it, it’s difficult to miss. If you come to a place where the trail goes along what looks like a beach, you’ve gone too far. In the afternoon, the view from this campsite is outstanding, with Mt. Hood reflected directly across the lake from you. In fact, this entire hike would be better in the afternoon, as the sun would probably be behind Mt. Hood in the morning, making for less-than-perfect pictures. Enjoy the view from here, then turn around and go back the way you came or continue around the lake. I didn’t find a better place to see Mt. Hood from, but it’s still a nice little walk around the lake. There are several campsites in this area.
Return by walking back down the trail to the parking area. There are a couple of picnic tables near the trailhead, so if you don’t mind hiking up a very steep hill to get to them, this can be a nice place to eat or rest. The tables aren’t in great shape, but they worked fine for us.
Round Trip Trail Length: A little more than 3 miles (5 km)
Facilities: Port-a-potties at the trailhead
Fees: $5.00 per day Northwest Forest Pass required. America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Big Bend Annual Passes also accepted.
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Wednesday Wed Aug 16 0%
Sunny. High 68F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.
Thursday Thu Aug 17 10%
Mainly sunny. High 69F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Friday Fri Aug 18 0%
Sunny skies. High near 70F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.
Saturday Sat Aug 19 10%
Partly cloudy skies. High 69F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Sunday Sun Aug 20 10%
Sunny skies. High 73F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.