Hiking the Mirror Lake Trail | Yosemite National Park
Mirror Lake Trail | Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
The Mirror Lake Trail: Hike Details
Starting Elevation: 4,000 ft.
Distance: 5.10 miles, round trip (your mileage may vary, depending on how far you go)
Elevation Gain: 250 ft.
Hike Type: Day-hike
Difficulty Level: Easy
Food Storage: The closest bear boxes are in Curry Village
Restrooms: One halfway up the road towards the lake, and another at the lake itself. Both are pit toilets.
Cell Service: Pretty good! We had some cell service throughout the hike to Mirror Lake
Crowd Factor: Very high. This is an easy walk along a paved road (or dirt trail) which means that in addition to hikers, you’ll also share the road with bicycle riders.
Permit: None required for a day hike.
Date Hiked: May 16, 2021
Despite the name, Mirror Lake isn’t so much a lake, as it is a wider portion of Tenaya Creek. Thanks to its easy accessibility, the Mirror Lake trail is popular year round, but even more so when the water level is highest in the spring and early summer. If you’re looking for solitude, seek it elsewhere. But for an easy walk in Yosemite Valley with a nice close up of Half Dome and a wonderful meadow, the Mirror Lake trail is the place to be.
Hiking to Mirror Lake
Park in the Curry Village lot and follow the signs for Mirror Lake. The trail hangs a left as you near Lower Pines Campground. At 0.25, you’ll cross over the Merced River. On the right side of the street, a flat dirt path continues the trail. Follow the sign for Mirror Lake to the left which rejoins the street. Once again, you can continue on the dirt path or the street. We opted to stay on the trail since this was our first time doing this hike (Julie had done it previously in the winter and walked on the road).
As you parallel the Merced River, the walk is nicely shaded by an abundance of trees. When we visited in the spring the river was moving quickly and the dogwood blossoms were blooming, unfortunately the mosquitoes were also out in full force. Yuck!
While the trail is easy, there are some stone steps and a little bit of up. For those looking for an accessible route, we recommend staying on the main road. You’ll reach the lake in about 1.75 miles, and you can head over to the water at this point. If you’re planning to do the whole loop, the trail continues through the trees, and eventually joining up with the Snow Creek Trail.
Our initial plan was just to make it to the lake and then head back. We spent some time walking up the trail and trying to find an easy way to get to the other side. There’s more to see on the far side of the lake, and we ultimately just crossed through the river rather than going all the way to the end of the loop. If you’re planning to do the loop, you can start on either side. If not, we recommend following the road instead of the trail and staying on the west side of the river.
By mid morning, the area surrounding the lake was brimming with visitors. We enjoyed a brief stop at the lake before heading back along the road.
Final Thoughts on Hiking to Mirror Lake
Spring is the ideal time of year to visit Mirror Lake and I’m glad we had the opportunity to check it out. Taking the trail out made this feel more like a traditional hike, but I would just walk in the street if we went again. The west side of the lake is where you want to spend more of your time and unless you cross through the water like we did, the only other way to get around the lake is the longer loop of 6 miles. If you’re looking for an easy trip in Yosemite Valley, definitely check out Mirror Lake!
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