Being a Northern California local, I have been to Yosemite National Park several times before, but finally got a chance to visit the Mirror Lake in Yosemite and explore the Mirror Lake trail.
I visited Yosemite in early December and was looking for an easy to moderate hike for the morning. I decided to venture to the east of Yosemite Valley and check out Mirror Lake.
It was a very nice hike with a bit of everything – epic views, an easy paved trail, a rocky, uneven trail, a flowing creek, and a shallow pool of water. Mirror Lake was beautiful and still, with the water reflecting the scenery around it.
Read on to find out how you can reach this trail and the easy and moderate ways to do the Mirror Lake hike.
Mirror Lake in Yosemite
Nestled on the eastern side of Yosemite Valley, Mirror Lake is famous for its calm waters that offer stunning reflections of the surrounding cliffs, especially the iconic Half Dome.
The lake is actually a shallow pool in Tenaya Creek and not a lake. It was named “Mirror Lake” and enjoyed great fame with tourists in the 19th century because of its mirror-like reflection of Half Dome and other cliffs.
It’s a seasonal lake, at its fullest, in spring and early summer due to melting snow. As the summer wears on, it gradually transforms into a meadow, offering a different experience.
I visited Yosemite in early winter, and the recent rains had turned it back into a shallow lake in some parts. It is snow covered for the most part of winter.
Mirror Lake Trail
This is one of the very few hikes in Yosemite that offers both an easy and moderate hike option.
Paved Mirror Lake Trail
- Difficulty – Easy
- Trail Length – around 2 miles round trip
- Elevation – very slight, if any, mostly flat paved road
- Time needed – around 1 hour
- Starting Point – Mirror Lake Trailhead at Shuttle stop #17
There is an easy paved road that goes from the shuttle stop #17 to Mirror Lake. The easy trail is around 2 miles out and back to Mirror Lake.
This paved Mirror Lake Road is great for families with strollers or bicyclists. This path is perfect for those who prefer a gentler walk or are short on time but still want to witness the lake’s beauty.
It’s a beautiful walk between tall trees, and you can see Half Dome views while walking towards the lake.
During winter, this road can be covered with snow and is excellent for snowshoeing.
Mirror Lake Loop Trail
- Difficulty – Moderate
- Trail Length – around 5 miles round trip
- Elevation – around 100 feet
- Time needed – 2 hours
- Starting Point – Mirror Lake Trailhead at Shuttle stop #17
There is an alternate dirt trail on the right side of the paved road, which is a 5-mile loop around Mirror Lake. I followed this dirt trail to Mirror Lake, as I enjoy dirt trails more than paved roads.
The Loop Trail path has some uneven rocky terrain but nothing too steep. The trail is quite wide, and there are no steep drop-offs. It is moderate mainly due to the length of the loop trail and rocky trail.
The loop trail path runs parallel to Tenaya Creek. In some parts, you can see the paved road on the other side of the creek. When I visited, I took this dirt trail till I reached Mirror Lake.
When I visited in mid-December, Mirror Lake had some dry sand beds and shallow ankle-deep water in some areas, and several hikers were wading in the lake and crossing the lake.
I crossed the mostly dry and shallow Mirror Lake and reached the paved trail on the other side. I returned back to the Mirror Lake trailhead via the paved road.
Safety Note: During Spring and early summer, the only safe way to cross Tenaya Creek is via the Tenaya Creek bridge at the other end of the Loop trail. The water in the lake can be deep during spring and summer due to snow melt.
How to get to Mirror Lake?
There is no parking at the Mirror Lake Trailhead. There are two ways to reach the trailhead.
You can park at Curry Village and either walk to the trailhead, which is a 10-minute walk via the Happy Isles Loop Road, or you can take the free park shuttle from Curry Village or elsewhere in Yosemite Valley and get down at Shuttle Stop #17 for Mirror Lake.
I parked at Curry Village and took the shuttle to the trailhead. On the way, I walked back to Curry Village, thus experiencing both options. I recommend using the free Yosemite shuttle, which stops right at the trailhead.
I was staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, which is at shuttle stop #3. As the shuttles are one-way, it would have been a long shuttle ride to reach stop #17 so I parked at Curry Village for the shuttle.
During summer, taking the shuttle might be a better idea as parking at Curry Village could be hard to get.
What is the best time to hike Mirror Lake?
The best time to hike to Mirror Lake is from late spring to early summer. This is when the lake is at its fullest and most reflective.
However, visiting in late summer offers a different view, with wildflowers dotting the drying lake bed.
I visited in mid-December and enjoyed the empty trails, walking on the sandy lake beds and across the very shallow Mirror Lake. There was some water in the lake to see the reflection of the surrounding scenery.
During peak winter season, the trail is snow-covered, and it’s a good idea to check the weather and trail conditions before you set out.
What else can you do after Mirror Lake hike?
After soaking in the tranquility of Mirror Lake, you can find plenty of activities to explore in Yosemite. Take a stroll in the meadows, explore other trails, or simply relax and enjoy a picnic with a view. The park is vast, and every corner has something unique to offer.
After our hike, hubby and I enjoyed lunch at Curry Village. It has a pizza deck and a food court. I am always amazed at the excellent food options in Yosemite, including vegetarian options. Curry Village is a great place to enjoy camping in Yosemite in summer.
Final Takeaways: Mirror Lake Yosemite
Mirror Lake is a serene place where you can find solace in the reflections of towering cliffs and the gentle ripples of water. The paved Mirror Lake Trail and the dirt Mirror Lake Loop Trail both offer unique views.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or a family looking for a day’s adventure, Mirror Lake is a must-visit. Just remember to leave no trace behind and preserve its pristine beauty for others to enjoy.
Up next, check out my list of more easy Yosemite hikes.
More about Yosemite National Park
Check out my other Yosemite experiences below!