Mirror Lake Yosemite

Hike Mirror Lake Trail (Yosemite)

In This Guide
  • Video & Turn by Turn Directions for the Mirror Lake Loop Trail
  • How to Get to the Mirror Lake Trail
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
  • Short 2 Mile Option to Mirror Lake and Back
Distance5 miles (8.1 km)
Other Options 2 Miles, 1-2 Hours
Hike Time2-3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)480 feet (146m)
Highest Elevation4,200 feet (1280m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Yosemite National Park
Park Phone209-372-0200
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As one of the few hikes that are flat in Yosemite, the Mirror Lake Trail takes you on a scenic loop around the popular swimming hole and Tenaya Creek. Mirror Lake is very popular, and you can expect crowds at the beginning of the hike. But after that, you should have most of the trail to yourself as you meander through Tenaya Valley, gazing up at views of Half Dome, North Dome, and Mt Watkins. This guide has a short 2 mile option to Mirror Lake and back, and also a very doable 5 mile loop up  peaceful Tenaya Valley.

Where Is the Mirror Lake Trail?

The Mirror Lake Trailhead is in the eastern part of Yosemite Valley. You can walk there from Curry Village and the parking lots around it, but your best bet is to take the free green shuttle bus to stop 17, Mirror Lake Trailhead, which will take you right to the start of the hike.

Use this trailhead address:
Mirror Lake Trailhead (#17), Yosemite Valley, CA, 95389

Mirror Lake Yosemite Parking
Take the  free park shuttle to stop 17, or park around Curry & Half Dome Village and walk to the trailhead.
Hike Mirror Lake Trail Yosemite 1
Here’s what the shuttle bus looks like. Most of the crowds just go to Mirror Lake, the short hike option.

Gear For the Hike

I recommend hiking gear for the loop hike, but you can get away with fitness clothing too. If you’re doing the short hike, casual clothing is fine. The trail is easy to follow but has rocky sections; hiking boots or shoes will serve you well on the loop hike. If you do the loop hike, bring at least 1L of water.

La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos Blue

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Mirror Lake Trail Maps

The first part of the hike to the lake is easy to follow, and there is a paved and unpaved option. The loop hike takes the Valley Loop Trail and heads into a much more tranquil area of the park. All of the trails on the hike are easy to follow and relatively flat. There are some small ups and downs along the way, but no hills or climbs.

Click To View Map

Hike Mirror Lake Trail (Yosemite) Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

Hike Brief

Ansel Adams Mirror Lake Yosemite
Mirror Lake was made famous in this photo by Ansel Adams. Photo: The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Mirror Lake Trail Hike Directions

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Heads up, many trails and parks are closed because of the Covid pandemic. Please call the park or visit the website listed at the beginning of the hike to see what the status is.

Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR 
Why are 360 videos great for hiking?

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Turn by Turn Directions

Hike Mirror Lake Trail Yosemite 2
Walk down the paved road from the shuttle bus stop.
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When you see the dirt trail to the right, take that for the scenic route. If you just want to get to the lake as quickly as possible, hike straight up the road for about 15 minutes. Otherwise let’s take the scenic route…
Hike Mirror Lake Trail Yosemite 4
The trail is incredible as it meanders through the forests of Yosemite.
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At the junction, go straight.
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You’ll see this sign at that junction. The beginning of Mirror Lake is actually a bit less than 1 mile.
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Soon after that you’ll see Tenaya Creek flowing alongside the trail.
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The trail winds away from the creek and through a series of granite boulders.
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Look up and to the left as you hike for some great views of North Dome. If you can’t get a permit for Half Dome, you can always hike to North Dome, which doesn’t require any special permit.
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After about a mile you’ll see the pool of the creek. From here you start the area of Mirror Lake where you can wade or swim.
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Keep going up past the rock dam, which is popular with swimmers.
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The trail continues on the same path, but first, head off of the trail to the left and explore the sandy shores of Mirror Lake. There are no official trails around the sandy part of the lake.
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There is a ton of sand and sediment creating nice beach areas around the lake. The area actually fills with sediment and periodically gets dredged by the park service.
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The area by this rock is particularly scenic and is featured in many photos.
Mirror Lake Peak Map
Here’s a key to the big peaks around you at Mirror Lake.

If you are just doing the short hike to the lake, turn around and go back the way you came. Otherwise, go back to the trail and continue in the same direction that you were going before.

Hike Mirror Lake Trail Yosemite 15
Once you’re back on the trail, continue straight. It’s easy to follow.
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The trail goes through a very rocky section in the shadow of Half Dome and Ahwiyah Point. In 2009 there was a massive rockfall here. 115,000 tons of granite plunged 1800 feet, knocking down hundreds of trees and burying this trail, The force of the rocks falling registered as a magnitude 2.4 earthquake.

The Ahwiyah Point rockfall was believed to happen from temperature extremes. Hot days after a cold stretch heated and expanded the rock quickly. It’s thought that the rapid heating expands the granite and spontaneously breaks it apart. This video shows it happening; go to 0:35 for the major action.

Hike Mirror Lake Trail Yosemite 17
After the rockslide section you’ll head back into the woods.
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And the trail has some ups and downs. It’s very pleasant and easy to follow.
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At the end of the loop you’ll come to the bridge over Tenaya Creek. From here on out you’ll be heading back on the north side of the creek.
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The creek looks inviting, but it’s not safe to swim or jump around the rocks. Save your water time for Mirror Lake.
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Cross over Tenaya Creek, pronounced Ten-EYE-ah.
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The trail is wide and flat as you head back.
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Cross over the second bridge.
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At the junction with the Snow Creek Trail, go straight. If you ever want a challenging hike with incredible views, hike up the Snow Creek Trail.
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Here’s the trail sign right after the Snow Creek Trail junction confirming that we’re heading back to Mirror Lake.
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The hike is mellow and some sections still have pavement from the old toll road.
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Soon you’ll get glimpses of Mirror Lake through the trees.
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At this junction say goodbye to the Valley Loop Trail and keep left to head down to the lakeside.
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Keep your eyes open to the right as you hike for this rock garden.
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At the side trail, go straight.
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At the next junction, bear left to stay along the lakeside.
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You’ll walk along the north shore of Mirror Lake with some nice beach areas.
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If you want to dip your feet in Mirror Lake before the end of the hike, this is your last chance to do it.
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Continue past the bathrooms.
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From here on out you’ll be on the paved road. It’s a nice walk downhill back to the shuttle station.
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And after about 5 miles you’ll arrive back at shuttle stop #17 where you started!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.