Hike Mirror Lake Trail (Yosemite)
|In This Guide|
|Distance||5 miles (8.1 km)|
|Other Options||2 Miles, 1-2 Hours|
|Hike Time||2-3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||480 feet (146m)|
|Highest Elevation||4,200 feet (1280m)|
|Fees & Permits||Park Entry Fee|
|Park Website (?)||Yosemite National Park|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
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
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.
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: Women – Men
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)
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.
Hike Mirror Lake Trail (Yosemite) Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
- Mirror Lake is not actually a lake, it’s just a wider part of Tenaya Creek, which comes all the way down from Tenaya Lake. In the spring, fresh snowmelt can make it unsafe. Late spring and early summer are the best times for a dip; the water is calm and peaceful. In the late summer and fall the water (and lake) disappear and it becomes known as “Mirror Meadow.”
- The hike brings you in between Half Dome and North Dome. Artists and photographers often come to Mirror Lake to capture the reflections of the domes on the water.
- The famous photographer Ansel Adams was hired in 1931 by the park to create photos used to sell to tourists and promote the park. But that relationship ended in 1938 when his photo of Mirror Lake (above) came out in a book called The Four Seasons in Yosemite National Park, which Adams did not know about and was not paid royalties for. Adams successfully sued and recovered damages.
- In the 1860s when Yosemite first gained popularity, the whole area around Mirror Lake was developed. There was a boa house, a dance hall, a toll road, and an artificial dam to make the lake bigger. Over the years, the park service removed these humanmade structures to restore Mirror Lake to its natural state.
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.
Watch This Video In 360/VR
Why are 360 videos great for hiking?
Turn by Turn Directions
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.
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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.