Many people think that once the snow arrives, mountain biking is over until next year. A relatively new trend in cycling is changing that. Fat biking makes taking on sand or snow or really anything else possible. Fat bikes are possibly one of the most versatile bikes on the market. If you love to ride your bike in the mountains and wish you could do it in any conditions, these bikes are an option to consider. If you are new to this activity, or are just out for an easy, fun ride with fantastic view, the Mirror Lake trail is a great place to start.
What Makes It Great
Mirror Lake is breath taking all year round, but in the winter it is particularly stunning surrounded by tall, snow-covered evergreen trees with Mount Hood towering behind. The trail itself is very easy to follow from the time you start and all the way around the lake. Be sure to take a breather on your way up and catch the views of Mount Hood from the trail.
You will cross an outlet stream pretty soon after you start the trail and then you will come across a series of switchbacks, which not only make this trail a little bit less of a climb, but also help to ensure the density of the snowpack. Once you reach 4000 feet and the trail levels out, you have just about reached the lake. When you get to the lake, there is a trail that goes around and the recommended route leads the rider to the left. There are several open spots for a break or lunch around the lake, which make it the perfect halfway stop.
The trail begins uphill and gains about 700 feet in elevation in about a mile and a half, which is nothing new to mountain bikers. It is worth noting that riding a fat bike in the snow may be a little different than an ordinary mountain bike, though the manufacturers making them now have created the handling to feel very similar. The steep start to this trail is a deterrent to cross-country skiers, so there is less to worry about when it comes to riding over tracks. This is a very popular snowshoeing route, though, so riders should use caution, especially when descending from the lake. A lot of times, the snow is fairly well-packed, which makes it much easier to ride on.
Who is Going to Love It
The immediate uphill section of this trail makes it a bit difficult, yet does not rule it out for beginners. Once you get to the lake, the trail levels out and is a very easy scenic ride. It is a great trail to use to adjust to riding a fat bike in snow because of the varying degrees of difficulty and the fact that you can get the hardest part of the trail out of the way at the beginning.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get to the Mirror Lake Sno-Park from Portland, take Highway 26 towards Government Camp and look for the sno park just a mile west from Government Camp’s west entrance. The official parking lot for Mirror Lake is simply a pull off to the right on the side of the highway. If you catch it early enough in the season, it may be clear enough to park there.
An easy way to find that out is to contact the friendly people at the ZigZag Ranger Station. It unfortunately does not get plowed during the winter, so if the parking lot is too covered in snow, the two options are to park about a half mile up the highway at Ski Bowl and ride down to the trailhead, which takes much care because you will be riding down by the highway, or the easier alternative is to be dropped off by a friend on her way up the mountain.