Updated: Nov 28, 2022
A snowshoe hike to a snow covered lake with a mountain view in Mount Hood National Forest.
Lake Name: Trillium Lake Lake Coordinates: 45.2701, -121.7391 Lake Elevation: 3600′ Access: Trail (groomed trail on road during winter) Distance: 4.68 miles (round trip) Elevation Range: 3596′ to 3809′ Ascent/Descent: + 500 ft / – 500 ft Trail Type: In and out Trails: FS 2656 Note: I did this as a winter hike. A Sno-Park Pass is required for parking (Nov 1 – Apr 30). Trail is groomed during winter. It is a popular snowshoeing and cross country skiing hike. To avoid lots of people, and to be able to find parking, I’d recommend doing this hike earlier in the morning on a week day and particularly avoiding holiday weeks. Date hike was done: 1-11-21
I wanted to do Trillium Lake as a snowshoeing hike since I’ve never snowshoed before. Trillium is very popular during the winter and packed on the weekend and holiday weeks. I intentionally planned how to do the hike so there’d be a minimal amount of people. I decided to hike it on a weekday and we got to the Sno-Park/Trailhead by 9:10am. There were at least 12 cars already at the trailhead, but that is a small number compared to later in the day and weekends! We geared up and started hiking at 9:30am. The snowshoes felt awkward to walk in for the first few minutes, then I figured them out and it was a bit easier.
There are 2-3 “hills” to climb up and down following the groomed trail (road.) It starts going downhill right at the start of the trail and it is the steepest hill. It was 0.54 miles to the first split in the road (stay left). We continued down the trail towards Trillium Lake.
I took off my snowshoes shortly after the first split in the road. I wanted to see if I could hike faster with them off and one of the snowshoes was digging pretty bad into the top of my foot. I didn’t have as good traction with just my hiking boots, but it was easier to hike without the snowshoes. I figured out how to tie them to my daypack and we continued on. Once we got to the Trillium Lake Campground entrance we decided to cut through the campground to the lake’s edge instead of continuing down the road to the dam.
We couldn’t see Mt Hood from where we’d come out on the edge of the lake, so we hiked along the edge of the lake south toward the dam. We came into the day-use area and had full views of Mt Hood from the boat launch and the viewing deck. The lake was mostly frozen over with a decent layer of snow on top of the ice. Some of the areas near the edge weren’t frozen.
We ended up getting the viewing deck all to ourselves. We sat on the snow-covered bench and just took in the view. It was 2.05 miles one way to the viewing deck (we got there at 10:50am). We got lucky and got to see a full view of Mt Hood. As we got ready to start our hike back, clouds had started to cover the mountain. We started our hike back at 11:05 am. We followed the day use road back to FS 2656 instead of going back through the campground. We saw a lot more people on our way back to the trailhead. The road was wide which made it easy to social distance. It can feel sort of awkward on narrow trails.
It was a pretty and relatively easy hike compared to the ones I’ve been doing this winter. We got back to the trailhead at 12:02pm. It was 4.68 miles round trip. We were out for a total of 2 hr 32 min. There were probably close to 30-40 cars in the sno-park when we got back to the car.
I didn’t wear my snow shoes most of the time and my mom took hers off 2/3’s of the way through. I wouldn’t mind snowshoes for deeper snow or a shorter hike.
One thing I’m just going to mention, but not go into tons of detail about, is that this hike was a sucky hike. Not because of the physical demands, scenery, or my physical capabilities. It was sucky because it just was a bad day for me. I wasn’t in a good mood and the first part of the hike really sucked. I’m just mentioning this because not all hikes are wonderful or magical and sometimes how you’re feeling affects the whole experience and that’s okay.
I’ve discovered being in nature tends to find a way to pull out what I’m feeling or trying to avoid. Some days are good days, some days are type II fun, some days are physically exhausting, some days I’m flaring from my chronic illness, some days I’m in a bad mood, and some days the anxiety is high and I’m jumpy the whole time. The point is hiking isn’t always magical, but for me it’s always what I need even if it isn’t fun.
Parking (Trillium Lake Sno-Park): 45.28587, -121.72799
Trailhead: 45.28593, -121.72875
Split in road (stay left): 45.28019, -121.73324
Trillium Lake Campground entrance: 45.27044, -121.73269
Day-use are boat launch: 45.26840, -121.73877
Day-use area viewing deck (view of Mt Hood): 45.26847, -121.73914
Day-use area road and FS 2656 road intersection: 45.26638, -121.73629
How to get there (from Sandy, OR)
Take Hwy 26 out of Sandy, OR for 30 miles. Turn right into Trillium Lake Sno-Park (on FS 2656).
Lake Coordinates: 45.2701, -121.7391
Zigzag Ranger District map location: T3S R8E S36
NOTE: The tracking in Gaia GPS didn’t record properly. On the way back to the trailhead we followed the road (FS 2656). We didn’t go over the butte at the north end of the lake. The ascent/descent in feet isn’t accurate on the track page due to this. I added the correct elevation range and ascent/descent to this post.
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