Trillium Lake is one of the most beautiful and photographed areas in Oregon, with stunning vistas of Mt Hood towering over the watery, or, in this case, icy surface. Trillium Lake is actually a reservoir that was created by damming the swampy headwaters of Mud Creek in 1960. Because of the beauty of this area, and its proximity to Portland, this trip can be extremely crowded, especially on the weekend. Many visitors, unable to find parking in the Sno-Park itself, will line the highway in both directions. So time your trip well, but prepare for a memorable adventure.
Begin your trek from the Trillium Sno-Park, located between Government Camp and the Highway 26 and 35 junction. The beginning of the trail is actually the summer road that leads to Trillium Lake, but is gated off for the winter. You will be sharing this road with cross-country skiers and snowmobilers, so keep an eye out for others.
The trail begins with a fairly steep descent, dropping you down into the Summit Meadows area above the lake. You will descend about 200 feet in the first half mile. The going down part is no big deal, but remember you will have to climb back out at the very end of your trip. At the half mile point, you will reach a road junction. Just remain on the main road here, heading towards the lake and campground.
After the junction, the road will go up and over a small hill as it rounds a bend to the right. 1.3 miles from the Sno-Park, you will see the entrance to the Trillium Lake Campground to your right. Continue past the campground for at least another 1/3 of a mile. Here, you will encounter the entrance to the day-use area. If you are primarily looking for some amazing views, you can head into this area. At the junction near a restroom, you should be able to see the lake to your right. Head that way and you will find yourself at a nice little bay and there will be a fishing platform to your left. The views over the lake from this platform are amazing.
A second option is to continue along the road for another ¼ mile until you reach the dam. The views from the dam are amazing as well, and many of the most famous shots of Mt Hood over a lake are taken from this spot. Once your eyes have had their fill, follow the Trillium Lake Loop trail to the right before you cross over the dam to head along the lake shoe to the day-use area mentioned above.
From the day-use area, continue along the Trillium Lake Loop Trail and it hugs the shore of the lake. There will be skier signs and blue diamonds along the trail to help guide you along your way. Soon after leaving the day-use area, you will reach the southern end of the campground, and things can get a little confusing. When reaching the road, follow it towards the boat ramp for 50 feet or so and, just before reaching the lake, you should see the trail head back off to your right.
As you journey up the east side of Trillium Lake, you will pass over several wooden walkways as they cross over small creeks and swampy areas. As you leave the northern end of the campground, there is even a cool little amphitheater looking out over the lake. The trail will continue to wind over creeks and wet areas for about 0.4 miles after the amphitheater before reaching the junction with the Trillium Bike Trail.
At this junction of the loop and bike trail, there will be some big blue arrows pointing in the direction of the bike trail. Obey the arrows you anarchist, you. Head to the right and begin climbing the shoulder of a small hill. There are a couple of creeks to get over and sometimes, the snow will be melted near them and you will have to big step or jump, but they are only a couple inches deep.
The trail will end up paralleling the road you came in on as it rounds the hill. Although you may be tempted to just hop off the trail onto the road, there are still more sites to see if you stay on the trail. You will wind your way through some frosty rhododendrons and pass by some open, swampy areas. At the 3.5 mile mark of the hike, you will emerge back out onto a road. This is the road junction you passed back at the beginning. So head right here for a couple hundred feet, and then left again on the main access road, and enjoy that final climb back up to the Sno-Park.
The Trillium Lake Sno-Park is located right off of Highway 26, 2 miles east of Government Camp or ¾ of a mile from the Highway 26 and 35 junction. The Sno-Park is located on the southwest side of the road, opposite the Snow Bunny Snow Park and Mt Hood. The trailhead is located at the gate that closes NF-2656, right as you come into the Sno-Park.
Passes: An Oregon Sno-Park permit is required November 1 through April 30.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash at all times.
Open Season: There will usually be snow cover from December to some time in April.