“This family friendly run skirts the shoreline of Trillium Lake through wetlands, to a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.
— Kathleen Walker
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Trillium Lake is the jewel on the landscape you see from Timberline Lodge. If you are looking for a spectacular picture of Mt. Hood with its reflection in the foreground, head to the Trillium Lake Trail! The trail is family friendly and barrier free. There are opportunities for having a picnic, taking a swim, bird watching, and fishing along the trail. At 1.9 miles, it is an easy, short run.
Trillium Lake is a concession operated Forest Service day use site that charges a $5.00 Fee from May 15 through Oct. 1. Northwest Forest Passes are accepted. Golden Age, Access or other Day-use Passes are not accepted here. The Trillium Lake area is gated in winter time for snowshoeing and groomed cross-country skiing. The sno-park is off of Hwy 26. There may be kids on bikes on the trail.
Need to Know
Trillium Lake is very crowded on weekends in summer and even later in the day on hot week days. However, once you get on the trail, away from the dam and campground, crowds drop off. Early morning before 10 a.m. is when you get the best pictures with the fewest people. There is a picnic shelter in the day use area and an amphitheater in the campground. Nearby Government Camp is a great place to have a huckleberry milkshake or a good Oregon micro-brew. Camping at the Trillium Lake Campground may require advanced reservations, but nearby Still Creek Campground usually has spaces. There are also plenty of lodgings around the Villages of Mt. Hood area.
Trillium Lake was a muddy bog of Mud Creek until it was dammed in 1960. It provides a beautiful jewel in the landscape when viewed from Timberline Lodge above. Trillium Lake Trail is accessed in Trillium Lake Day Use Area, or you can pass the turnoff for the day use and take the next right hand turn and park near the lake's dam. The dam is where the best fishing is located. They stock the lake with rainbow trout. It is also where the money shot is located. Stand on the dam and get an iconic picture of Mt. Hood and its reflection on the far side of the lake. You can begin the run around the lake going counter-clockwise (or clockwise if you wish). So start running along the day use area part of the shoreline headed towards the campground.
After about 1000 feet, you come to a boat ramp and fishing platform. Cross the road and pick up the trail again. Skirt around an inlet of the lake. Several hundred feet later, you come to a second road boat ramp located within the campground. Bear left towards the lake and pick up the trail again as it skirts along the shoreline between the water and the campsites. After another 1000 feet, you come to an amphitheater along the shoreline.
Continue on the trail past the middle of the amphitheater and head past the last few campsites. Curve around a wet inlet on the lake. The rest of the trail will have lots of boardwalk as the trail was built in the wet meadows to take advantage of bird watching. After about one mile, you'll come to the intersection with the Trillium Bike Trail
that heads towards Government Camp.
Just past this point is a boardwalk spur off the trail. At that point, you break out of the trees and can check out the views. Continue around the north end of the lake through wetlands full of frogs, salamanders, and lily pads. The trail then heads in and out of patches of trees as it starts around the far side of the lake. The trail here parallels a road on the back side of the lake. The trail heads towards the point where this road meets the dam. Continue across the dam back to your starting point. You can now go for a swim.
The trail was designed to be barrier free for strollers, wheelchairs, etc. However, no treated wood was allowed in the wetland structures to protect amphibians, making it difficult to maintain. Parts of the boardwalk has sunk making for some challenges. The Forest Service hopes to reconstruct and replace all the boardwalk in the near future.
Flora & Fauna
The wetlands around Trillium Lake provide habitat for hundreds of species of birds, amphibians, fish and wildlife. Douglas fir, western and mountain hemlock, noble and silver firs as well as western red cedars are found along this trail. The forest floor is covered in rhododendrons, thimbleberries, huckleberries, salal, Oregon grape, and bear grass. The rhodies and bear grass start blooming in June. In the wetter areas of the trail, find cow parnsnip, mertensia, cinquefoil, lots of willows, skunk cabbage and yellow water lilies.
History & Background
Trillium Lake was a marshy area along Mud Creek, a tributary of the Salmon River. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife built a dam and now regularly stock Trillium Lake. Spoiler - best fishing is by the dam, not by the fishing platform in day use area! The Barlow Road, part of the Oregon Trail, that carried wagon trains of pioneers to Oregon, went through the area. Summit Meadows, just to the north of the lake has an interpretive sign and a pioneer grave site.