Mirror Lake is listed #2 in my top ten for Yosemite. It is easy to get to, it is a beautiful location, it is less crowded than many locations in the park. The trail is really the old road and allows handicap permit access to the lower pool. Just remember the access is only on this road, not the bike path that branches off about half way from the main loop road. (I speak from the experience of having a car force me off the narrow bike path -- later the car was stopped by the mounted ranger and given a ticket.)
Mirror Lake is near the end of Tenaya Creek which is very deceptive. A Route along the creek looks so easy at the bottom and so easy at the top (Tenaya Lake) that the obvious question is why isn't there a trail down it from The Tioga Road? Mostly it is a steep, narrow, rocky, dangerous canyon in between the flats on both ends.
Mirror Lake is typical of small Sierra lakes that are slowly filling up with the silt washed down each spring. In time the lake will become a meadow with Tenaya Creek flowing through on its way from the high country to the Merced near Happy Isles. But like most meadows, there will be a lot of water here in the spring and early summer. In a dry year don't expect much water in August.
The easy trail (bicycles allowed much of the way) takes about 1 hour. The full loop was closed by a large rock fall at Ahwiyah Point, but has reopened. If you take the right-hand trail (going up, at the bridge) you either make the full loop, return the same way, or wade across Tenaya Creek near Mirror Lake (no crossings below and not much good access above). The trail above the lake connects via an upper creek crossing (a bit past the Snow Creek trail access). The history is detailed in the signs at the lake, so most of that will be skipped. But, at one point there was a hotel and a small dam to increase the size of the lake, and annual dredging to remove the sand (which was then spread on the roads when it snowed). All that has ended.
|Mirror Lake is not just one lake, but has several different aspects. Early in the season, more shadows, snow on Mt. Watkins.||Different years, the same season and it is a different place. The upper lake is where you get the reflections of Mt. Watkins|
|June at Mirror Lake||June in a very wet year.|
|Mirror Lake, Also June.||Mirror Lake. In a really dry September, Tenaya Creek was dry and so was the lake.|
|More of the upper basin with snow on Mt. Watkins, and the shade from Half Dome in April||As you approach the lake area, you first see the lower basin. Some people only get to here. (Restrooms are nearby, and handicap parking is available at this point, no bicycles allowed past this area.) This is below where the old dam was built.|
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