A SHINING EXAMPLE OF SIERRA NEVADA JEEPING LIFESTYLE
Mirror Lake Trail is one of the best trails in the Sierra National Forest of California. Mirror Lake captures the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and it was selected as a BFGoodrich Tires Outstanding Trail in 2012. This mountain trail showcases the jeeping lifestyle.
I would not call it an extreme trail, but you will need a 4×4 that is more than stock to complete this trail. The trail is only about 1.4 miles long to the lake. It is a nice ride and once at the lake, you can fish or just kick back. At the lake, there are a number of camping spots with fire pits for your use.
The first section of the trail heads out from an area called Sand Flats. From here you go left at the sign to Mirror Lake. Just over half way through the trail, you will come to the big hill that is the toughest part of the trail. It is a little off-camber to the downhill side as you descend. It can be a little unnerving as you make the turn parallel to the hill and it leans your vehicle downhill somewhat. Once at the lake, you will understand and appreciate why you made this journey. Mirror Lake is truly a treasure of the Sierra Nevada’s.
The start of the hill begins with a sharp right and then a little climb up a rock boulder/slab. The trail is wide enough for one vehicle at this point. Once clear of this, you will make a slight left and go past the big tree at the top. From here on down the fun will begin. There is a small v-notch that most people will straddle on the way down with a another little left for line-up to the big boulder and squeeze past the tree. Once clear of the tree it is just navigating the boulder field to the bottom of the hill with another left to the flat section of the trail. Repeat in reverse to go up!
The Boulder and Tree
While going up or down the hill, you will have to bring on your game face. About two-thirds of the way down the hill, there is a sloped granite rock on the left and a tree on the right that you must squeeze between. For those in full size rigs, it is very tight. The rock on the left on the way down or on your right on the way up wants to push you towards the tree. This is the area that most people will have to winch to get past going up the hill. There is a small hole and with the loose dirt and rocks just past the tree that can challenge your traction.
Return trip up
The bottom of the hill starts off with a little stair-step to climb and it can be a little tough as you can see all the little football sized rocks.
This is near the top of the hill before making the hard-right turn that puts you parallel to the fall line of the hill. There is a shelf rock here that causes you to be leaned downhill.
On the way up the hill and just after the right-hand turn, the rocks tend to make a short wheel base Jeep pick a tire if off the right line a little bit. It can get a little unnerving as the Jeep is also leaning down hill and off camber a little bit.
The Visalia Lock and Low club maintains the Mirror Lake Trail. They have installed a pit toilet down near the lake, and installed an anchor point about half way up the hill for people to winch from rather than use a tree.
Most of the pictures for this article came from the trip with the BFGoodrich Tires representatives for the presentation of the award for Outstanding Trails Award in 2012.
Mirror Lake Trail is one of those beautiful and fun trails you will remember, even if it’s not the epic challenge of other Sierra trails.