The Unparalleled Cascade Views from Tom Dick and Harry

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If you’re searching for an iconic view of Oregon’s tallest mountain, Tom Dick and Harry must be added to your “must hike” list. A mere hour from downtown Portland, the Mirror Lake trailhead will take you from trafficked Highway 26 to an impressive overlook granting views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and even Mr. Rainier on very clear days.

I have twice hiked the Mirror Lake trail during the winter months when the lake is coated in beautiful white, but this was my first excursion in the summer time and first ever to the upper division of Tom Dick and Harry. Surprisingly, when you’re not trudging through snow, this hike goes quickly to the lake, but is absolutely worth the added jaunt to the top.

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Distance: 3 or 5.8 miles (up to 2 more miles if you have to park further from the trailhead; doesn’t include Mirror Lake loop)

Elevation Gain: 1,654 feet

Time:  4 hours with lunch and breaks

Difficulty: Easy-Medium to Mirror Lake; Medium+ to Tom, Dick and Harry

Season: All seasons

How to Get There: From Portland, take I-84E to the Wood Village/238th exit, then turn right and follow the signs for Hwy 26. NW Forest pass required.

Trail Condition: The trail is well maintained nearly year-round, though the summer of 2014 has shown some erosion above Mirror Lake. This is a beautiful snowshoe during the winter months, just make sure to bring poles along.

Mirror Lake and Tom Dick and Harry

From the trailhead, it’s a mere hour to Mirror Lake, but still plenty of time to enjoy views of the valley, wildflowers, and old forest. Unlike many hikes in the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood Wilderness, the initial ascent to Mirror Lake is a gradual grade, with a few switchbacks and periodic rock scrambles to traverse. You may bring your well-behaved dogs on this trek, but note that the path is narrow and a challenge with four-legged friends. Dogs that do not play well with others should probably sit out this excursion.

A mile and a half into the climb, you’ll come across the pristine Mirror Lake, sporting its own .4 mile loop and a stunning view of Mt. Hood from the opposite side of the main trail. A few campsites line the circumference of the lake, but fill up quickly, so claim your space during the week or early on a Friday.

Mirror Lake looking up to the Tom Dick and Harry overlook.

Mirror Lake looking toward the Tom Dick and Harry overlook.

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Clear signage directs you to the Tom Dick and Harry trail – a narrower path extending for about a mile before it widens slightly again. On heavier traffic days, you’ll be negotiating limited real estate with many other hikers, but stay patient and enjoy the emerging views of Mt. Hood behind you and through the foliage.

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This portion of the trail felt steeper than expected and even left me slightly winded. If you are effected by elevation easily like I am, take your time, drink plenty of water and know the ends completely justify the means. A curious rock pile marks the half way point between Mirror Lake and the mountain top. It looks like this area could have been a campgrounds at some point (and feasibly could still be if you bring your own water), but I’ve redefined its purpose as a landmark.

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At this point, the trail widens and offers a brief flattened reprieve before ascending again in about half a mile. Our party was given an amazing treat during our trek: a sun dog. I’ve never seen this natural wonder before, and had to remove my sunglasses to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. A sun dog, or “phantom sun” occurs when light interacts with ice crystals in the atmosphere. However it happens, it was a beautiful vision.

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Just beyond a few more switchbacks and scrambles, you see the massive rock pile, signifying the end of your climb. From this viewpoint, you can clearly see Mirror Lake (now looking minuscule), a commanding Mt. Hood, and up to five more mountains. Take your time to soak in these sights, but make sure you’re lathered in sunscreen and have a hat on very hot days. There’s no shade in this open area, save enough for a small dog under some larger boulders. Once you’ve had your fill, head back down with Mt. Hood guiding your way to Mirror Lake.

This easily made it to my top 5 favorite hikes in Mt. Hood Wilderness. I look forward to my return in the near-ish future.

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Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington await your viewing on very clear days.

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A few of the locals might even come out to say "hello".

A few of the locals might even come out to say “hello”.

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