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Hike of the Month: Trillium Lake Winter Loop

Pass beneath frosted pines, breathe in fresh mountain air, and bring a lunch to devour when you’re done.

A snowy mountain peak rises up from a coniferous forest with a snow-covered lake in the foreground under a bluebird sky.

In the summer, Trillium Lake is a popular destination for kayaking, swimming, and camping.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Panoramic views of Oregon’s tallest peak, snow-dusted forests, and very little overall elevation gain make the Trillium Lake Winter Loop a very popular trail during the colder months.

Quick facts

  • Starting point: Trillium Lake Sno Park
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Route type: Loop
  • Elevation gain: ~430 ft
  • Trail surface: Snow and ice
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Open: Seasonally
  • Dog friendly: Yes, on leash
A short white picket fence surrounds a small stand of trees blanketed in snow.

Summit Meadow Pioneer Cemetery contains the graves of three people who died in the mid- to late-1800s.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Brief overview

This loop is the wintertime answer to the much shorter summer loop. The winter route follows closed roads that lead to Trillium Campground and a day use area. Used by hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers, the winter loop is wide and mostly flat — with the exception of a long hill at the start/end. You’ll pass a pioneer cemetery, see a lot of dogs, and be treated to two sweeping vistas of Mount Hood. It took us 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete.

Why you should try it

Trillium Lake Winter Loop is a gentle (though crowded) entry into off-season backcountry exploring and is great for beginner cross-country skiers and snowshoers. The route is easy to follow, even under fresh snow, since the roads cut wide paths through the forest.

A snowy path cuts through a forest on a clear winter day.

Snowshoers and cross-country skiers are asked to establish separate paths.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Pro tips

There are no public restrooms at the trailhead, so you may want to make a quick pitstop at Government Camp Rest Area before traveling ~2 miles further to Trillium Lake Sno Park. Be sure to bring chains or have traction tires on your vehicle. A Sno-Park Permit is required to park from November through April. You can get away with just wearing sturdy hiking boots (with or without micro spikes) if there isn’t fresh powder on the trail. Try the loop counter-clockwise if starting later in the day for the best light.

Let us know

Did you try this hike? Do you know of one we should check out? Send us your thoughts and recommendations.

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