Trillium Lake Snowshoe

Date: 1/10/10
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 ft
Time: 3.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Weather: Perfect! Cold but not freezing. Still. Partly cloudy. It would have made a terrible day snowboarding but awesome for snowshoes.
Maps: Government Camp area map, does not include the loop trail
My Route:

  • Starting at the sno-park parking lot.
  • Walked down the Trillium Access Road (2656), Connecting with Trillium Lake Road
  • Follow the loop clockwise, staying on what feels like the "main road"
  • Shortly after crossing the dam (2 miles from the trail head), find a small trail to the right, also labeled Trillium Loop Trail (761) strangely, this trail is not on most maps, including the map at the trail head and the USGS Topo map. It is in the book 60 Hikes within 60 Miles
  • Follow this small trail hugging the lake- clockwise.
  • At the day use area (noted by the outhouse) turn left
  • Follow road through campground areas back to the main Trillium Loop.
  • Turn left at Trillium Loop and return to Trillium Access Road.
A nice alternate route would have been to walk from the parking lot to the dam, then circle the whole lake and then return to the parking area. This would total 6 miles.
This trip wasn't planned out well, at all! But it turned out just great despite lack of planning or maps. We'd intended to snowshoe at Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain a few miles west. But there wasn't a lot of snow at the trail head so we kept driving and ended up at Trillium Sno-Park.
Mt. Hood stands above the ice-covered Trillium Lake.

Most of this route is on snow-covered roads, groomed for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. These roads are wide and well maintained and crowded. There is a pretty steep hill toward the beginning, on Trillium Access Road, but the remainder of the hike is flat.
Wide open spaces on Trillium Lake Road

The scenery was much prettier on the narrow Trillium Loop Trail. This ungroomed footpath circles the lake and passes through meadows and wetlands (snow covered). We had a bit of a mishap trying to follow that trail. We took a right at an unmarked intersection, turns out, that is just a spur trail to a view point. With the snow covering the route we walked too far and had to backtrack. The Trillium Loop Trail is 2 miles long and connects to the road on either side of the dam. We didn't take the whole route, instead choosing to give in to our tired hips and exit through the campground.
Clouds and snow mirror each other as sun shines on Trillium Lake

Snowshoeing is a lot of fun and very easy. They say, "if you can walk, you can snowshoe". I agree. But I do have to admit I did fall down one time! I hadn't tightened the binding tightly around my toes and managed to trip myself. We all had a good laugh. Also, the walking gate of snowshoeing is slightly different than regular walking. You have to keep your feet farther apart and lift your feet farther off the ground. This becomes automatic after a few minutes, but it does work some different muscles. While normally 5 flat miles is easy for me, I found my body tired after this trip. One of our group had a lot of hip pain after about 3 miles. For the first snowshoe trip of the season, it might be beneficial to start with something shorter.

We rented snowshoes at a rental shop in sandy for $15. The rentals included poles as well. I'd brought my own poles and found them to be nearly more trouble than they're worth. I tend to trip over poles, especially on narrow trails.

In all we had a really fun day. I want to come back and see the lake again without the layer of ice!
Trail Head:

View PDX Day Hiker in a larger map

Sno-park parking permit required. No water or bathrooms at the trail head.
$3 donation is recommended at the trail-head to support snow grooming.
What I said about these trails before: Trillium Lake Hikes, Mt Hood Hikes, Snowshoe Hikes
Other resources for this and other nearby hikes:
Trillium Lake Sno-park
Trillium Lake Day use area
Government Camp snow suggestions
60 Hikes within 60 Miles
Afoot & Afield Portland/Vancouver
Snowshoe Routes: Oregon

Have you been on this or a nearby trail? Please share your experience.


  1. dam not damn (spelling above for the site where you can see the mountain)

    Enjoyed the hike.

    Make sure to turn right just after the cabins going clockwise if you want to get back to the snow park. If you go up the hill to the left, you will go to Government Camp.

  2. it is comforting to hear that we were not the only ones that turned left at the meadows junction ... :)

  3. We just went snowshoeing at Trillium Lake today and it was beautiful but I do want to make a correction so others understand that it is NOT 5 flat miles. The entire way it goes up and down and there are many extreme hills. Its worth it... dont get me wrong and beautiful. More so than I expected but I do want others to know that its a bit of a hike and to remember to bring water and know really should bring a lunch and plan on eating at the half way point (Trillium Lake)... you most likely will need it for energy on way back. But we loved it and like I said... Its well worth it. But its not easy :}

  4. The weight and length of snowshoes are very important to enjoy trekking on the snow. There should also be superior traction to prevent falls or accidents along the way. As a newbie, I make sure that I practice walking on these shoes when I'm alone to be able to walk properly. Going up a hillside or a mountain is great so make sure to carry only lightweight gear. Practice makes perfect so remember that. If you need to find out more, why not go to this site and see: