- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Transportation
- Published: December 10, 2013
- Last Updated: December 10, 2013
The popular Mirror Lake hiking and snowshoeing trail could get a new parking lot just west of Government Camp, with a pedestrian bridge over Highway 26 and a park-and-ride transit stop with connections to Mount Hood resorts.
The Forest Service, ODOT and the Federal Highway Administration have entered the early planning stages for a $2.59 million proposal to move the Mirror Lake parking lot away from its problematic location next to a sharp curve on Hwy. 26, at milepost 51.8. A safety audit from ODOT identified that area as a high safety risk because of limited sight distance and inadequate signs.
"It's not a good, safe location the way it is now," says George Fekaris, a Western Federal Lands transportation planner for the Federal Highway Administration.
Mirror Lake is one of the most popular trails in the Mt. Hood National Forest, with the closest backcountry skiing and snowboarding lines to Portland. About 65,000 people hike, bike, ski, snowboard and snowshoe there every year. The area can become dangerous in the winter, when traffic up to the resorts is heaviest, driving conditions are often hazardous, and snowshoers and skiers sometimes venture too close to passing traffic.
The current Mirror Lake parking lot could become even more of a problem with the coming construction of a 2.8 mile concrete barrier as part of a major rock-blasting project scheduled to start next spring. The new median will make it impossible for westbound travelers to turn left into the Mirror Lake parking lot at its current location.
Three alternatives are being considered for the new Mirror Lake lot, with the early preferred choice being near Enid Lake off of Forest Service Road 522 on the north side of Hwy 26. Enid Lake is about two miles west of Govy, not far from the property Mt. Hood Meadows is seeking through a land exchange with the Forest Service.
The other two possible locations for a new Mirror Lake parking lot are at Kiwanis Camp Road and adjacent to the existing Skibowl lot. Other alternatives may surface during the lengthy planning process ahead. "If other ideas surface that make sense, we’ll consider them as well," says Fekaris.
Public meetings have yet to be scheduled for the project, but once they are I will update this story. Construction is roughly expected to begin in 2017.
If the Enid Lake choice wins out, it would shift the parking lot to the north side of 26 and necessitate a pedestrian bridge to cross the highway and hike to the lake.
The new Mirror Lake lot could serve as overflow parking for Skibowl during the peak of the winter season, with shuttles to Timberline, Meadows and an aerial tram if it is ever built. It could also link up with trails on the north side of the highway, including the 14-mile Government Camp Trail System connecting Govy with Timberline Lodge, Trillium Lake and other destinations.
The size of the new lot has not been determined yet. But it would seem make sense to build a lot substantial enough for heavy use, and to set up shuttles to Skibowl, Timberline, Mt. Hood Meadows, Govy, and the base of the aerial tram if and when the tram is ever built.
A new mass transit choice on the mountain could help the Mountain Express to take vehicles off the road and meet the goals of the Mt. Hood Multimodal Transportation Plan. Something definitely needs to be done about the lengthy lines of vehicles that stack up on Mount Hood during the peak of the season.
What do you think?
Where would you put the new Mirror Lake parking lot?
And how would you design it?