Only folks who visit in spring and early summer get the splendid sight that Mirror Lake is named for: Mt Watkins and Half Dome reflected on its tranquil surface. It's one of the valley's most popular and crowded hikes, in part, because it's an easy walk along a paved road for much of the way.
From the trailhead, near shuttle stop 17, follow the Mirror Lake road to Tenaya Bridge. Turn right, cross Tenaya Creek and follow the partially paved trail 0.9 miles to the lake.
Formed when a rockfall dammed a section of Tenaya Creek, Mirror Lake has been slowly reverting to ‘Mirror Meadow’ ever since the park service stopped dredging it in 1971. By midsummer, the lake is just Tenaya Creek, and by fall, the creek is sometimes dried up altogether. Spring is also a marvelous time to visit for other reasons: the dogwoods are in full bloom and Tenaya Creek becomes a lively torrent as you venture further up the canyon.
The Ahwahneechee called Mirror Lake 'Ahwiyah,' meaning ‘quiet water.’ Interpretive signs at the lake explain the area’s natural history.