Mirror Lake Backcountry Campsite offers three individual sites in spruce groves below 11,020-foot Mirror Lake, the northernmost lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Mirror Lake, nestled at the southern end of a rugged glacier-carved gorge, is one of the park’s beauty spots. The scenery, dramatic with rock faces towering above the placid lake, is a perfect backpacking destination. The distance from Corral Creek Trailhead to Mirror Lake is six miles. The hike follows Corral Camp, Poudre River, Mummy Pass, and Mirror Lake trails, gaining 1,000 feet of elevation. Allow six to eight hours to hike to the campsite. There’s no privy for the sites, so bring wag bags for waste disposal. Get water from Cascade Creek. Treat or boil all water before use. The campsite is snow-free by mid-July.
- Reach Mirror Lake Campsite from Fort Collins and Interstate 25 by driving northwest on U.S. 287 for ten miles. Turn left or west on Colorado 14 and drive 51 miles to a left or south turn onto Long Draw Road/Forest Road 156. Follow the gravel road for eight miles to the Corral Creek Trailhead on the left side of the road. Descend Corral Park Trail, to Poudre River Trail. Go right a short distance and then left on Mummy Pass Trail. Follow it for 2.4 miles to a junction. Go left on Mirror Lake Trail and hike north 1.6 miles to the lake.
- A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry. Get permits at the Park Headquarters Backcountry Office next to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center west of Estes Park, at Kawuneeche Visitor Center north of Grand Lake, or at the park website.
- You agree to obey National Park regulations for backcountry camping when you get a Backcountry Use Permit. The permit must be with you at all times and a tent tag must be displayed on your pack while hiking and on your tent. You must follow your planned itinerary so campsites aren’t overused or crowded. You also receive a tag to place on the dashboard of your vehicle, allowing overnight parking at trailheads without being towed.
- Practice a Leave No Trace ethic when camping at Mirror Lake. Pitch tents in designated areas near a silver arrowhead. Secure food and garbage. Store food in a bear-resistant canister, which is required from May to October at all campsites below timberline. Keep food, trash, and scented items in the container and stash it 200 feet from your site. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them.
- There is no privy at the campsite. Bring at least two RESTOP wag bags per camper for human waste to avoid site contamination. Otherwise dig a six-inch deep hole and bury waste and toilet paper. Make sure you’re at least 200 feet from the campsite, water sources, and trails.
Recommended season(s): July through September.
—Stewart M. Green