Northwest Trail Loop

Mirror Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Trip Date: Monday, September 4th, 2017
Last Updated: Monday, December 30th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★☆☆☆(2/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 2.3 miles roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons Spring, Fall
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

I found Mirror Lake State Park on a few lists of best and most beautiful places in Wisconsin, so I decided to see it for myself. This hike was underwhelming given the hype about the state park, but I need to try other trails before knocking the park entirely. It is a good stop on a road trip and slightly less traveled than other state parks in the area.

From the parking lot, head west past the park office and cross the road to the trailhead on the other side. Continue down the trail and turn left at the intersection; look for the purple marker with a compass rose symbol at this intersection and all subsequent intersections to help navigate. On your right, you will pass the best view of Mirror Lake in this entire hike (pictured below). Soon the trail will split. You can go either way since this is a loop, though the sign directs you to the right (designed for the winter when this ski trail is one-way).

Looking across Mirror Lake

Looking across Mirror Lake

Navigating the rest of the trail is pretty straightforward thanks to the signposts -- just remember to follow the compass rose symbol for the Northwest Trail. The first part, assuming you veered right at the split, passes Mirror Lake. However, the vegetation is so thick that you do not have much of a view. You may have a better chance at a view in spring and fall; however, given that many of the trees are evergreens, the view may be blocked year-round.

Despite its view blocking capacity, the forest here has a lovely mixed coniferous and hardwood canopy like pictured below. Combined with the meandering trail design and varied topography, this hike is quite enjoyable. Near the end, there are a couple places not shown on the official map where you can choose to bypass hills (if you want to be a cheater). Just before the loop is complete, there are some open prairies for a nice change in scenery.
Tall pines line the trail

Tall pines line the trail

All in all, this hike is good for a stop on a road trip but not as a main destination. The scenery is nice but not amazing and the trail is just hilly enough to get your heart pumping. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments section below and use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. In the winter, this is a designated ski trail and hiking is not permitted. Although the distance is relatively short, the steep hills may be too difficult for young children; visit the Newport Trail or Echo Rock Trail for a more family friendly option. I visited mid-afternoon on Labor Day, and there were a handful of people on the trail. I wouldn't expect a much larger crowd for this particular trail on a Saturday, though the parking lot would probably be much more full.


From Interstate 90/Interstate 94 near Wisconsin Dells, take the exit for U.S. Highway 12 heading south. Soon, take the exit for Fern Dell Road, and take the first exit in the traffic circle. Go straight through the next traffic circle to stay on Fern Dell Road. Look for the entrance to Mirror Lake State Park, then turn right. Pay your fee at the park office and park in the lot.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

If you have Wisconsin license plates on your vehicle, parking is $8 for the day or $28 for an annual pass valid at all Wisconsin State Parks and Forests. If you are from out of state, parking is $11 for the day or $38 for an annual pass (you recoup your cost after just 4 visits!). See details here. The parking lot is adjacent to the ranger station which has flush toilets and a gift shop.

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External Links