Nestled deep within the heart of the White River National Forest, the Hanging Lake Trail is a true gem among Colorado’s picturesque landscapes. This relatively short but moderately challenging hike rewards visitors with a stunning view of a turquoise, crystal-clear lake suspended high above the canyon floor. In this post, we will delve into the remarkable features of this breathtaking trail and provide essential tips to make the most of your journey.

Hanging Lake Trail Overview

  • Location: White River National Forest, Glenwood Canyon, Colorado
  • Trail Length: 2.8 miles round trip (4.5 km)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,098 feet (335 meters)
  • Trailhead: Hanging Lake Rest Area (Exit 125 off I-70)
  • Recommended Season: May through October


1. Unveiling the Hanging Lake Trail

Embark on a journey to uncover one of Colorado’s most enchanting natural wonders: the Hanging Lake Trail. Set within the captivating Glenwood Canyon, this hiking trail promises unforgettable vistas and an invigorating outdoor experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide essential information to help you navigate this remarkable trail with ease.


2. Pinpointing the Hanging Lake Trail

The Hanging Lake Trail lies within the White River National Forest, approximately 10 miles east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Accessing the trailhead is a breeze; simply take Exit 125 off I-70. Keep in mind, though, that due to its popularity, parking is limited and requires a reservation. During peak season, there are shuttle services available from Glenwood Springs to the trailhead.


3. Delving into Trail Details

  • Trail Length: The round-trip hike spans 2.8 miles, leading adventurers through an array of breathtaking landscapes.
  • Elevation Gain: Hikers will climb 1,000 feet in elevation, starting at the trailhead (6,100 feet) and finishing at the Hanging Lake (7,100 feet).
  • Difficulty Level: The trail’s steep inclines, uneven surfaces, and narrow sections make it a moderate to difficult hike, suitable for those with some hiking experience.


4. Exploring the Wonders of the Trail

  • Hanging Lake: The main draw of the trail, Hanging Lake, is a mesmerizing turquoise body of water encircled by lush greenery and dramatic cliffs. Fed by cascading waterfalls, this geological wonder is truly a sight to behold.
  • Spouting Rock: Just above Hanging Lake, Spouting Rock offers another natural marvel—a waterfall gushing directly from a cliff face. Be sure to take a brief detour to witness this spectacular phenomenon.
  • Wildlife and Flora: The Hanging Lake Trail is teeming with diverse flora and fauna, including a variety of wildflowers, aspen trees, and conifers. Keep your eyes peeled for mule deer, chipmunks, and an assortment of bird species.


5. Timing Your Visit and Weather Considerations

To fully enjoy the Hanging Lake Trail, plan your visit between late May and early October. During this period, the weather is typically mild, and the trail is clear of snow. Nonetheless, mountain weather can change rapidly, so always check the forecast before embarking on your hike and be prepared for sudden fluctuations in temperature and precipitation.


6. Navigating Permits, Fees, and Regulations

A permit is mandatory for hiking the Hanging Lake Trail. Reservations can be made online through the Forest Service website, with a fee of $12 per person covering parking or a shuttle ride during peak season. Note that dogs are prohibited on the trail, and swimming or wading in the lake is strictly forbidden to protect the fragile ecosystem.


7. Embracing Trail Etiquette and Safety

Adhering to proper trail etiquette and safety guidelines is essential when hiking the Hanging Lake Trail:

  1. Stick to the designated trail to prevent erosion and preserve the delicate vegetation.
  2. Uphill hikers have the right of way, so yield accordingly.
  3. Maintain a safe distance from wildlife and refrain from feeding them.
  4. Carry out all trash and leave no trace.
  5. Remain alert and attentive to your surroundings, taking note of posted signs and warnings.


8. Preparing for the Adventure

  • Attire: Dress in layers, opting for moisture-wicking, breathable clothing. Sturdy hiking boots with good traction are crucial for navigating the rocky and uneven terrain.
  • Essentials:
    • Water and snacks
    • Sunscreen and sunglasses
    • Map and compass or GPS device
    • First aid kit
    • Camera or smartphone for capturing the awe-inspiring views


9. Venturing Beyond the Hanging Lake Trail

After conquering the Hanging Lake Trail, consider exploring other nearby attractions in the Glenwood Springs area, such as:

  • Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
  • Glenwood Hot Springs Pool
  • Yampah Vapor Caves
  • Grizzly Creek Trail
  • Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail


10. Wrapping Up

The Hanging Lake Trail, with its pristine turquoise lake, thundering waterfalls, and abundant wildlife, is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Tucked within the breathtaking Glenwood Canyon of Colorado, this trail offers a challenging yet rewarding hiking experience. To make the most of your adventure, be sure to plan ahead, adhere to trail etiquette, and prioritize safety. Happy hiking!


11. Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: How much time should I allot for hiking the Hanging Lake Trail?

A: Generally, it takes between 2 to 4 hours to complete the 2.8-mile round-trip hike, depending on your fitness level and the amount of time spent at the lake.

Q2: Is the Hanging Lake Trail accessible throughout the year?

A: Although the trail is technically open year-round, it’s best to hike between late May and early October, when the trail is snow-free and the weather is more predictable.

Q3: Can I bring my dog along for the hike?

A: No, dogs are not permitted on the trail in order to protect the fragile ecosystem.

Q4: Are there restroom facilities at the trailhead or along the trail?

A: Restroom facilities are available at the trailhead but not along the trail itself.

Q5: Can I camp at Hanging Lake or along the trail?

A: Camping is not allowed at Hanging Lake or anywhere along the trail.