Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon
Hanging Lake is a geologic wonder and is popular with travelers for its awe-inspiring beauty. Suspended on the edge of Glenwood Canyon's cliffs, the clear turquoise lake and the waterfalls that spill into it are a breathtaking sight after the rigorous uphill climb. This precious natural wonder is one we all must work together to protect by respecting the rules. Please be a responsible visitor and keep in mind:
The following are strictly prohibited:
- Dipping body parts into the water
- Standing under or on top of waterfalls
- Walking on the fallen trees within the lake itself
- No Dogs
- No Fishing
- Parking Illegally (see Parking Information)
This is because of the detrimental effects of introducing unnatural elements into the delicate ecosystem. No dogs are allowed on the trail or at the lake, nor are they allowed to be left in vehicles at the trailhead. Fishing is also prohibited. It is not only our responsibility to police our own actions and that of our families and friends, but also to gently remind other visitors that may not be aware of the rules and why they exist.
Geology of Hanging Lake
There's a good reason this is one of the most popular hikes in the state of Colorado. Geologically speaking, there are few places in the world that can compare to this marvel of Mother Nature. Hanging Lake is a rare example of a lake formed by travertine deposition where the natural geologic and hydrologic processes continue to operate as they have done for thousands of years. The site is also noteworthy for its thriving hanging garden plant community. Because of these qualities Hanging Lake was designated a National Natural Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in 2011. Since then, it's popularity has exploded and without a concerted effort to protect it, this natural wonder could be "loved to death."
Additional Information About Hanging Lake
The Hanging Lake trailhead is located approximately 10 miles east of Glenwood Springs along Interstate-70 in Glenwood Canyon. The trail follows Dead Horse Creek, with footbridges spanning the creek along the way. The trail is a steep mile-long climb with uneven rocky terrain. Wear proper footwear, not flip-flops. Bring plenty of water and be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness. Be advised that there is no cell service available. Allow two to three hours to complete this hike. Near the top, the trail becomes steeper and even more rocky, but handrails help guide visitors to the boardwalk that frames a portion of the lake. Once at the top, be sure to follow the signs the short distance to Spouting Rock, where icy water from snow-melt high atop the Flat Tops barrels through a narrow hole in the limestone cliff. Enjoy the view, but do not venture into the spray as contaminants from your body will impact the fragile ecosystem.
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Hanging Lake in Winter
Hiking to Hanging Lake is a unique experience no matter the season and winter is no exception. The steep trail can get very snow-packed and icy; planning ahead is essential. Good, sturdy boots are a must, and crampons or hiking poles are highly recommended. Be sure to bring a well-supplied backpack with survival gear such as a hat, additional layers, food, first aid kit, gloves, headlamp, and other winter survival gear. Daylight hours, already reduced because of the season, can be very limited within the steep canyon walls; be sure to allow plenty of time to make the journey and pay attention to weather conditions as they can change rapidly. Remember, there is no cell service at the lake or on the trail, so come prepared.
All regulations still apply in winter, including no dogs on the trail. This is very important to wildlife that are conserving energy to survive. Don't harass, feed, or disturb them.
White River National Forest
900 Grand Avenue
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
Because of the popularity of this hike, the parking lot fills early during the summer season and remains full well into the evening. If the traffic alert signs on I-70 indicate that the lot is full, return another time. Parking on the entrance or exit ramps of I-70 is strictly prohibited. Please follow all posted directions at the parking area, on the trail, and at the lake. By observing posted rules and suggestions, we can keep Hanging Lake a treasured site for many years to come.
Although only a mile in length, the trail is steep and very rocky. Hikers should wear sturdy shoes with good tread. Be aware that there is little to no mobile phone coverage. Bring water as there is no potable water available. Be aware that in winter the trail can be very icy. Crampons are recommended.
Dawn to Dusk