One of the golden rules of hiking is the earlier the start the better and once again (like last weeks post) this rule rings true.
Hanging Lake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and serene places I have ever visited. I know I’ve said this before…but trust me this one is up there. It’s one of those places where time stands still just long enough for you to enjoy the view.
Hanging Lake is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Denver, CO. This isn’t too bad but once you hear what time I am advising you to get there that drive time will seem a lot more inconvenient. 7 A.M.
Hear me out though. This trail is incredibly popular and the parking lot doesn’t reflect the popularity. My family and I arrived around 7:30 A.M and got the.very.last.parking.spot. At 7:30! People who don’t snag a spot early are forced to wait in a line outside of the parking lot where they only let people in as spots open up…and that could be hours (As it took us about 4 hours to complete the hike).
So, did I wake up at 4:30 A.M. to drive out to this hike? No. We opted to drive in the night before and spend the night in Glenwood Springs (15-minute drive). Obviously spending money on a hotel room for a hike isn’t possible for everyone but whether you decide to wake up at the crack of dawn or fork out some money for a hotel the hike is very worth it.
So, we arrived at 7:30, did a happy dance at snagging the last parking spot, packed up our water, and hit the trail.
(A little advice about water and hiking. It’s absolutely necessary. Colorado is dry and this hike is not easy. Bring about a liter of water per adult per hour. This hike took us around 4 hours and while some of that was spent sitting and enjoying the view it is better to have more water than you need than less than you need. So for one adult on this hike, I would bring about 3-4 liters or approximately 1 gallon. Seems like a lot but you’ll drink it.)
There are some bathrooms right before the trail so take advantage of those before you head out.
The hike itself is about 2.8 miles, most of it shaded although there are stretches where you are in the sun and it is brutal so pack some sunscreen with those water bottles. This trail isn’t easy and can at times be kind of hard on your knees and ankles but I would say its possible for all ages. However, be prepared to take lots of breaks if athleticism doesn’t come naturally to you. An easy way to track your progress is to count the footbridges you’ll cross over. There are 7 bridges total and they are numbered. Between the earlier bridges, it can be a while before you get to the next one so don’t get discouraged!
Dogs aren’t allowed *SIGHS LOUDLY*. Once again, this didn’t stop us and we brought our four-legged family member along in our backpack and no one got on to us. In fact, we encountered another group not even attempting to hide their dog and all they got was “please don’t do it again.” So be aware of the rules, and feel free to break them at your own risk. However, don’t be that asshole who doesn’t pick up their dog’s poop and ruins it for everyone.
Also… BRING.WATER.FOR.YOUR.DOG.TOO. Note Zuzu’s pink collapsible water bowl. It attaches easily to a backpack with a carabiner clip. Here are some like it if you want one. They come in a variety of sizes and they are super convenient when hiking or traveling.
The last little stretch to the lake is intense but the view is fabulous and before you know it, you round a corner and the lake is just sitting there.
The ecosystem of the lake is extremely fragile so they don’t allow anyone to get in the water or leave the trail. PLEASE don’t be that person. Enjoy from afar, there are benches around the lake. Sit, be quiet, and just put down your camera for a second. The lake is called Hanging Lake because it was formed by a geologic fault that caused the lake bed to drop away from the valley above it, causing it to ‘hang’. You can see this in the photos -so cool.
Before you round the corner to the lake you will see a trail continuing upwards that, after climbing up to the lake, seems impossible and not worth your time. Take a little break on the benches around the lake and then start on that trail continuing upwards. It’s actually quite short and leads up above the lake to Spouting Rock. It’s a neat sight and won’t take you but a couple of minutes.
The hike was difficult, sweaty, crowded but once again I would do it every time for the view at the end. Make an effort to see Hanging Lake while it is still around.
The lake currently hosts around 100,000 people a year and due to this large amount of people changes are coming to protect the ecosystem.
A start date for these changes hasn’t been announced but soon:
- the daily visitors will be capped at 615 (all the more reason to get there early).
- there will be an entrance fee
Thanks for reading about one of Colorado’s many treasures. I hope you enjoyed and found it helpful!