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Located within the confines of a verdant sanctuary studded with waterfalls and an emerald-green lake, Hanging Lake serves as a perfect getaway to unplug and recharge right in the middle of the pristine nature of the Glenwood Canyon. Just some seven miles east of Glenwood Springs in Colorado, this green oasis has become a hotspot for nature lovers to soak up the fresh air and enjoy a peaceful setting. It is one of the best places to visit in Colorado.

Due to a geologic fault, the lake bed drops away from the valley floor above, and water flows into the lake over the Bridal Veil Falls. There are travertine deposits formed by the evaporation process of the mineral-rich water as it changes temperature or acidity. And what makes this place even more enticing is the surrounding lush green vegetation, which heightens the beauty of the green lake. No wonder it has attracted more than 100,000 visitors, who come here to appreciate its sheer beauty.

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How The Hanging Lake Was Discovered?

It is generally believed that a gold hunter first discovered this place when he was on an expedition. On his way, he saw a dead horse lying at the opening of a gulch. He followed the narrow path up through the steep hillside through the canyon until he came to the back side of the lake. Subsequently, the place attracted a family who used this area as a retreat but then in 1910 it was purchased by Glenwood Springs. Over the years the area turned into a tourist attraction, where many come here to hike off-the-beaten-path and enjoy the unspoiled nature. In 2011 the lake was listed under the National Natural Landmark.

What To Do In Hanging Lake?

Because of its unique geological feature, the Hanging Lake is regarded as extremely sensitive. Visitors are advised to take special care when visiting this area. The main activity to do is to hike the rugged 1.2-mile trail which climbs about 1000 feet up from the bottom of Glenwood Canyon. It is one of Colorado’s best scenic hikes to experience.

The hike consists of passing through Deadhorse Creek Canyon, which ultimately leads to the gorgeous site of the Hanging Lake on a boardwalk. Hikers can also make occasional pauses along the way. During winter, one can expect an icy, steep, and slippery trail, which is why precaution is required.

  • Note: One can notice that there are many switchbacks as one hike up the steep terrain. It is prohibited to cut switchbacks, as it can damage the nearby vegetation and cause erosion. It is also advised not to step off the boardwalk upon reaching the lake. Hikers are advised to wear proper hiking shoes and bring their own drinking water, especially during summer.
  • Winter Season: Between October to April, hikers should wear traction footwear for the icy and slippery hiking trail.

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What To Know Before Visiting The Hanging Lake

  • Topography: The Hanging Lake is a 1.2-mile steep hiking trail with many switchbacks. Those who are used to hiking will not find the trail that challenging compared to small children and elderly people
  • Permit: A permit is required to access the area. It costs $12 per person. It is recommended to self-drive and park at the Hanging Lake rest area. Note that vehicles over 25 feet are not permitted.
  • Reservation: One can make a reservation between 6:30 a.m and 5:30 p.m
  • Information Center: Hanging Lake Visitor Information (970) 384-6309
  • Note: The trailhead is not accessible after 5:45 p.m.

How To Get To The Trailhead Of The Hanging Lake - Colorado

To reach the trailhead from Glenwood Springs take 1-70 towards Denver, and in about nine miles take Exit 125 to the Hanging Lake Rest Area by following the Glenwood Canyon Trail to the trailhead on the left.

If one is traveling west on interstate 70, take the Grizzly Creek exit 121 and then take the east on 1-70 to the lake and exit at 125.

Don’ts When Visiting Hanging Lake

  • Do not park along the entrance or exit ramps of 1-70 when visiting the lake.
  • Do not bring pets or fly drones. Fishing and swimming are not permitted either.
  • Do not disturb the wildlife at any given time. Hence, feeding animals is not permitted.
  • Do not walk on the frozen lake (partially or fully frozen) as it is extremely dangerous.

What To Expect When Visiting Hanging Lake

Unfortunately, in 2020, the attraction was affected by a forest fire, and the area has been consequently closed till June 25, 2022. The area has been repaired and now reservations are being accepted. Hikers can expect new bridges and stepping stones along the hiking path. There are also piles of rocks, burn scars, and debris from mudslides. Thankfully, the Hanging Lake is still intact.

Expect to meet a guard at the trailhead parking entrance. Those without permits will not access the area.