Hanging Lake is a beautiful turquoise colored lake with a set of falls that tumble into its crystal clear waters. It's also a National Natural Landmark...and with good reason.
It's always been free to visit, but in the best interest of protecting Hanging Lake and the surrounding area for future generations, there is a new reservation and shuttle system that will launch on May 1, 2019.
The price during peak season, (May 1 to October 31), will be $12.00 per person, and can be purchased at www.visitglenwood.com/hanginglake starting on April 1, which is when the new reservation system will go live. Or if you prefer, you can also buy your reservation at the new Hanging Lake Welcome Center, which will be located at 110 Wulfsohn Road in Glenwood Springs; and they'll be opening their doors on May 1, 2019. Parking will be free at the Welcome Center, and this is also where you will get on the Hanging Lake shuttle bus.
The price during the off-peak season, (November 1 to April 30), will be $10.00 per person, and you'll be able to drive your own car to the Hanging Lake parking lot. (You won't be able to drive your own car there during peak season.)
One other point to keep in mind is that there will be a daily limit of 615 visitors per day, so I suggest you make your reservation as soon as you can.
In the meantime, if you plan on doing this hike before May 1, (or after October 31), here are the directions to the lake: from Denver, follow I-70 west toward Glenwood Springs and take exit 121 which reads "Grizzly Creek to Hanging Lake".
There is no direct access to the trailhead from I-70 west. So you take exit 121 which takes you down to I-70 east. Once there, follow I-70 east to exit 125 which is the Hanging Lake exit. Take this exit and follow the road into the fairly good sized parking lot.
Know before you go: the trail to Hanging Lake is extremely popular, so even though the parking lot is relatively decent sized, it fills up quickly. And there is actually a sign on the highway that tells you if the parking lot is full. So do your best to get there as early in the morning as you can :-).
Also, people often want to know the answer to this question: can you swim in Hanging Lake? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The lake and the area around it are a fragile environment, so in order to keep it safe for future generations to enjoy, the Forest Service asks you to please not go into the water.
Other useful information before you hike this trail:
One-way distance-1.2 miles
Approximate one-way hiking time-1 hour and 15 minutes
From the parking area, the first thing you need to do is walk to the trailhead. Just beyond the restrooms, you'll see a wide sidewalk that follows along the Colorado River. It's about a ten minute easy walk from here to the trailhead.
Once you arrive at the trailhead, you'll notice that the first portion of the Hanging Lake trail is rocky and relatively steep. Just take your time and persevere since it's not like this the whole way. Also, there are a few places along the trail where benches have been provided in case you need them.
Anyway, the trail follows along a creek and in some spots, you'll be crossing this creek on little bridges. For the most part, (at least until you reach the lake), you'll be hiking through a forest. So when you stop to rest, you'll have plenty of shade available. Even so, make sure you bring plenty of water with you. And of course, the camera!
The trail continues to switchback its way up the mountain and at some point, you might start wondering if you're ever going to get there. Well, it's usually around this time, (or hopefully not too much further), that you'll come to an area of the trail that becomes steeper. There will be a solid railing on your right to help you and this is the point where you are almost there.
However, the most difficult portion of the whole hike is still ahead of you. The trail will lead you to tall steps which have been carved into the rock. In addition to the big steps, you will find yourself on the edge of a cliff, so please be careful. The railing is there to help you if you need it.
Just beyond the difficult section, you'll see a boardwalk, and it's the easiest part of the whole hike. Follow the boardwalk and it will take you straight to this wonderful gem of a lake. In case you were wondering, the waterfall you'll see there is named Bridal Veil Falls.
After you finish your visit to Hanging Lake, it’s worth making a stop at Spouting Rock. As you’re leaving the lake (and still on the boardwalk), look for the sign on your right.
You’ll see the steep but short trail that goes to a level above the lake. Follow the trail and you’ll be rewarded with a waterfall that pours out through a hole in the cliff. Have fun!
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