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Trails to Hanging Lake in Colorado

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Though Colorado’s Hanging Lake spans just 1.5 acres, what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in scenery. Tucked between limestone cliffs and surrounded by a lush natural garden of hanging vegetation, the turquoise waters of Hanging Lake are fed by the trickling cascade of Bridal Veil Falls.

The lake was designated a National Natural Landmark in 2020, and you can reach it by following the short but strenuous Hanging Lake Trail, a two-hour round trip hike through steep canyons and dense forests.

 

Hanging Lake Trail

The Hanging Lake Trail begins at the bottom of Glenwood Canyon east of Glenwood Springs and heads uphill through the steep, rocky terrain of Deadhorse Creek Canyon, following a series of switchbacks until it reaches Hanging Lake.

The beginning and ending sections of the trail are the most rocky and challenging. The Hanging Lake trail is 1.2 miles long — 2.4 miles round-trip — and is open to foot traffic only. You can reach the trailhead from the parking area at the Hanging Lake exit off of Interstate 70.

 

Notable Features

Much of the Hanging Lake Trail makes use of stairs carved directly into the rock of Deadhorse Creek Canyon, and there are several rest areas where you can stop along the way. Hand rails are provided along the most difficult sections.

The trail follows and occasionally crosses the creek as it heads uphill, and most of its length is shaded by lush vegetation. The hike ends at a boardwalk that encircles part of the lake, providing views of the waterfall and the lake’s overhanging plants. A short side trail near the lake leads to Sprouting Rock, where centuries of water have carved out a passage through the limestone cliffs.

 

Trails to Hanging Lake

 

Hiking Considerations

Durable footwear and lots of water are essential on this hike. Water from springs and streams must be filtered or treated before you drink it. Fishing and swimming are prohibited, along with all other direct contact with the lake, and dogs are not allowed on the Hanging Lake Trail.

Both the lake and trail are located within the boundaries of White River National Forest, which spans 2.3 million acres and includes numerous campgrounds, picnic areas and additional hiking trails.

 

Nearby Trails

You can also reach the Hanging Lake trailhead along the Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path, a hiking and biking trail that begins at Glenwood Springs, about 10 miles west of Hanging Lake.

Other hiking trails in the area include the 3.5-mile Grizzly Creek Trail, which is also accessible from I-70, and the Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path; the Deadhorse Trail branches off from the Hanging Lake Trail about a quarter mile from the trailhead and climbs to the northern rim of Glenwood Canyon. More information on all these trails is available on the White River National Forest website.

 

Camping at James Peak

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