Why Hanging Lake Is the Best Hike in Colorado

Said to be one of the BEST hikes in Colorado, I was so excited to hike up to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs and check it off my CO bucket list. According to Colorado.com, there are 42 State Parks, 12 national parks and monuments, 13 national forests, and 58 14ers in that state of Colorado. It is one of my favorite states because it has so much to offer, but it can be overwhelming for hikers to decide which trail to go on, especially if you’re visiting for a short period of time. While I would definitely recommend that you spend time in the Rocky Mountain National Park (duh it’s amazing), if you are looking for an epic hike that is not too hard (but not too easy either) and includes a lake and waterfall, this is it! This post provides some background on the hike up to Hanging Lake and some tips as you plan your trip.

 The Trail

I was fortunate to go with two fun-loving girlfriends (Jenny
in middle, Ableen on right) that made the hike fun. It took us approximately one hour to climb up (which included a few pit stops for photos) and was just over 2 miles round trip. There is a 1,065 feet elevation gain and it reaches 7,200 feet high at the top. You can find water (the “Dead Horse Creek”) flowing through parts of the trail and there are a ton of stairs to climb over some very rocky terrain. There are some super steep spots that are also very rocky, so much so that there are handrails on the side to help you make your way at the very top. The photo on the right helps capture what most of the hike looks like, it is an awesome work out. The view at the top is well worth the hike, not only is the lake gorgeous but there’s also a short trail (10 minutes max) that leads to a waterfall as well!

WHAT MAKES IT “THE BEST”

  • Hanging Lake was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 2011 according to the National Park Service. The lake was formed by a limestone deposition making it truly a unique site with bright teal water.
  • After you see the glory of Hanging Lake, there’s a waterfall you can walk up to called Spouting Rock Falls where you can go behind it and enjoy from nearly every angle.
  • Even though it’s literally a walk in the (Hanging Lake) park, it’s not that easy. The steep factor and rocky terrain make it challenging so you definitely get a good work out in. But it’s also not too difficult, only because if I can do it, you can do it!
  • The views along the route are incredible, from the start of the trail head all the way to the waterfall. You’ll find yourself alongside the creek and before you know it hanging out by the lake and waterfall.

Getting There

If you start your road trip from Denver heading west on I-70, don’t be fooled that you will indeed drive directly past the trail head in order to get to it! Driving west, you will need to get off at Exit 121 and circle back around because the entrance to the trail is only off the eastbound exit. If you are coming from the west, you can easily follow the signage. Also, if you read all of the TripAdvisor reviews, you will also see it is important to get there early! The lot fills up fast and it’s 1 car in and 1 car out. If you only have a day trip from Denver, it is possible, but if you have extra time you should spend the night in Glenwood Springs and go to the Glenwood Hot Springs. Also, be careful with your timing of when you leave and return to Denver, because I-70 is known to have terrible traffic.

PHOTO GALLERY

This trail must be gorgeous year round, but I went in the fall and it was breathtaking. There are so many colors that POP which makes for great photos – check these out!

Have you ever hiked up to Hanging Lake and Spouting Rock? Any tips you would suggest for others planning a trip? Please share any recommendations you may have in the comments, thoughts are welcomed too.

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