Western Colorado is home to some of the most spectacular hikes in the country. One in particular, Hanging Lake, makes many top ten lists. The lake was formed by travertine depositions and the natural geologic processes continue to operate as they have done for thousands of years. It is the most beautiful deep green. The lake also boasts a thriving hanging garden plant community. It was designated a national natural landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in 2011.
Hanging Lake: A Family Hike
After a brief hiatus from hiking this mom decided that Hanging Lake was the perfect hike to introduce her 7 year-old daughter to her love of hiking — short enough (even if somewhat difficult for someone who has never hiked before) and with a fantastic payoff at the top. Plus after living more than 15 years just down the road from Hanging Lake it was embarrassing to have never hiked Hanging Lake. Out of town family and friends always visit Hanging Lake but we’d never experienced it ourselves.
Insider Tip: Glenwood Springs offers spectacular hiking due to its proximity to beautiful Glenwood Canyon.
How to Get to Hanging Lake
Where is Hanging Lake trail? Cars may park at Hanging Lake only during the winter from November 1 – April 30. Heading on I-70 West toward Glenwood Springs you take exit 121. Then loop back around heading east on I-70 to exit 125 where Hanging Lake is located.
During the summer you will park at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center at 110 Wulfsohn Road, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601 to ride the shuttle to the trail.
Hanging Lake Hiking Difficulty
There is a short walk on the bike path to the trail head and there is plenty of shade once you get on the trail. It is 3.2 miles total with just over a 1,000 foot ascension. You’ll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring water, and maybe even a picnic lunch or snacks while you take in the views up top.
It is a fairly steep up hill trail, rated as moderately difficult. If your kids haven’t ever hiked before be prepared for some complaining. My daughter wasn’t the only kid in the trail we saw digging in her heels. But hold tight. The views at the top make it worth it. They may even thank you when you get to the lake.
What to Know Before Hiking Hanging Lake
How do I make reservations to hike Hanging Lake?
A Hanging Lake trail permit is now required year-round. Should you go November 1 – April 30 you will purchase your permit online for $10 per person. For Hanging Lake trail reservations during the peak summer months of May 1 – October 31 you will also purchase your permit online for a specific time slot for $12 per person that includes your shuttle to the trail.
Can I hike Hanging Lake in the winter?
Are you a seasoned winter hiker? Do you have the appropriate gear: crampons, shoe spikes, snowshoes or other traction deviced? The trail will be snow covered and icy in winter. Fewer people will certainly be out. You may be the only person on the trail. And, a Hanging Lake Colorado permit is still required.
Can I bring my dog with me to hike Hanging Lake?
No, Hanging Lake is a sensitive ecosystem that needs protection. Dogs are not allowed on the Hanging Lake Trail.
Can I swim in Hanging Lake?
Absolutely not! Hanging Lake is a sensitive ecosystem that needs protection.
What should I wear and bring for hiking Hanging Lake CO?
Wear shoes made for hiking, bring lots of water and snacks. If you haven’t hiked with your kids before read our tips on how to get your kids off the couch and hiking.
How long does it take to hike to Hanging Lake?
It is approximately a two hour roundtrip hike for a moderately fit person with no kiddos in tow. Add on time for extra time relaxing at the falls.
What is the Hanging Lake weather?
As always in Colorado, you should be prepared for any kind of weather. Check before you go, and wear layers. In the winter be prepared for cold and snow.
What is the elevation of Hanging Lake?
The trailhead elevation is 6,135 feet and at the highest point it is 7,200 feet, for an elevation gain of just over 1,000 feet.
What else is there to do Nearby?
Glenwood Springs is also known for its natural mineral hot springs. Be sure to bring swimsuts and make a visit to either the Iron Mountain Hot Springs or the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. There are also lots of wonderful restaurants, and even an amusement parks set stop a mountain.
There are many beautiful lakes in Colorado, many of which you can stay at, swim in or boat on. Hanging Lake isn’t one of those but is is special.