In nature, beautiful things are easy to see, but hard to get to. The hike to Hanging Lake is no exception.
This spot isn’t off the beaten path. Quite the opposite, with its own exit off the iconic I-70 interstate through Glenwood Canyon.
This isn’t a long hike. From the parking lot to Hanging Lake, the total walking distance is just over a mile.
This hike is steep. The elevation change got us, especially the kids. The trail rises over a thousand feet in under a mile.
However, at the top you’re rewarded with a Technicolor lake circled with waterfalls. Something that only could emerge from a fairy tale.
Arrive to Hanging Lake Early
Even though the short trek to the top is intense, the proximity to civilization and the jaw dropping beauty attracts crowds. I-70 cuts through the bottom of a canyon, so there is very little room for anything, much less a parking lot that can handle all the tourists.
We arrived at 9 a.m. and had to wait for a parking spot. The one in, one out system took us about forty-five minutes. There are two rangers controlling traffic, one holding cars outside Hanging Lake, and another who holds you inside the parking lot until a spot opens up.
Waiting that long provides ample time to chat with the rangers. It sounds like the park will move to a shuttle system with a fee soon. This will significantly cut down on traffic and the number of visitors. Which is a good thing, because the amount of foot traffic this fragile lake sees needs to be reduced.
After a brutal final approach that is essentially several flights of narrow, rocky steps, we arrived on the ledge holding Hanging Lake. A simple boardwalk encircles the lake to keep tourists off its shores. A boardwalk packed with people.
Seclusion and tranquility is not something you’ll find here. But the sight of waterfall curtains pouring over a densely vegetated rock ledge into turquoise water is worth it. And who could blame everyone for wanting to come here?
A fallen log bisects the lake, adding another layer of interest. Unfortunately, some, like this guy, walk out on this balancing beam, which damages the ecosystem and speeds up the process of Hanging Lake fading from what it is today.
Don’t be that guy.