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Hanging Lake in Colorado | Everything You Need To Know

blue-green water with a waterfall flowing into it, making it one of the best hikes in colorado
Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake is one of the most popular places to visit in Colorado. Tucked in the jaw dropping Glenwood Canyon, it features several waterfalls and a gorgeous aqua colored lake.

Hanging Lake has a very fragile ecosystem. The lake exists on a geologic fault, that caused the lake floor to drop and create the Bridal Veil Falls you today.

The travertine layers along the lake floor and shoreline are caused by limestone deposits from the mineral springs above. Carbonate minerals that have dissolved in the water make the color of the water a breathtaking turquoise blue.

youtube video screenshot of hanging lake

Hiking Stats For Hanging Lake

Distance: 2.8 miles

Elevation: 1204 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Type: Out & back

Permit: Yes

Bathroom: At Parking Lot & Trailhead

Dogs: No

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Hanging Lake Reservations:

Due to the high volume of people that visit hanging lake each day, there is a permit system now in place. There will be a limit of 615 people per day allowed on the Hanging Lake trail.

This helps protect the sensitive vegetation and reduce congestion to increase the tourist’s overall experience. 

Peak Season for the Hanging lake trail is May 1- October 31, so if you plan to visit during these summer months, you are going to need a permit.

Permits go on sale April 1st and cost $12 per permit.

The permit includes a shuttle ride from The Hanging Lake Welcome Center (110 Wulfsohn Road in Glenwood Springs, CO) to the trailhead and back. 

Visit Glenwood’s Website to apply for a permit. 

Hanging Lake Trailhead:

Due to the new permit system in place the parking area at Hanging Lake will be closed to the public from May 1- October 31st. You are NOT allowed to park along the entrance or exit ramps, otherwise your car will be towed.

There is now a shuttle system leaving from the Hanging Lake Welcome Center to the trailhead. Parking is free at the Welcome Center (110 Wulfsohn Road in Glenwood Springs, CO).

But if you visit outside those dates (fall, winter, & spring), then you can park in the trailhead parking lot which is right off Highway I-70. 

If you are coming on I-70 West, there is no access to Hanging Lake, so you have to go past it and get off at Exit 121 and make a U-turn under the bridge to get back on I-70 East. You then will proceed to Exit 125 toward Hanging Lake.

Beginning Of The Hanging Lake Hike:

The Rocky Climb Up To Hanging Lake
Beautiful Waterfall Along The Trail

When starting on this hike, begin heading towards the east end (upriver) of the parking lot.

First, you will encounter a small building with bathrooms. These are the only bathrooms with running water in the area. Make sure you use them because there is hardly any privacy to relieve yourself along the trail.

There are also water fountains, so be sure to top of your water bottle, so you stay hydrated along the route.

Continue up the Canyon, following the Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path along the Colorado River for about a ¼ mile. This section of the trail is a paved path.

You will come to a sign on the left with the stats for the rest of the hike up to Hanging Lake. 

Just past this sign there a couple drop toilets. This will be your last chance for a bathroom break before climbing up to Hanging Lake. From here, the trail climbs up through Dead Horse Creek Canyon. 

The hike might seem short, but nearly the entire hike is a steep staircase, so I wouldn’t suggest this hike for below-average fitness levels. 

The trail starts off as stairs carved out of rocks. Then, th trail turns into a dirt path with switchbacks. Please do not shortcut the switchbacks or go off trail as it destroys vegetation. 

You will also encounter the creek at various points during the hike with small beautiful lush waterfalls along the way. There are wooden bridges to help you safely cross the creek and not get your feet wet.

There are many places with benches to take a rest along the hike. So take your time and catch your breathe.

You may also see a small wooden hut on the left of the trail. It has been roped off because of problems with vandalism, and people using it as a bathroom.

This beautiful hike has been plagued with all kind of problems due to disrespectful visitors, so PLEASE do your part to protect it.

Hanging Lake:

Hanging Lake

The final ascent can be the most challenging as there is one last push up some steep stairs. But after this last climb you will finally reach your goal destination: Hanging Lake!

There is a man-made boardwalk along the lake edge. There are benches all along the boardwalks for people to sit and enjoy the beautiful lake with a nice snack.

Rules of Hanging Lake in Colorado:

Please follow all signs and respect the area.

There is no swimming/wading allowed or walking on the log that leads out to the middle of the lake. (Many people have tried and some have fallen in, which can destroy this beautiful lake). Human skin can actually change the color of the water over several years.

Also, no fishing or drones are allowed.

I know there’s a lot of rules, but its the only way to protect it given the high volume of visitors.

Spouting Rock:

Spouting Rock

Just before you reach the boardwalk around Hanging Lake there is a short path on the left that takes you up to Spouting Rock. It is just a short hike up to this viewpoint.

About 50 feet up the sheer canyon wall, water spits out through a hole in the rock, creating a really unique waterfall. This water then feeds into Hanging Lake below.

Winter Hiking Hanging Lake:

Behind Spouting Rock In Winter (photo: Heidi Mead)

This hike can still be done all year round, but it becomes much more difficult in the winter. Research the weather conditions before diving into this trip.

If you choose to do his hike in the winter, this hike is steep, so you will want to make sure you have proper footwear with good traction. The steep hills and steep stairs become sheets of ice.

We suggest Snowshoes or Yaktrax to ensure good traction. And trekking poles can definitely help. Depending on when you go, the lake waterfalls may be frozen, creating beautiful icicles.

Hanging Lake In Winter (photo: Matt Wardlaw)

Did The Grizzly Creek Fire Hit Hanging Lake?

In August 2020, a wild fire broke out in Glenwood Canyon and was headed for Hanging Lake. While many people were rattled that it might destroy this spectacular waterfall, the fire left hanging lake unscathed.

A portion of the bottom of the trail was hit and will be noticeable. But luckily we still get to hike to this iconic natural wonder.

Although following the fire caused a mudslide leaving loose debris flows on the trail.

There is ongoing trail maintenance to make sure the trail is up to par for fellow hikers.

What To Pack For Hanging Lake:

CamelBak Crux 2L Reservoir

Solar Power Bank

Trail Buddy Hiking Poles

Cotz Sunscreen

SPF Rx Lip Balm

Adventure Medical Kit

Be sure to check out our post:

What To Wear Winter Hiking


Tips For Winter Hiking

Takeaway | Hanging Lake In colorado | Everything You Need To Know:

Hanging Lake is a National Natural Landmark of Colorado. The aqua blue water, surrounded by the fragile ecosystem is truly a beautiful attraction.

The hike can be quite a climb, but totally worth the gorgeous view of the pristine natural environment.

Plus there is a long bench that allows you to enjoy the view for as long as you need.

So be sure to add hanging lake to your Colorado bucket list. We hope you enjoy this ultimate guide to hanging lake in Colorado and it provides everything you need to know. 

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Saturday 17th of April 2021

[…] Hanging Lake In Colorado | Everything You Need To Know […]

The Ultimate 1 Week Colorado Road Trip - tworoamingsouls

Wednesday 15th of January 2020

[…] Before you plan your trip, check into getting a permit for Hanging Lake. You will need to purchase a shuttle and permit package. This hike is 2.8 miles with 1204 feet in elevation gain. This hike can be a challenge, but if you take breaks along the way and take it slow, it will be super rewarding in the end. For more information on this hike check out our article: Hanging Lake. […]

5 Best Lake Hikes In Colorado - tworoamingsouls

Thursday 8th of August 2019

[…] The lake hike is out and back and 3 miles with 1,135ft in elevation change. Check out our article Hanging Lake for more […]

Janet Bellacera

Tuesday 13th of November 2018

This looks like a wonderful hike, I may have to make the trip across the country to Colorado in my RV and check this place out. Thanks for the write up.

Emily Schroeter

Tuesday 13th of November 2018

It'd be the perfect stop for an RV, just plan ahead to get permits!


Tuesday 13th of November 2018

Wow! It looks absolutely beautiful there! I’ll have to add this to my Colorado list for sure!

Emily Schroeter

Tuesday 13th of November 2018

It really is a beautiful sight! Definitely something you should add. Just double check to see if you need a permit and plan ahead!