Back to top

Hiking to Hanging Lake Colorado

Hanging Lake is one of Colorado’s otherworldly gems. Its wispy waterfall tendrils, gumdrop-green waters, cliffside location (hence the name) and lush surroundings make it one of the state’s most popular hikes and are why it was named a National Natural Landmark in 2011.
Hanging Lake
Hanging Lake
Hanging Lake in Colorado
Hanging Lake in Colorado
Glenwood Canyon to Hanging Lake
Glenwood Canyon to Hanging Lake

Branching off I-70 just 10 miles east of Glenwood Springs in the spectacular Colorado River-carved Glenwood Canyon, the Hanging Lake Trail is a must-stop along this scenic patch of highway. The trail is relatively short — just over a mile — but it’s quite steep and rocky.

There are, however, plenty of places to rest along the way, take epic photos of the canyon and the river flowing through it, and explore rocky hideways. And handrails on especially tricky parts of the trail help keep you moving in the right direction. Making it to the top will take your breath away!

A walkway surrounds the lake, from which you can gaze into its hypnotic waters and spy the native trout frittering within. 

According to the National Park Service’s National Natural Landmarks Program, “Hanging Lake is a unique example within the Southern Rocky Mountains … of a lake formed by travertine deposition, “ which we know better as a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs. Here, “natural geologic and hydrologic processes continue to operate as they have done throughout the history of the lake. The site also supports one of the best and largest examples of a hanging garden plant community.” (See other mineral waters at work at the nearby Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, home to the world’s largest hot-springs pool.)

Getting to Hanging Lake Colorado

Parking is available at the Hanging Lake Rest Area off I-70. If you’re driving eastbound I-70 (toward Denver), you can simply take the Hanging Lake exit.

If you’re headed westbound (toward Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction), things are a bit trickier: you’ll take the Grizzly Creek exit, cross the highway and get back on I-70 headed eastbound. Then, you’ll take the Hanging Lake exit.

The rest area has restrooms, picnic tables, water fountains and vending machines. It’s an extremely popular spot, so those in the know recommend visiting on weekdays and during off hours during the summer (before 8am and after 4pm on weekdays and before 7am or after 5pm on weekends).

To avoid parking chaos all together, you can bike or walk to the trailhead along the riverside Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path from the town of Glenwood Springs (9.5 miles) or the No Name (4.1 miles) or Bair Ranch (3.3 miles) rest areas. 

Another way to avoid crowds is to hike the trail during the late fall, winter or early spring. Because of its steep nature, hiking the trail is not recommended in the winter or when ice is on the ground.

What to Bring

Be sure you’ve got good hiking/walking shoes, sunscreen, a hat, a camera and plenty of water to drink along the way.

What Not to Bring

Your dog (they are forbidden from the trail and the lake), fishing gear or swim wear. Though it looks quite inviting, there’s no swimming or fishing in the lake. Additionally, touching or drinking Hanging Lake's water is strictly prohibited as well as standing under, behind or on top of the waterfalls and walking on the fallen trees within the lake.

Part of the reason the lake and the area around it remain so majestic generation after generation is that people are asked to stay in designated areas. The lake’s ecosystem is quite fragile, and we want people to be able to enjoy it for years to come.   

Want More?

Glenwood Canyon made our list of 99 Gorgeous Places in Colorado. See what else made the list >>

Check out video, parking tips for the busy summer season and more info on all there is to see and do in the area at the Glenwood Springs Visitor Center website.

Learn about other National Natural Landmarks in Colorado: Garden of the Gods, Roxborough State Park, Spanish Peaks and more.

And find other popular Colorado hikes and read about Colorado hidden gems like Island Lake near Silverton.


Photos: Flickr/Sayamindu Dasgupta (the first one); courtesy of Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association (all the rest).