Here's the deal...
Your Hanging Lake adventure starts with knowing the rules! Hanging Lake is a National Natural Landmark. It's beautiful, but you already knew that. So, here's what you need to know:
Stay Out of the Water!
Please don't swim, touch, or dip a camera in the water! Body oils in the water stop the travertine deposition. There's a log in the water too, please keep off the log!
Although trout are visible in the lake, fishing is not allowed!
Due to the sensitivity of the ecosystem and the volume of hikers, dogs are not allowed!
If you bring something with you, bring it back. There aren't any trash cans along the trail. Pack it in, pack it out!
No Cutting Switchbacks!
A switchback is when the trail cuts sharply back and forth, these help accommodate the rise in elevation for the hiker. You could run steeply off the trail straight up, but shortcutting switchbacks promotes erosion. Not good!
No Feeding the Animals!
We know, they are so cute. The problem is it is unhealthy for the animals to eat human food and they can bite!
These rules are in place to protect and preserve Hanging Lake not just for our generation, but for future generations as well. And if you aren't going to follow the rules because it's the right thing to do, follow the rules because it could cost you. Violations at Hanging Lake are punishable via United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service 36CFR261.50(a)&(b) with fines up to $5,000.
So we're good. Let's hike!
The Hanging Lake Rest Area, located in the middle of the Glenwood Canyon, is the closest parking area to the Hanging Lake trailhead. The rest area exit is only accessed along eastbound I-70, Exit 125. The Hanging Lake parking lot fills up daily during the summer with peak traffic between 10 am to 4 pm. Visitors are encouraged to plan their trip around less busy times during weekdays, or in the spring before Memorial Day or fall after Labor Day. When the parking lot is full you must exit and return another time. Parking on the entrance or exit ramps of I-70 is prohibited. Please obey all signs and closures, illegally parked vehicles may be towed. There are restrooms and water available at the Hanging Lake Rest Area.
Remember, the Hanging Lake Trail can be accessed via the Glenwood Canyon Trail, also called the Glenwood Canyon recreation path, and Glenwood Canyon bike path. Whatever you want to call it, the trail is a paved path through the entire canyon, from Glenwood Springs all the way to Dotsero. If you're concerned about parking and want to avoid the hassle of the Hanging Lake Rest Area, Hanging Lake visitors should consider walking or riding their bike from the Grizzly Creek Rest Area (about 4 1/2 miles to the trailhead) or Blair Ranch Rest Area (about 3 miles to the trailhead).
The Hanging Lake Trail is basically a 3-mile round trip hike. The trail is steep, uneven, and rocky, be sure to wear proper footwear and bring plenty of water. From the Hanging Lake Rest Area, you'll walk less than 1/2 mile alongside the Colorado River on the paved, flat Glenwood Canyon Trail to the trailhead. There are picnic tables and restrooms at the Hanging Lake trailhead. Just so you know, there are no restrooms at the top of Hanging Lake or along the trail.
The Hanging Lake Trail is a 1.2 mile rocky, difficult uphill climb that gains nearly 1,000 feet. The trail begins around 6,350 feet at the bottom of Glenwood Canyon and ends around 7,320 feet after winding up through Dead Horse Creek Canyon as you cross seven bridges and end with a steep hand rail staircase climb to the lake. Hanging Lake is what you came for, but don't miss the beautiful source of the water, Spouting Rock, a short hike above Hanging lake.
Hanging Lake is a fragile ecosystem. Please observe and follow all posted rules and regulations along the trail and around the lake. Please respect closed restoration areas and stay on the trail. Hanging Lake is a travertine deposition formed lake that has substantial hanging garden plant life. It is extremely unique and the reason it is a National Natural Landmark, 1 of only 14 in the state of Colorado. Do your part to help preserve this special place. Together, we can #SaveHangingLake.
Obviously, Hanging Lake is remarkable. But, there are hundreds of other amazing hiking trails around Glenwood Canyon and the Roaring Fork Valley. You just need to know where to go to find hiking trails, we've got you covered.