Hanging Lake, a local natural wonder

Nearby our home, there is a high-alpine travertine lake with crystal-clear waters. A grandiose waterfall plummets as the source, and a log sits, suspended, from the shore.

Maybe you’ve heard of it?

This mysterious log remains suspended in the water at Hanging Lake.

Hanging Lake is a world-famous attraction, known as a geological wonder and top contender for bucket list musts. It’s both gorgeous and amazing, and is a hidden oasis tucked into Glenwood Canyon.

In late October, my parents and I decided to hike up the 1-mile trail and admire the natural beauty of the lake. This was their very first time seeing Hanging Lake, and my second trek. We decided the night before, prompted by a glass of wine, and were definitely happy that we followed through on our early morning plans.

Our Trip

At the moment, Hanging Lake has pretty clear rules for capacity: if the parking lot is full, you’re out of luck. The last time Chad and I visited, we pulled up to the trail head at 6:30 a.m. on a Friday, and there were only about 10 spots left.

This time around, it was the off-season. I wasn’t sure how early was early enough, so I hauled out my parents at about 7:20 a.m. on a Friday—cursing the cold as I slumped out of bed. Fortunately, we were only the second car in the lot. We barely had any interaction with other hikers until the way down, as more visitors began there ascent.

We came prepared for the October chill with plenty of layers, plus we also had water, a small backpack, and hiking shoes. Shoes with good tread are essential, and should always be closed-toe. A good attitude is an extra packing item, especially if it’s early, cold, and a hot springs soak sounds like a better alternative at the time.

Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes with good tread on your hike.

Because Hanging Lake is such a famous destination, people do not always realize how difficult the trail is. It is on the harder side, deceptively so. Though it’s only a mile long, the trail is steep and at times a little treacherous; it’s is filled with rocks, which are sometimes slick from over-use. There are plenty of spots to “pull over” for a quick break, but keep in mind that this trek is not necessarily young-kid-friendly.

Depending on how in-shape I am, it’s not always Savannah-friendly, either.

The hike is about a mile upward, climbing mostly on rocky terrain.

It was a killer workout for my parents and I. We enjoyed taking breaks without worrying about trail traffic, and took plenty of pictures along the way. Though the lake at the end is the big prize, the surroundings of the trail are also breathtaking. Glenwood Canyon is showcased, with beautiful forest, small water features, and the rushing of the Colorado River below.

Pause to appreciate the natural features. You won’t regret it.

Glenwood Canyon, home to both Hanging Lake and the Colorado River, is full of beautiful scenery.

When we reached the top (keep in mind, one mile really feels like several at times), my parents and I were absolutely blown away by the scene in front of us.

Hanging Lake was breathtaking. We admired the turquoise-yet-clear water, and noticed fish floating nonchalantly, minding their own business. Iron deposits built up along the shore, telling a story of nature changing seasons. The log, which juts out into the water, hung in miraculous suspension before our very eyes.

Hanging Lake is known for its crystal turquoise waters, waterfall, and its suspended log.

It’s cold up there. After sweating and huffing and puffing, the high-mountain feel is soothing. You pause, see your breath in the brisk and clear air, and wonder how you got so lucky to find this place.

After taking some photos and helping another group with their shots, we ended up wandering further up the trail. “This way to Spouting Rock,” reads the sign. Last time, probably off-put by the crowds, Chad and I ignored the sign and went back down. Now, I hoped to find something incredible with the extra climb.

Incredible barely covers it.

Spouting Rock is the source of the falls, and is exactly how it sounds: it’s a hole in the middle of the mountain with water gushing out of it. As simple as it sounds, Spouting Rock is loud, constant, and beautiful. We took photos in the cave area, and enjoyed our quiet visit with the rushing water.

We had an incredible time, and were so thankful that we decided to make the trip. My parents got to see Hanging Lake for the first time, which is a major Colorado bucket list item. I was very happy to spend time with my parents in nature, and flex with my knowledge of the site and my experiences as a local public relations agency that promotes the area.

My beautiful parents enjoyed seeing Hanging Lake for the first time.

When You Go


There are rules at Hanging Lake, for very important reasons; as previously mentioned, the area is a geological wonder, and becoming less and less of a hidden gem. Thanks to its popularity boom, the pristine habitat is threatened, especially as people disregard “leave no trace” courtesies. Rules have been set to keep Hanging Lake beautiful, and to preserve the space as a public resource for as long as possible.

If you travel to Hanging Lake, please follow these rules, and pay attention to the signs that list them.

  • Stay on the trail.
  • No dogs are allowed.
  • Do not feed the wildlife. (Yes, even the cute chimp monks that look so cute and friendly.)
  • Do not go in the water.
  • Do not walk on the log.
  • Fishing is not allowed.

It might seem like a hefty list, but each rule was created for a reason. They represent the detrimental effects of introducing unnatural elements into a delicate and over-used ecosystem. For example, your body does not belong in the water and can greatly damage its minerals and degrade the fish’s home.

The Future of Hanging Lake

While Hanging Lake is a world-famous destination, it has also been a source of infamous treatment. In recent years, travelers have disrespected the land in numerous ways: they have littered, vandalized, and ignored the numerous signs that warn to keep off the log, stay on the trail, and not go in the water.

Rule breakers, in addition to a heaping serving of so much love and use, has mandated the local forest service to step in and take over the management of Hanging Lake. For the past several years, hundreds of thousands of visitors have come to Hanging Lake per summer season. This has worn down the trail and the already fragile ecosystem.

Starting in May 2019, there will be a shuttle system in place, along with a fee and permit process for anyone wishing to visit Hanging Lake. It will be similar to the Maroon Bells procedure (which is considered the top photographed location in Colorado, and went through parallel struggles).

For more information and to properly prepare to your visit to Hanging Lake, check out the Forest Service website.

Happy Hanging Lake hiking!


One last quick selfie at the lake, featuring my wonderful parents.





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36 thoughts on “Hanging Lake, a local natural wonder

    1. Agreed! There are about 184,000 visitors per summer, which sadly leads to lots of litter from people that don’t quite get it or respect nature. Lots of great conservation efforts in the works, though! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  1. Wow. What an amazing place. I confess I’ve never heard of this place, but I’ve not been to your neck of the woods. Yet. I’m going to add it to my bucket list. I fully agree that these treasures have to be well looked after. I know several places have been ruined by having too many visitors. But I am also heartened to know that once we are made aware, most will take care of these places. “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but memories”. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I love that quote! It’s perfect. I hadn’t really known about Hanging Lake until I moved to the area, and was so surprised that it was only 20 minutes away from my home, and that it was so well-known throughout the world! Shocking. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  2. Hanging Lake looks really stunning. I love all the water that’s gliding off the rocks. Almost nature-personified! It’s no wonder (pun unintended) why it’s important for the lake to be preserved as much as possible. Glad you’ve been enjoying your time hiking around there 🙂

    Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures

  3. That looks really cool! Is there only the one (difficult) trail? LOL I wish I knew about this place when I was a young spry one… Just kidding (kinda). I will have to tell my husband — he would enjoy seeing this! Thanks for sharing!

    1. It’s amazing. There’s only one single trail, which is probably a big reason why it’s so well-worn and used. I’ve seen all ages and abilities out there on the trail, if you’re ever in Colorado. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading!

  4. Oh wow! I absolutely loved the pictures you took and included in this post. This looks like a gorgeous travel spot. Definitely added it to my bucket list! Also thanks for including the picture and info regarding the actual trail! Nothing worse than thinking my small vans will be just fine to walk up in and having sore feet 5 minutes in 🙂 awesome read!

    1. Thank you! It really is a unique spot, surrounded by so much beauty. And yes, agreed! I’ve been forced into hikes when wearing sandals, thinking we’d be going for a leisurely walk—it’s the worst. Wouldn’t fly here, haha. Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

  5. I love your visuals. I can’t believe I’d never heard of Hanging Lake. It sounds and look like a challenging hike, but an equally rewarding experience. Your parents are troopers for joining along the steep and rough terrain, not sure I’d be able to talk mine into it. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Very detailed visitor guide. Looks beautiful. It’s a shame people can’t respect attractions like this and an authority has to step in. But if it preserves the location it will be a good move. It seems you had a great trek.

  7. Wow, it looks beautiful! Your photos are lovely 🙂 I wish there were places like this near me for me to visit in the UK! It is a shame though that there are people that don’t follow the rules. I’m not sure how people can do it when in such a beautiful place. It is good that something has been put in place to help protect it. Thanks for sharing 🙂


    1. I think the most disheartening thing is seeing trash like beer bottles in the bushes, or literal spray painted graffiti on some historic structures off the path. They actually close the trail already a few times a year just to clean everything up. I’ll never get it either! But thank you so much for reading and commenting. 🙂

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