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Nature often makes accessing its natural wonders a challenging experience. But, this is part of the process, as the beauty of the natural wonder is enhanced by the difficulty in getting there.
Hanging Lake in White River National Forest is one of those locations that is highly rewarding yet strenuous to access.
In this article, we discuss how visitors can get to Hanging Lake as well as some other popular trail questions.
Within each section, we pose a trail question and then discuss its answer in depth, focusing on general trail questions while also emphasizing queries that visitors to Hanging Lake might have.
How Do You Get to Hanging Lake?
- First things first, let’s discuss how to get to this coveted destination.
- Hanging Lake is tucked within Glenwood Canyon, which lies about 7 miles east of the city Glenwood Springs in Colorado.
- Using Interstate 70, visitors can access the trailhead by taking exit 121 if traveling westbound and exit 125 if traveling from eastbound.
- Once you arrive at the trailhead, the trail to the lake is 1.2 miles long and includes an elevation gain of 1000 feet. The trail is considered steep and strenuous, taking about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. The trail follows Dead Horse Creek throughout.
- Eventually, visitors will arrive at an oasis suspended at the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon. This lake is about 7300 feet above sea level, which means that visitors start the trail at about 6300 feet above sea level.
- The trail that leads to Hanging Lake is an out-and-back trail. This means that visitors must return in the same direction they arrived rather than following a loop back to the trailhead.
What Are the Features of Hanging Lake?
- A pristine lake is not the only attraction of Hanging Lake, which is 1.5 acres in area.
- Water flows over Bridal Veil Falls and feeds the lake below, resulting in a constant drone of falling water at the lake. The water is turquoise. The deepest point at the lake is 25 feet, though all visitors are strictly prohibited from swimming or entering in any way.
- Dogs are prohibited from the area as well as fishing.
- It’s typical to witness various fallen trees submerged in the lake. Some visitors try to walk on these, though this activity is strictly prohibited.
- Really, Hanging Lake is eye candy that would make a good photo opportunity or place to simply reflect on the marvels of nature.
- A wooden bridge has been built that partially traverses the perimeter of the lake, allowing visitors to view the area from many angles.
- Nearby Hanging Lake is another larger waterfall called Spouting Rock. This waterfall flows from holes in the cliffs of Dead Horse Canyon.
What Are Some Tips for Visiting Hanging Lake?
In 2011, Hanging Lake was finally designated a National Natural Landmark. This is only after years of being a popular tourist destination, though this designation has caused its popularity to explode.
Hanging Lake wittiness over 100,000 visitors each year, which has caused local officials to implement protective measures in order to prevent degradation to the area.
If you want to fully maximize your experience of the lake and surrounding area, then we recommend going early or late in the day as well as during the week when the lake is less crowded.
Furthermore, sometimes the parking lot at the trailhead fills up quickly, especially during the summer months.
Riding a bike form Glenwood Springs is one way of bypassing the crowds and still ensuring that you get to enjoy the lake. The bike ride is about 7 miles, making it perfect for people who want to get in a bit of exercise before soaking in the beauty of White River National Forest.
We also recommend being as prepared as possible for your excision to Hanging Lake. There are no facilities at the lake nor are there any restrooms along the way.
You should pack at least a meal or two as well as plenty of water, a first aid kid, and any other supplies you think you might need.
Even though Hanging Lake is not too far away from civilization, you don’t want to compromise your trip simply because you didn’t bring enough supplies. At the same time, you don’t want to over-pack, especially due to the rugged, rocky ascent involved.
In this sense, we recommend packing light, dense foods like dried fruit, nuts, and energy bars. Since there are no trashcans except at the parking lot, we also recommend bringing an extra bag in order to store your food scraps.
What Are the Benefits of Hanging Lake?
Visiting Hanging Lake is worthwhile because of the rare travertine deposits that have formed along the shoreline of the lake. These deposits formed over 300 million years when dissolved limestone deposited on various rocks and logs.
Additionally, the unique color of the lake is due to carbonate minerals which have been dissolved in it.
Hanging Lake would be a great destination for anyone interested in abundance, as the lake is a hotbed for local plants and wildlife. The area is bristling with life and energy. This is only enhanced by the powerful waterfalls which characterizes the experience due to its crashing echo.
Thus, simply being at Hanging Lake is an indulgent sensory experience that most visitors will cherish for years to come.
What Are the Drawbacks of Hanging Lake?
The trail can be very icy during the winter, making access to Hanging Lake difficult and dangerous.
This means that Hanging Lake should be ideally accessed during the warmer months of the year. Yet, it’s often overcrowded during this period, making parking a nightmare. Some visitors even travel from far away only to find that there is no parking available.
In this sense, Hanging Lake is not a reliable attraction. There is no main building or center that manages the influx of visitors, meaning that visitors can’t call ahead of time or have their questions answered on site.
Additionally, there are many prohibitions at the lake and trail.
For example, even dogs are banned. While this policy is certainly looking after the integrity of the area, it also limits what visitors can do at the lake.
Some people like to bring their pets with them everywhere, especially on strenuous hikes. The no-dog policy would thus not be ideal for these kinds of visitors.
What is the History of Hanging Lake?
Legend has it that a man searching for a gold stumbled upon the lake after finding a dead horse.
This horse is possibly the origins of the name of Dead Horse Creek. The trail follows this creek throughout and even crosses it at one point.
Over the years, the area has featured a homestead, a private retreat, a resort, and a café.
Since 1972, the trail and lake has been protected by the Forest Service. As the area becomes more popular with tourists each year, additional protective measures are adopted in order to preserve the local ecosystem.
Our Final Thoughts on Hanging Lake
We think Hanging Lake would be a great destination for anyone interested in the beauty of the natural world.
What’s great about Hanging Lake is that it makes you work to experience its magic. Some national landmarks are stunning yet easy to access, sometimes not even requiring visitors to exit their cars.
While these locations are desirable, many visitors also crave a deeper experience rooted in fitness and hard work.
In this sense, Hanging Lake is also a highly coveted destination due to its trail. This trail offers many views of the surrounding canyon and national park while also being a rocky obstacle in its own regard.
Despite its challenging ascent, the hike is over after about 1 mile, making it short but rewarding.
We don’t think this would be an ideal trail if you are physically incapacitated in any way. Additionally, visitors should be careful when hiking the trail during the off-season, as ice can be subtle in the early Winter months. An injury could easily occur if you aren’t cautious.
We love the fact that cell phone coverage is minimal on the trail and at the lake. This forces visitors to immerse themselves in the surrounding wildlife rather than experiencing the area through the filter of their smart phone.
We also appreciate all the prohibitions featured in the area, even if this results in many limitations concerning the activities that can be conducted at Hanging Lake.
Ultimately, the preservation of our natural environment is more important than the temporary preferences of some tourists.
We think Hanging Lake will continue to be a popular destination in coming years as the divide between city life and nature grows wider. Citizens of the future will crave a utopian oasis where they can distance themselves from the mundanities of civilization and appreciate the vestiges of the long-lost natural world.