Hiking to Hanging Lake, Glenwood Canyon, Colorado

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For most of the way up the Hanging Lake Trail, you’re hiking next to a creek. It’s easy to spot many different small waterfalls along the way, since the creek makes a relatively steep drop downhill.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Trail

To access the Hanging Lake Trail: if you’re headed eastbound, you can turn off the interstate at Exit 125. If you’re westbound, you’ll have to continue a few more miles, then exit and double back to Exit 125. The trail is well known, and well marked along the interstate.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Trail, Waterfall

While this uphill climb is physically exhausting, it’s also relaxing, thanks to the gentle sounds of the creek. There are plenty of wide spots in the trail, where you can stop, catch your breath, and take in the beauty of it all.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Trail

You’ll find this old shelter along the way. It’s handy, I suppose, for shelter from a sudden rainstorm, but it won’t hold very many people.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Trail, Waterfall

When you reach this cascade, you’re about to begin the final steep climb uphill. From here, the trail departs from the creek, rejoining it again at the lake.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Trail

When you reach the railings, you’re almost at the lake. At around the 1 mile mark the trail begins a steep climb up stairsteps carved out of the rock.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Trail

Unless you’re in great shape, you’ll probably need to stop and catch your breath a time or two along this final stretch. When you do, you can take in this incredible view of the canyon through which you just hiked.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Trail

The view downhill.  The bark on this tree is worn smooth, by years of visitors who’ve grabbed on, and hoisted themselves up the rocky steps.

At the top of the trail, you’ll see a sign pointing to Spouting Rock. I saved that for later. Go straight and you’ll hit the boardwalk that takes you around the outer edge of Hanging Lake.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Waterfall and Pool

This is pretty close to paradise… except for the crowds that will likely be in your way as you walk around the lake.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Log

A large log crosses the center of the lake. It’s flat on one side, allowing visitors to carefully walk out into the middle of the lake for a picture (but of course, you shouldn’t do that).

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Waterfall and Pool

Don’t leave without walking all the way around to the far side of the falls. If you go as far as you can, you’ll end up almost underneath the waterfall.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Hanging Lake Waterfall and Pool

As you leave the lake, backtrack to the cut-off for Spouting Rock. It’s just a short hike off the main trail, although it will take you uphill, once again.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Spouting Rock

The spouting rock is the source of water, that cascades into Hanging Lake. Here, the water pours out of a hole in the middle of a rock wall! You can walk underneath the falls without getting wet.

Glenwood Canyon Colorado, Spouting Rock

There’s a great view of Spouting Rock from either side… However, if you pass underneath the falls, you’ll also need to squeeze through a narrow passage between a boulder and the canyon wall.

After your visit to Hanging Lake and Spouting Rock, head back down the trail. When you return to your car, take a look at the time. There’s really only one more destination worth a visit today (Colorado National Monument, in Grand Junction). If it’s still early in the day, you may want to spend some more time in Glenwood Canyon. Rent a bike and ride through the canyon (on the trail that runs beside the interstate and the Colorado River), or tackle another trail. If it’s getting late, hop back on I-70 and head west to Grand Junction and Fruita.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.

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