It’d been years since I’d hiked the popular Hanging Lake trail outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, so when a sunny, warm autumn day presented itself a couple weekends ago, I rallied the entire family for a 2.4-mile (roundtrip) scenic trek not too far from our mountain home. The trailhead for this moderately steep path to a gorgeous emerald green lake fed by a gushing waterfall is right off of busy Interstate 70. Easily accessible, the Hanging Lake trail is an incredibly popular place to be on Saturday mornings through the summer months. We knew to get started on our adventure relatively early, and were thrilled to score one of the last available parking places at exit 125 (eastbound only) at 10 a.m.
At the start of the paved path that leads to the actual trail, a sign warns out-of-towners that this is a “difficult” route. Indeed, if you’re coming from sea level, the vertical incline combined with thin mountain air can be challenging, for sure. But I spotted kids as young as four years old at the top of the trail who made it on their own two feet, so if your kiddos are active and avid hikers, they shouldn’t have a problem ascending to Hanging Lake. (My kids ages 9 and 11 made it without too much complaint; the elder is a gazelle on the trail, the younger a bit of a plodder and needs more encouragement.)
Along the way, we passed passed a babbling brook, crossed seven bridges, and admired all sorts of funky cliffs and rock formations. Many parts of the trail are shaded by evergreen and deciduous trees.
The toughest part is the tippy top, where metal railings are built into the side of a cliff, where it helps if you have long legs to climb up steps built into the rock. We posed for a quick family photo before reaching the summit.
Our reward was an absolutely stunning green pool of water at the bottom of a couple of waterfalls. Smartly built around the lake is a boardwalk and many benches for resting.
Walk another couple of minutes to where the waterfall begins for another cool sight: spouting rock. It’s as if the water that feeds the pool that feeds the waterfalls that feed Hanging Lake originates from the side of the cliff. You can also walk behind spouting rock to cool of in the refreshing (read: cold) pouring water.
In all, a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning in autumn. Again, if you go, your best bet is to arrive at the parking lot well before 10 a.m. On our trek down we passed a lot more people coming up than we did earlier in the day (i.e. we enjoyed the peace and quiet earlier in the day). And on our walk back to our parked car, we found it overflowing! People we driving around like vultures just waiting for other cars to leave so they could swoop in.
Another tip: Please oh please dress appropriately. That is in comfortable clothing, and in this autumn weather, that means long shorts or yoga pants, a tank top or t-shirt and a light jacket. Layers are key! What’s not key: the turtleneck sweater, dark jeans and black leather dress boots I saw one
touron out-of-town visitor wearing as she attempted to ascend the trail comfortably. This is an “off road” adventure — dress the part! And don’t forget your bottles of water, at least one per person. After all, you want to stay hydrated to reach the top to enjoy incredible views like this. Have fun!