If you go to Colorado you’ll come to learn that no one starts a Hike after lunch. For one of many reasons, thunderstorms, heat, parking etc etc. Everyone is a spring chicken in these mountains.
We broke this rule on our penultimate day, we left camp casually at 9:30 with at least an hour and a half drive ahead of us. Having started the crater lake hike at 8am the day before! We went to Walmart….again and spent the remaining of the morning trying to get an inverter to re charge our camera.
Defeated we headed to Hanging lake, which has it’s own turning off the I-70 about 5 miles east from Glenwood Springs. We arrived at 11:30 to a tired, fed up ranger who’d had a thousand people before us ask to be that one extra car in the queue. Once the car park is full a maximum of 20 people can wait. We turned around and headed to the river bank to watch the white-water rafting and have our sandwiches.
We took our chances a second time at 1pm and managed to sneak to 7th in the queue, which moved pretty quickly. Before long we were getting ready for the adventure ahead. Having just spent a couple days up in Aspen we were used to everyone wearing proper hiking gear. It was quite different here, people were in board shorts, flip flops and some looked as if they’d never taken the stairs in their life. I was quite surprised they were going to take on a ‘difficult’ category hike!
The hike starts along a cycling path that follows the river, the thundering i-70 slowly becomes more and more distant as you make your way towards the hanging lake turn off. After half a mile you’ll come to a shady retreat and the bottom of a stream, which turns off to the hanging lake hike. The descent begins quickly, as you navigate up steps cut into boulders. It was at this point I realised I left the camera on the roof of the car, so I swung a quick 180 and hurtled back down at a dangerous pace. All was not lost as otherwise the pictures you see wouldn’t be possible! After my half-mile dash, I tried my best to cool off, but the sweltering sun was beating down with all its might. I couldn’t wait to reach the shady start, the ascent quickly takes you up into a shaded trail.
You climb alongside the stream, which, crashes and trickles besides you for the majority of the trip, and even tries to join you at certain occasions. Bridges take you from side to side a total of five times.
Joining us on the travels were a few forest fellows, Stewart the snake, Clive the chipmonk & Bell the butterfly. Keep an eye out for the chipmonks they’re pretty cheeky!
Remnants of time forgotten exist on the path such as this wooden hut, having taken pictures I was eagerly searching for an explanation of this building but alas I can’t find one. It could be the remnant of a snackshop when the lake was privately owned, if you know please let me know in the comments below!
Nearing the top the path get’s steeper, the stream begin to elude you as it cascades a huge rock face. Metal barriers start to come into sight at the trail takes you up the face of the rock. This was the most technical part of the climb and pushes you, if you suffer from vertigo don’t look down. There are pulpits carved out that allow you to do the Titanic pose looking over the valley floor.
After you’ve climbed this final hurdle a board walk takes you to the lake, if you didn’t think your breath could be taken any more away prepare to be amazed as the turquoise waters glisten. There are three waterfalls that make up the lake, which interestingly was formed due to a tectonic shift in the rock in which the bottom of the lakebed was formed.
To the left is a path up to sprouting rock, which is a much larger waterfall and one you can get quite intimate with (the ranger said it was ok). If you’re still hot at this point it’ll be a matter of second before the spray envelops you and cools you right down.
The round trip on our GPS was 3.4 miles with 100 floors of elevation.
You’ll read a lot online about the busyness of this trail, the fact of the matter is it that it’s a very unique destination one worth seeing regardless of how many times you need to let someone pass.
To check out more adventures we had on our Colorado road trip click here!