Colorado's Iconic Hanging Lake to Reopen on May 1

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(This designated National Natural Landmark is considered a rare geological wonder because of its rare and fragile shoreline composed of travertine deposits. Photo by Liana Moore.)

Western Colorado is home to some of the most spectacular hikes in the United States. One in particular, Hanging Lake, makes many top ten lists. The trail was abruptly closed in August of 2020 due to the Grizzly Creek Fire that ripped through Glenwood Canyon. With continued safety precautions, the trail will be reopening to visitors on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

The lake was formed by travertine depositions and the natural geologic processes continue to operate as they have done for thousands of years. It is the most beautiful deep green. The lake also boasts a thriving hanging garden plant community. It was designated a national natural landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in 2011. Due to overcrowding a permitting system was implemented in 2019. That will continue this year in a slightly different format.
“While the Grizzly Creek Fire thankfully passed over this nationally recognized Natural Landmark, there were clean-up and safety measures that were necessary before the trail was able to be reopened to the public,” said Leanne Veldhuis, district ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District.

The Grizzly Creek Fire caused havoc for the area. Both parts of Glenwood Springs and Dotsero on the other side of the canyon were under evacuation orders. The historic Bair Ranch which sits at the eastern entrance to the canyon sustained damage but was spared its structures. However it was perhaps the threat the fire posed to the beloved Hanging Lake that had many Coloradans in tears.

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(The Hanging Lake trail was closed in August of 2020 due to the Grizzly Creek Fire. Photo courtesy Visit Glenwood.)

Hanging Lake Permitting System

New Hanging Lake Trail guidelines and adjustments will include a temporary reduction in hiker capacity as well as assisted self-parking for permit holders. This is a change from the past two summers which required use of a shuttle from Glenwood Springs to access the trailhead.

“Last year, prior to the fire, a special management plan was put into place for COVID social distancing,” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion for Glenwood Springs. “Part of that plan will remain in place through the summer, including the assisted self-parking for permitted hikers.” Langer added that the city plans to hold off on the shuttle service until later in the season and will reevaluate as the pandemic situation improves.

Hanging Lake permit reservation system which was implemented in 2019 will resume for the 2021 season. Visitors can purchase permits online at visitglenwood.com/HangingLake for $12 per person. Hikers can either self-drive and park at the Hanging Lake Rest Area; or bike or hike along the Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path to the trailhead. Both permits are identical in cost and time slot inventory. All hikers will be asked to present their permit upon arrival at the Hanging Lake Rest Area.

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(Glenwood Canyon is spectacular with the river running through steep cliffs. Hanging Lake is the best known of beautiful hikes in the canyon. Photo by Liana Moore.)

Hanging Lake Hike Difficulty

There is a short walk on the bike path to the trail head and there is plenty of shade once you get on the trail. It is 3.2 miles total with just over a 1,000 foot ascension. You’ll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring water, and maybe even a picnic lunch or snacks while you take in the views up top.

It is a fairly steep up hill trail, rated as moderately difficult. If your kids haven’t ever hiked before be prepared for some complaining. My daughter wasn’t the only kid in the trail we saw digging in her heels. But hold tight. The views at the top make it worth it. They may even thank you when you get to the lake.

About Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs has a fascinating history beginning with the healing powers of the natural hot springs in the area to gangsters making the town their second home during prohibition. Now it is a wonderful Colorado vacation destination. Ski resorts are nearby. There are a variety of natural hot springs to relax in. And, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a fun attraction for all ages.

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Insider Families is a Colorado-based family travel publisher. We love the great outdoors. We feel grateful to live in the mountains of Colorado and see first hand how climate change is impacting our winters. It is important to us that we share with our readers and followers how they can help preserve what makes a place special. We make a point to learn about the local history and environment of the places we visit. When we visit the Golden Isles of Georgia you will find us making a stop at the Sea Turtle Sanctuary and learning about this endangered species. We return home with books on the subject and a desire to share that knowledge. We love nature and like to spend as much time in it as possible whether hiking a mountain, riding the BMX track, soaring down an alpine coaster or trying a new sport at the beach or lake.

Vail, CO
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