26 In Colorado/ Hiking + The Outdoors/ Travel

Hanging Lake Trail, Colorado


Way back in 2012, my dad and I were on one of our father / daughter hiking trips in Utah and we passed through Glenwood Canyon. We stopped to use the restroom and saw a trailhead for Hanging Lake Trail, but we were on a time crunch so we passed it up. Upon Googling it later we realized that we totally missed out! It took me a little over four years to get back here, but this was the first hike on Matt’s birthday trip to Colorado!

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The Hanging Lake Trail is 3.2 miles and it’s out and back. This trail is very steep, going pretty much 1.6 miles straight up and back down. It’s well trafficked and aside from the absolutely gorgeous grand finale at the end of this trail there are loads of stunning views and overlooks along the way.



The trail starts up these rocks. They sort-of make steps and make it very easy to work your way up the side of the cliff.

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The stream that creates the lake at the top flows down the cliffs into smaller cascades that you follow up the side of the cliff. It’s very peaceful sounding all along the way.


Although the Hanging Lake Trail is very well-trafficked we were on our own the vast majority of the time and found so much peace along the way up. The only crowd that we encountered was near the top at the narrowest part of the trail and, of course, at the lake itself.


Looking down at the switchbacks.


This cozy little shelter is right off the party. It’s a great place to rest if you need it or even to get out of the elements. 

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Just before reaching the hanging lake, there’s an extremely narrow part of the trail that hugs the edge of the cliff. The have it sort-of fenced off  you feel more secure doing the climb up. In addition to all of the excitement, check out this incredible view?!


Just a few yards past the intense part, you turn the corner to see this absolutely stunning view! Multiple streams of water fall over moss-covered cliffs and into the bright turquoise water of Hanging Lake.


Look at that water?! So beautiful! 


There are all kinds of little fish in Hanging Lake as well! Not only is the water a bright, beautiful color, but it’s crystal clear!

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They’ve built a nice observation deck around the lake – it’s great because it helps to protect the fragile environment up there. 


This log stretches across a good section of the lake. Many people post taking photos on this log, but signs ask you not to walk across it. 


Be sure not to miss the spouting rock above the lake. I had never heard of this part of this trail, but if you continue straight instead of veering right to go to the lake, you will come to this waterfall gushing out of a cliffside. This water continues down the mountain and feeds into Hanging Lake.


The trip back down was easier on me (having asthma, the trip up is always harder for me), but for Matt (who has a wonky knee) the trip down is harder a lot of times. 


A Few Things to Know About This Hike:

» Remember that it’s straight up + straight down. Although this hike is short that doesn’t mean easy.

» Dogs aren’t allowed on this trail. So, if your traveling with your furry friend(s) be sure to make arrangements for them.

» This is a pretty popular trail, so if it’s peak travel season, get there early to snag a parking spot.

» Although it’s tempting, don’t swim or fish in the water. Doing either of these can be destructive to the environment up there.


This is one of the most popular short hikes in Colorado, and it’s understandable why. This trail is beautiful all the way up and the finale at the top is unforgettable. This is in the top three trails that I did in 2016, and I’ve done a lot of them this year. If you’re anywhere near this trail and love phenomenal natural sites, be sure to take the time to do it.

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  • Reply
    Flying to Adventure--with Detours
    November 7, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Curses! My knees won’t allow me to do hikes like this anymore. Thanks for letting me hike vicariously through you.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 7, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      No problem! I’m sorry to hear about your knees! Luckily for them, and you, there are loads of flat trail too! Thanks for checking out my post! Cheers!

  • Reply
    Courtney Minor
    November 7, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I’ve been wanting to do this hike for so long but I always end up passing through Colorado in the winter. There’s too much ice & snow whenever I’m there. I’ll have to plan a trip for summer or autumn!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 7, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only person who has missed this hike before getting to do it. I promise it’s worth the wait! I heard that it’s insanely busy in the summer, but it was great in the fall we found parking, even in the afternoon. Have fun!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    So beautiful, Paige! I love your photos!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I passed by this just last month and wondered at all the people in the parking lot 😛 lovely photos!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Haha! I guess you’ll have to stop next time, huh? 🙂

  • Reply
    Jen Morrow
    November 9, 2016 at 10:13 am

    I like hiking around Colorado, such beautiful trails. Beautiful lake, and no worries about me swimming in there, I know how cold that water is! BBBBUUURRRRRRR.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Haha! I can only imagine – especially this time of year! Not to mention that we drove through a snowstorm heading from here to Denver that day!

  • Reply
    November 9, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    That water is so crystal clear! I absolutely love Colorado. I’ve never been on this hike, but am wondering if I would be able to do it with all the camera gear I usually take with me. I would definitely need to get into shape since this one sounds very steep.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      It is absolutely beautiful. It’s worth it to be able to just take it all in, even if you have to leave some gear behind. I hope you get to make it sometime.

  • Reply
    November 9, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    I’ve travelled quite a bit in the states but not been to Colorado yet, this hike looks amazing! And that water!! Shame you can’t swim in it, but conservation should be the top priority 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      I had traveled through Colorado several times and made stops in Denver and attempted to drive to the top of Pikes Peak (but our car broke down halfway up) but this was my first time really getting out and seeing the mountains and the amazing beauty of it! I will definitely be returning over and over again!

  • Reply
    November 9, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    This hike looks absolutely beautiful! How groomed was the path? Would you recommend this as a beginner or a more advanced hike? I’m dying to go to Colorado for trail running – it looks absolutely beautiful!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      The path was a bit rocky. It isn’t paved or anything. The first part is all large rocks that sort-of make steps.
      I would say, for me it wouldn’t be too hard for a beginner as long as the beginner is in decent shape. I’ve never been trail running (I don’t like regular running! Haha), but I think it’s pretty steep for running and not exceptionally wide. Like I said, I’ve never been trail running, so I may be totally wrong.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 2:48 am

    Looks like a lovely short hike through beautiful scenery. The water looks so clear. I’ve always thought of Colorado as a skiing destination but obviously the hiking is pretty good too.

  • Reply
    Svet Dimitrov
    November 10, 2016 at 7:07 am

    Paige, this is an utterly amazing place. It’s so good you came back to visit it. The views are just stupendous, drop-dead gorgeous, out of this planet…

    I wonder how many places we have missed during our wanderings! Excellent photos, by the way!

  • Reply
    Wandering JM
    November 10, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Seems like that this is a great place to hike! it is beautiful but too bad i cannot hike there really soon. too far from where I am now. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 9:53 am

    When I read posts like this it inspires me to want to be outside more. To go and experience new things. I spend most of my time in the city but nature always seems to win with its beauty.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 11:03 am

    This is such a stunning hike! I have a thing for lakes and waterfalls so this would totally be up my alley. Are you able to go underneath the spouting rock, closer to the water?

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Such a beautiful lake. The water is an amazing color. Why can’t you swim in the lake? Is swimming really considered that destructive? I’ve never heard of this…un;ess there are alligators.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I need to google this and see how close this is to me in Utah, it looks amazing! Hiking is one of my hobbies and I am always looking for new places to go! Great pictures!

  • Reply
    Agness of aTukTuk
    April 7, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    This seems like a great trail! I would love to go for a hike there!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      April 13, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      It’s definitely my current Colorado favorite! Thanks for checking it out! Cheers!

  • Reply
    Happy Earth Day - Keeping Close to Nature's Heart - For the Love of Wanderlust
    April 22, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    […] waited four years to do the Hanging Lake Trail and it did not […]

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