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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Hanging Lake Hike

After visiting Colorado National Monument, we continued east on I-70.  We almost stopped in Glenwood Springs to see Doc Holladay's grave, but since the little one was sleeping, we continued on.  While we were still in Glenwood Springs, we started experiencing some pretty serious road construction.  The eastbound lanes closed and were diverted into the westbound lanes going through Glenwood Canyon.  Since Hanging Lake is only accessible from eastbound I-70, we didn't know if Hanging Lake would be an option or not. 
As it ended up, the Hanging Lake exit was available in spite of the construction, so we took it to see what we would find.  As it ended up, we found the parking lot to be a zoo.  All of the parking spaces were taken, and everytime a car left a space, it was a fight to be the one to get it.  We circled the lot, much like a shark circling in the water.  Are they leaving?  Nope.  Lets do another lap.  Finally we saw a lady heading to her car.  We smelled blood in the water.  My wife rolled down her window, and the answer was affirmative.  We could have the spot if we waited 2 minutes.  So we  pulled over, threw on the blinker, and in short order were the happy new "owners" of a parking spot.  *As we were leaving after the hike, several cars were parked on the offramp from the freeway.  It was crazy!
Now that we had figured out the parking area, it was time for some real fun.  We loaded the pack and set off.  One 20-something pound toddler, two full nalgene bottles, one camera, a half-dozen granola bars, and a few miscellaneous other items.  The different trip reports I'd seen on Hanging Lake varied in the distance the hike was.  After factoring in the distance from the parking area to the real trailhead (and throwing in a small detour to Spouting Rock), I figured that 3 miles round trip was pretty accurate.  Throw in about 1000 feet of elevation gain, and this would amount to be a decent little break from our drive. 
The trail starts out, and almost immediately begins climbing.   It climbs pretty much all the way to the lake, with not very many level sections along the way.  You follow the creek for the majority of the time, and cross it 6 or 7 times on bridges.  Right below the first bridge was a small arch in the waterfall that was pretty sweet. 
Since it was spring, part of the trail was muddy and had water from the creek on it.  At each flooded part, we'd pick our way across on rocks, or just stomp through the mud.  I was amazed at how many people were on the trail (reflecting back on the parking lot, I shouldn't have been surprised).  "Pardon me."  "Can I sneak by you?" It was quite apparent that the best way to navigate through all of the people was to put my head down, and assertively blow on by them- even though my legs and lungs were burning. 
We leapfrogged several small groups before ultimately leaving them behind.   At about 1/4 mile from the lake, we passed a small shelter that was just off the trail.  The trail leveled out for a short distance before beginning the final climb to the lake. 
Just before the lake, the trail cuts steeply up and across a small cliff-face.  There were guardrails in place, but it was still humorous to hear people's remarks.  One lady said "This is why I'm not a rockclimber."  I thought to myself "This is almost why rockclimbing is fun, but not quite."  We stopped to let our lungs breathe, rest our legs, take a few pictures, and let a large group on their way down navigate through the bottleneck. 
Then with a final push, we were over the edge and at Hanging Lake.  WOW.  Beautiful. It's hard to adequately describe how amazing it is.  Numerous waterfalls falling directly into an emerald blue lake.  I took lots of pictures.  Then lots more.  You could send some serious time here taking pictures.  It wouldn't surprise me if people have been married here or if an ambitious bride or two hauled their wedding dress up for some bridal shots. 
I noticed at the trailhead a sign that said "no fishing", so of course I had to look for fish.  I saw a few small trout in the lake, but couldn't get a picture of them. More looking at the lake & falls.  This hike is so worth it. 
A few people told us to go above the lake to Spouting Rock, so we did.  Again an amazingly cool waterfall!  The main falls go over the edge of the cliff, but below it are two holes in the cliff that water also comes out of.  I guess you could call it a triple-decker waterfall. 
I ran behind the falls and through the spray.  I could have gone all the way to the other side, but I didn't want to get that wet (from the spray), so I hurried back out.  On a hot summer day I'm sure Spouting Rock would feel amazing.
After seeing Spouting Rock, it was time to head back down the canyon and on our way.  It's best to not do this hike when you have a deadline you need to be back for.  Even though we felt like we made pretty good time on the hike, we still were late for our dinner appointment. 
We made it back to the parking lot, then got onto the freeway.  Oops!  The only way back onto I-70 from Hanging Lake is westbound.  We backtracked 10 miles or so before we could find an exit where we could get back onto I-70 going east.  Even though it was somewhat of a logistical nightmare, Hanging Lake was definitely a spot we wouldn't have missed.
Nearest City: Glenwood Springs, CO
Location: N° W°
Time Needed: 3+ hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
Kid Friendly:
Additional Info: Leave your dog at home.  Dogs aren't allowed on this hike. 

1 comment:

  1. Great waterfall photos. It looks a beautiful place to hike to. I loved ‘rock hopping’ when I was younger, but maybe not now.