hanging onto

Hanging Lake

Glenwood Canyon.jpg Hanging Lake is located in Glenwood Canyon, about 7 miles east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The lake is reached via a trailhead located near I-70 in the bottom of the canyon. The trail follows Dead Horse Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River.


The fragile shoreline of Hanging Lake is composed of travertine. Travertine is created when dissolved limestone is deposited on rocks and logs, creating travertine layers. The dissolved limestone comes from the Mississippian aged Leadville Formation, which Dead Horse Creek flows through.

The oils from human skin help to speed along the erosion of the travertine so it is suggested that hikers not wade in the water in a effort to help preserve the lake for future generations.

Getting There

Access to the trailhead is from I-70 eastbound only, meaning that when traveling westbound on I-70, one must go past the trailhead at exit 125 to the next rest stop, Grizzly Creek, located at exit 121. From here one must turn around and head back east to the Hanging Lake exit. The trail is 1.2 miles and gains 1020 feet of elevation and consists of a rocky trail and several switchbacks. The last stretch of the trail is very steep and a metal railing is in place to help hikers make it to the top. There are no dogs allowed.


Early tales of the discovery of the lake tells of a man searching for gold in the canyon when the Colorado River was called the Grand River. The man found a dead horse at the opening of a gulch (The possible origin of Dead Horse Gulch). When he followed the gulch up through the steep hillside through the canyon he came around the backside of the lake. This is how he first saw the small bowl-like basin hanging onto the cliffs below.

In the years following the area served as a homestead, and a private family retreat until it was purchased by Glenwood Springs after the Taylor Bill was passed by Congress in 1910.

Following the purchase it began its long history as a public tourist stop, and later during the 1940's hosted a resort and cafe until the construction of Interstate-70 began in 1968.

In 1972 the trail and the lake were returned to the protection of the Forest Service and has been an increasingly popular tourist destination since.

Facts and Figures

  • The trail is open year round, and sees more than 80,000 visitors per year.
  • It is 1.2 miles from the trailhead to the lake itself.
  • Hikers gain 1,020 feet in elevation during the hike from the trailhead to the lake.
  • The Lake sits at 7,040 feet.
  • Dogs are NOT allowed on the trail.
  • Feeding the fish, and fishing are NOT allowed at the lake.
  • Swimming in the lake is NOT permitted because the oils in human skin attribute to the erosion of the travertine.

External links

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