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Insiders Guide to Hiking Hanging Lake

Along with staying at the historic Hotel Colorado in the heart of Glenwood Springs, hiking to Hanging Lake is one of the top things to do while in town. The designated National Natural Landmark is a beauty and considered the gem of Glenwood Canyon. Up until recently, though, the trail was so popular that upwards of 1,300 people were trekking to the waterfall-fed lake on a typical summer day, damaging the fragile ecosystem. To relieve the pressure and keep the site from being “loved to death,” a new permit system was implemented. According to a recent article in 5280 Magazine, it’s working. As a guest of the Hotel Colorado, here’s everything you need to know about hiking Hanging Lake.


Buy Your Hanging Lake Hiking Permit Online
In order to preserve the natural environment, create an optimal hiking experience for all and prevent overuse, permits are now required to hike to Hanging Lake. A straightforward online reservation system allows you to choose the date and time of your hike. A portion of the $12 per person fee goes to trail maintenance and education. Permits are required to hike Hanging Lake throughout the year, even if you cycle or walk to the trailhead. The fee drops to $10 from Nov. 1 through April 30 when the shuttle bus service stops for the season.

Rendezvous at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center
A bonus of the new permit system is visitors no longer have to jockey for parking spots at the trailhead. Instead, guests meet at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center where there’s ample parking for everyone. Arrive 15 to 20 minutes ahead of your departure time and check in with the Welcome Center staff. If you forgot anything, the Welcome Center sells hats, sunscreen, water bottles, snacks and souvenirs. They’ll even rent gear like backpacks and hiking poles. 

Catch the Hanging Lake Shuttle
The Hanging Lake shuttle buses will take you to and from the trailhead throughout the day. Most people can hike to the lake and back in approximately three hours. When you’re done, just hop on the bus for a lift back to the Welcome Center. Though permits are required year-round, the Hanging Lake Shuttle Bus and the Welcome Center only operate during peak season, from May through October. During the off-peak season, visitors may park at the trailhead at the Hanging Lake Rest Area though a permit is still required to hike.

Ready, Set, Hike
Hanging Lake is a stunning hike that begins in Glenwood Canyon. A comfort station with restrooms and water fountains is usually visitors’ first stop. Though the trail is short, just 1.2 miles (1.9 km), it’s steep, so take your time and wear sturdy footwear. As you round the final bend, you’ll step onto a boardwalk that surrounds and protects the edge of the pristine mountain lake. Remember to practice leave no trace principles. Take plenty of time to enjoy the view. For a little more physical effort, follow the signs to Spouting Rock, which ranges from a torrent to a trickle depending on water flow. 

Relax at the Hotel Colorado
Hiking to Hanging Lake takes a little planning, but it’s worth the effort for the views and Instagram-worthy photos you’ll take. After your hike, head back to the Hotel Colorado where you can enjoy a post-hike pick-me-up—an iced coffee and a sweet treat at Legends Espresso Bar; a cold drink or your favorite cocktail in the shade at the hotel’s beautifully landscaped outdoor courtyard. 

On your next visit to Glenwood Springs, plan to stay at the Hotel Colorado and hike to Hanging Lake.