Hanging Lake in summer

Permits Required for All-New Hanging Lake Experience

Reserve your spot today to hike Hanging Lake, the jewel of Glenwood Canyon. The new reservation system is online now with a shuttle service to launch on May 1.

Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs is a beloved, one-of-a-kind destination in Glenwood Canyon. Though steep, it’s a short hike—just under a mile—and is one of Colorado’s most popular trails for hiking, photography and even wedding proposals. It’s no wonder why—the setting is drop-dead gorgeous. A crystalline lake suspended on the edge of a cliff with a backdrop of waterfalls and evergreen trees is the stuff of fairytales. But, like most fairytales, there was an unfortunate curse. In this case, too many visitors—130,000 per year—resulting in damage to the exceedingly fragile ecosystem. Thankfully, starting in May, that curse has been lifted.

An Improved Hanging Lake Hiking Experience

To remedy the environmental harm and foster a positive hiking experience, the number of visitors per day will be limited to around 600 during the peak season between May 1 and Oct. 31. The trailhead parking lot will also be closed to personal vehicles during this time. Hikers will have a full three hours to enjoy the National Natural Landmark—plenty of time to hike, relax and absorb the surrounding beauty. If visitors wish to shorten or extend their time, they can request to be placed on a standby list for an earlier or later pickup time. In the off-peak season, while reservations to hike the trail will still be required, visitors will be able to drive their vehicles to the trailhead. Rangers will be patrolling the trail and parking area to provide visitor services, information and to check for permits.

After months of input from the public and planning and preparation by the US Forest Service and the City of Glenwood Springs, the new permit and shuttle system is ready for its rollout. Here’s what visitors can expect in this new era of hiking Hanging Lake.

Convenient, Easy-to-Navigate Reservation System

Reserving your spot to hike Hanging Lake is an essential step and one that’s required of everyone, even cyclists who in the past have biked to the trailhead. Making online reservations is a streamlined process. Simply go to www.VisitGlenwood.com/HangingLake and select the date and time you’d like to hike. Reservations can also be made in person at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center. The cost is $12 per person with a portion of the funds designated for essential maintenance, ranger presence at the trailhead, visitor information and interpretive signage.

Hanging Lake Welcome Center Open for Visitors

The new Hanging Lake Welcome Center is convenient and centrally located, next to the Glenwood Springs Community Center at 110 Wulfsohn Road. For those with reservations, parking is free, and restrooms are available. To ensure you have plenty of time to park and prep for your hike, we recommend arriving at least 45 minutes ahead of your scheduled departure time. Hanging Lake Express, the shuttle service operated by H2O Ventures, will help you check in, then transport you to and from the trailhead—a 15-minute drive. Remember to hike smart, with plenty of water, sunscreen and sturdy shoes.

An Improved Hanging Lake Hiking Experience

While the main attraction is Hanging Lake itself, take time to savor the entirety of the trail which follows Dead Horse Creek. The trail features a variety of terrain. Be prepared to scramble across boulder fields and follow the loamy trail through lush foliage, across wooden bridges and past charming rest structures. Just prior to arriving at Hanging Lake is a steep rocky section; handrails provide a balance check and a sense of security but take care with small children. A wooden boardwalk surrounds a portion of the Lake and provides the perfect platform to admire the waterfalls, watch the fish (but don’t feed them) and snap photos. Remember, it’s important to be prepared to hike Hanging Lake and always follow Leave No Trace Care for Colorado Principals.

After your hike, board the Hanging Lake Express for a quick lift back to Glenwood Springs. Learn more about Hanging Lake and make plans to visit Glenwood Springs today.