Hanging Lake, Colorado

Hanging Lake is a naturally formed landmark located in Glenwood Canyon as part of the White River National Forest in Colorado, in the United States. The main water source for the lake enters via Bridal Veil falls, creating a beautiful cascading waterfall. The Lake is a designated natural National Landmark.

This stunning still clear lake was created due to the presence of a geologic fault in the area. This fault caused the floor of the lake to sink, effectively dropping away from the rest of the valley. This is why the lake seems to hang off the edge of the valley, and also why it has such a shallow bed. The lake sits at an elevation of 2,232 meters. 

Unique Composition

Hanging Lake
The frozen Hanging Lake in winter.

Hanging Lake is rather unique not only in its shape and creation - being on a hanging faultline - but also for its composition. Firstly, the lake has a crystal clear turquoise quality, which is due to the carbonate minerals dissolved in the water. This is the same thing that makes glacial water appear so bright and clear as well.

Additionally, the edges of the lake are composed of travertine. Travertine builds up from deposits of dissolved limestone which flow into the lake from Dead Horse Creek. These deposits slowly build up against rocks and organic matter along the shoreline over thousands of years, creating travertine layers.

Because this travertine is very delicate, swimming is not allowed in the lake. While the area is extremely popular with visitors, they are asked not to touch or interfere with the intricate balance of the lake system. The presence of any foreign matter such as natural body oils, beauty products, or even just skin cells can prevent this process from occurring, and stop the natural build up of the travertine. Some visitors choose to disregard this warning, and a huge backlash is unleashed upon any tourists found swimming or interfering with the lake.

Visiting The Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake Colorado
Tourists at the Hanging Lake, Colorado.

Though swimming, fishing, or interaction with the lake itself is prohibited, the lake is still extremely popular with visitors. Hanging Lake is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Colorado, and visitors from all over the United States and beyond come to the park to hike this iconic trail.

The trail itself is rather steep, climbing over 300 meters in elevation over the course of a two kilometer trail. Starting at the base of the Glenwood Canyon, the path travels upward through Deadhorse Creek Canyon to the hanging lake above. At the top of the trail, a boardwalk runs around the outside of the lake, offering multiple views of the lake and waterfalls. A secondary path from the lake also leads to another geographic wonder, known as the Spouting Rock. Here, a waterfall was created by the flow of water which eroded a hole through the limestone rock in order to pour out of the cliff wall in a stunning almost unnatural looking phenomenon. 

A beautiful bird at the Hanging Lake area.

Whether a hiking enthusiast or someone looking to take in the stunning sites of the lake, Hanging Lake is a true wonder for the eyes. As long as visitors remain respectful of nature, and the rules put in place by park rangers which aim to preserve the natural ecosystem there, the lake, falls, and surrounding park land will be available to be enjoyed for many years to come. In order to prevent over-trafficking the area, and to ensure visitors abide by these rules, reservations are necessary for anyone looking to visit this stunning wonder.

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