Hanging Lake is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Colorado, and thousands of people have already secured permits to visit it during the 2019 peak season. The online reservation system for the permits and shuttle to the trailhead in Glenwood Canyon launched on 1 April, with the aim of providing a sustainable visitor experience that protects the fragile Hanging Lake ecosystem while continuing to support local tourism.
Hanging Lake is located on a fault line, and is known for its turquoise water, which is produced by carbonate minerals that have dissolved in it. It was formed when an acre and a half of the valley floor sheared off from the fault and fell to what is now the shallow bed of the lake. The hike to reach it is a steep one of approximately 3.2-miles round-trip, and takes around an hour each way. Aside from the beauty of the lake, visitors can discover Spouting Rock behind it, a waterfall that flows from a set of holes in the limestone cliffs of Dead Horse Canyon.
It was necessary to introduce a permit system at Hanging Lake because of threats to the fragile ecosystem of the lake from litter and the effects of wading and swimming. To help protect the area, dogs and swimming are both prohibited, and only 615 daily permits will be issued for the peak season, which runs from May to October. The Hanging Lake parking area in Glenwood Canyon will be closed to personal vehicles during this time and the shuttle will deliver hikers to the trailhead. Shuttles will be spaced out throughout the day to avoid congestion on the trail.
Lonely Planet destination editor, Sarah Stocking, grew up near Hanging Lake, and its popularity with hikers comes as no surprise to her. "It's a fun, relatively short hike and it's beautiful," she says. "While Colorado has many beautiful vistas, Hanging Lake is unique among them. The Bridal Veil falls flow into a turquoise, high alpine lake. The water is crystal clear and you can see all the way to the bottom. Tall, rocky cliffs surround the lake making a protected, magical place to spend some time in the wilderness."
"There aren't many lakes that are that color turquoise or that clear," she adds. "Coupled with the cliffs and the surrounding forest, it is like a little oasis of beauty. It may look more similar to something tropical, but it's surrounded by pine trees instead of palm trees."
If you'd like to check it out for yourself, the cost of a peak-season reservation and shuttle to Hanging Lake is US$12 (€14) per person and further information is available here.