Adventures Colorado love mountains United States

A Snowy Afternoon Trek to Hanging Lake

By on January 16, 2014
This past weekend Jason and I took a day off from skiing (for me) and work (for him) to hike hanging lake. This is a hike I’ve been wanting to do since I moved to Colorado two and a half years ago but never got around to doing since it’s about a 30-45 minute drive from Avon. When Jason suggested that we go snowshoeing there, I jumped at the idea. We packed both our snowshoes and our Microspikes/Yaktrax just in case there wasn’t enough snow for snowshoes. This turned out to be very wise because the trail was well tracked and a little too steep to easily use snowshoes.

We left Avon around 12, after stopping to pick up sandwiches from Avon Bakery. You really can’t go wrong with any food from Avon Bakery, it’s all delicious! Once we got to the trailhead, which is an adventure in itself because you have to go past the trailhead, turn around, get back on I-70 in the opposite direction, and then get off at the Hanging Lake exit. The trail actually starts about a quarter of a mile down the bike path, right before passing bathrooms and a picnic area. 

The trail is short but steep, gaining approximately 1200 feet in a little over a mile (average of 19% grade), with the steepest section coming right at the end. Once I’m in better shape, it will be an excellent trail to run a couple laps to get steep hill training.

The trail starts along the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon, which is the largest canyon on the Upper Colorado River. Once it splits from the main Glenwood Canyon bike path, the trail ascends through a side canyon. Although the trail is steep, there are plenty of rest stops along the way. I, of course, didn’t use them. If you’ve ever been hiking with me, you know that I’ll stop to take pictures but hate to stop just “to rest”. The views along the way are pretty but rarely are they stunning. Only once you get most of the way to Hanging Lake does the canyon open up and and you see the beauty that you just hiked through.

The falls and lake itself are absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen them in the springtime when the wildflowers are blooming, but even covered under snow they will take your breath away. On this particular day, it was warm enough for some of the snow to melt and cascade over the ice cliffs. We ventured to the other side of the falls and I watched the tiny black swifts flitting around the falls while Jason took some amazing pictures. Seriously check out his Flickr page. He has some really spectacular pictures on it.

After hanging out at the lake and falls for a while, we ventured up slightly higher to examine spouting rock (which I thought was called sprouting rock until we came back and researched it). Water cascades from a seemingly impenetrable wall of rock into an upper lake surrounded by evergreens. With the cold weather, the spray from the waterfall has created an ice tube that the water falls into. When it gets really cold, the ice tube continues all the way up to the mouth of spouting rock. Although I’ve never seen it like that, I think it looks more interesting with the water flowing freely down to the lake.

After snapping a couple more pictures, including this gem of the two of us, we started to make our way down. I even captured a video of Jason slipping and sliding down the steepest part of the trail. We made it back to the trailhead as the sun was setting behind the canyon walls. Jason caught this awesome picture of me.

The photo master at work
The only picture of Jason smiling (out of the approximately 100 I took of him)

On Sunday, we spent the day snowboarding. The snow was falling and the wind was howling so we ducked into the trees as often as possible. Unfortunately, I did something funny to my back and have been walking around like an old woman for the past couple of days. It’s getting better but it’s been a frustrating interruption to my running. Especially since the past two days have been sunny and in the 50s in Denver. Ohh well.

Mary just arrived in Denver from Virginia and we’re heading up to the mountains tomorrow. It should be a fun long weekend filled with skiing (if my back is ok) and maybe some snowshoeing. Hopefully I’ll have even more amazing pictures to share next week.