New Permit & Shuttle System for Hanging Lake, Colorado

Hanging Lake in Colorado has been a very popular hike for decades. With the rise in hikers over the years, the area was getting damaged and something had to be done to protect this natural wonder in the Glenwood Springs area as well as the falls. I didn't think I would be a proponent of the new shuttle system, but it was an excellent experience as there were less hikers than I have seen here ever and it was awesome.

You can find the details for the Hanging Lake Hike on the Outbound website here. Some of the information from the adventure has changed now that you can no longer park for this hike anywhere near it, so make sure you have done your research.  Due to crowds and trail degradation, the city of Glenwood Springs decided to make this hike a permit-only, shuttle serviced hike only to preserve the area and restore it. When I first heard about this, I was honestly annoyed even though I am all about leave no trace policies and protecting our natural lands. I think it concerned me that my home state was heading toward this in other areas too that I love. However, I hadn't done this hike in quite a few years so I didn't realize how much the area was being overrun and the damage done to trail and trash left behind. As I read more about it and looked into the new system, I decided to give it try while I was over in the area for a couple of days. Honestly, I was very pleasantly surprised by the whole experience and how much peace and quiet I had on this trail instead of a constant stream of people. I found the same to be true at the falls where many people will hang out for awhile once they have hiked it. It wasn't too crowded at all and I had plenty of room to set up my tripod for some long-exposure shots without bothering anyone. I highly recommend the new management plan and system. 

To learn more about the hike and area, check out Glenwood Springs Hanging Lake site. From this page, you can then book your permit and shuttle time. While weekends are very busy and the height of summer may require early booking, I was able to get a hike scheduled in late June the day before (on a weekday). You leave from the Hanging Lake Visitor Center in Glenwood Springs where you can purchase snacks, waters and souvenirs. The shuttle is an old school bus type and ran completely on schedule. It was about a twenty minute drive up to the parking lot along the Colorado River below Hanging Lake. You have a scheduled three hour window to do the hike and return to your shuttle. However, if you want to stay longer up at the lake (which I did since I spent a lot of time doing photography), then you just are on a standby basis for an open shuttle space back. This worked out fine for me and I was able to get a shuttle back as soon as I returned from my hike. You might have to wait for one, but I had a great experience with this. The shuttles run back about every 30-45 minutes. If you have to wait for one, you are also sitting along the Colorado River and canyons with bathrooms nearby. Not a bad place to wait. Also, I just took a look at their website and there are still many open spots still available for this summer. 


This is a very steep hike with some areas that are large step-ups on rocks. This trail can also be fairly wet in June due to snowmelt and storms. It is a short hike at about 1.5 miles one way, but you start at a elevation of 6,135 feet and gain 1,065 feet in that time. Just be prepared and bring plenty of water and snacks. It can be very hot in mid-summer and there can also be thunderstorms. Also, you may not enter the water here as it is a delicate ecosystem. Please follow all rules associated with this hike to continue to preserve it. 

This page that I mentioned at the beginning of this article is a great fact page for more information if you would like to learn more. Just scroll down toward the bottom of the page: Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Brynn SchmidtExplorer

I love wilderness/beaches: photography, hiking, camping, backpacking, conservation and hanging out with my guys while they climb. Mom, wife and co-founder of non-profit organization serving in Gabon and DRC, Africa. F...