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Hanging Lake, Gorgeous Pain

“Suspended on the edge of Glenwood Canyon’s cliffs, the clear turquoise lake and the waterfall that spills into it are a breathtaking sight after the uphill climb. Geologically speaking, there are few places in the world that can compare to this marvel of Mother Nature. Hanging Lake is a rare example of a lake formed by travertine deposition where the natural geologic and hydro-logic processes continue to operate as they have done throughout the history of the lake. The site is also noteworthy for its thriving hanging garden plant community.” See more at: http://www.visitglenwood.com/hanging-lake#sthash.ur2gVq9j.dpuf

How could you possibly not be excited and intrigued by that description. We certainly were, but we were not alone. Despite its steepness, the Hanging Lake Trail is also one of the most popular hikes in Colorado which is why the gift of getting one of the last parking spots in the lot at the trail head felt like a small victory in and of itself.


Our parking spot was a half-mile away from the trail head, but the actual hike to the lake was just 1.2 miles, not an intimidating distance until you pair that with the starting elevation and the change in elevation. For weeks Ali and I had been waiting for our lungs and hearts to finally show some evidence of improved conditioning, some noticeable result of all our hiking. Hanging Lake was not that day.



At each stop we made to catch our breath, I tried to remind myself and Ali about the altitude and how it was most surely playing a role in our ability to plow up this hill. Besides there was so much beauty along the way, we NEEDED to stop often to take photographs.

To give you a comparison:

Hanging Lake, CO
Trailhead Elevation: 6,120 feet
Top Elevation: 7,170 feet

Angels Landing, UT
Trailhead Elevation: 4,100 feet
Top Elevation: 5,790 feet



Sometimes you just don’t want to give yourself an excuse. You’ve worked hard to get stronger, fitter, you have expectations of your body, and because altitude is an invisible thing, it’s hard to honor it as a player in the game. We didn’t know the exact elevation of the hike that day, I was only guessing that it was higher than we’d experienced thus far.

Without hard evidence to the contrary, it was a little too easy to judge ourselves as wussies. Fortunately, we were not alone. There were always a handful of fellow wussies stopped along the trail to keep us company.



As we neared the summit, we received lots of encouragement from hikers that were coming down, telling us how beautiful the lake was, and how close we were. After a last push, up a virtually sheer cliff made accessible by a tall, rough set of natural stairs, we took our first steps onto the boardwalk that surrounds the lake.


Happy to have arrived, thrilled by the lake itself, we grabbed a bench and sat while we ate lunch and watched people.