Chaos Canyon Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Chaos Canyon Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park is formed as Chaos Creek tumbles through the forest below Lake Haiyaha. This 4.2 mile round trip hike is on the east side of RMNP to one of the lesser visited cascade waterfalls in the park. Explore the full Chaos Canyon Cascades hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and some important tips and resources for this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Chaos Canyon Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Chaos Canyon Cascades

The trail to Chaos Canyon Cascades begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). In the event the parking lot at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link. The trail is located on your way to Bear Lake, off to the left, just before reaching the shore viewing area of Bear Lake. It follows the same main trail that leads hikers up to both Nymph and Dream Lakes.

The Hike to Chaos Canyon Cascades

From the Bear Lake Trailhead, hikers will reach Nymph Lake at .5 mile. After continuing on the trail for approximately another .5 mile, hikers will come upon a trail split. Be sure to first hike the additional .1 mile (right-hand trail) up to Dream Lake first. Dream Lake is not to be missed. After returning to this trail split, the trail to Chaos Canyon Cascades is the same trail leading up towards Lake Haiyaha. After traveling .8 mile, the trail crosses a footbridge going over Chaos Creek. After crossing the footbridge, hikers should be able to locate an unmaintained social trail on the left-hand (east) side of the main trail.

The trail will descend and follow Chaos Creek, but will soon enter a steep area where the brush is dense and the trail is difficult to discern. Exercise caution in this area The cascades should come into view after just a few short minutes, as they are only about 1/10th of a mile from the footbridge. Because this is an unmaintained trail, be sure to tread lightly. Take care not to disturb the flowers and undergrowth, and the pristine environment of the cascades.

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Lake Haiyaha courtesy of Miguel Vieira

Hikers can add another Lake to this hike by returning to the main trail via the same route to the cascades, then continuing south to the Lake Haiyaha trail junction. A short spur trail to Haiyaha (on the right) leads to another great high mountain lake in RMNP. Adding Haiyaha to the hike would make this an approximately 4.6 mile round-trip hike.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Chaos Canyon Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Silver Falls Near Pagosa Springs Colorado

Silver Falls near Pagosa Springs Colorado is an easy hike of less than a quarter mile to a spectacular waterfall. The distance of the drive from Denver requires more than the hike! Explore the full Silver Falls hike profile for driving directions and all the details you need to enjoy this Colorado waterfall trail.

Trail Snapshot: Silver Falls Near Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Directions & Trailhead Information for Silver Falls

The parking area for Silver Falls is located about 19 miles from Pagosa Springs along Forest Road 667. Because FR667 is a dirt road, expect washboard and wash areas. The road crosses multiple creeks, and in the late Spring, when the snowmelt is flowing, many of these creeks rise and cover the road. Because of this, it's a good idea to make the drive to the Silver Falls trailhead in a vehicle with higher clearance, such as a truck or SUV. The small parking area is located about 8 miles up 667 on the left-hand side of the road. You'll find an old guard station marking the spot.

The Hike to Silver Falls

The hike up to Silver Falls is short and sweet. It's approximately 1/8th of a mile from the trailhead to the waterfall. The trail starts out easy, then becomes increasingly steep before the emerging from the woods to the spectacular site of Silver Falls. The waterfall plunges first from the orange cliffs above the trail, then tumbles down in a series of dazzling cascades.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Silver Falls, Pagosa Springs, CO

  • Visit on a Weekday: This stretch of road is a popular spot for campers and fisherman because of its proximity to the San Juan River. Go on a weekday if you would like to experience solitude and only the sounds of tumbling water.
  • Parking: Parking is limited in the small lot. Hikers can also park alongside the road; just be courteous to other drivers and be sure to park in such a way that you don't to get stuck.
  • Packing List: Though it's a short hike, you always want to pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and hiking gear checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Steve Schmickle of Explore the Light Photography for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Silver Falls. I love landscape photography, and Steve's work is my absolute favorite. Check out his gallery and available prints.
  • After the Hike: Pagosa Baking Company in Pagosa Springs

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North Clear Creek Falls in Colorado

North Clear Creek Falls is a 100+ foot waterfall carved into the landscape of southwestern Colorado. This is not so much a hike as a great place to pull off for a picnic and take in views of what become the most famous waterfall in the Rocky Mountain State. Explore the full North Clear Creek Falls profile below for driving directions, and all the details you need to experience this scenic landmark in the far reaches of Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: North Clear Creek Falls Near Lake City, Colorado

Its hard to believe that what may be the most beautiful waterfall in Colorado requires no hike to see. The North Clear Creek Falls observation area is accessible via a short drive off of Forest Road 510, part of the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. The USFS does not plow this section during the winter, so it may be inaccessible until Spring. Because of the vertical drop into Willow Canyon, the observation area has been fenced. The area has new toilet and picnic facilities, and is considered handicap accessible.

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Tips & Resources for North Clear Creek Falls

  • TIP: Because North Clear Creek Falls faces east, some of the best time for photography will be in the early morning moments as the sun is rising.
  • TIP: Bring a picnic lunch. The observation area near the falls has new picnic facilities.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Tommyknocker Tavern in Creede
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Scott Ingram for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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Adams Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Adams Falls is a short .6 mile round-trip hike near Grand Lake, Colorado. The waterfall borders Rocky Mountain National Park and its trail begins at the same trailhead for the East Inlet Trail. Explore the full Adams Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need for this short waterfall Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Adams Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Adams Falls is named after Jay E. Adams, an early settler of Grand Lake, Colorado. This hike is on the quieter western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. However, it's still a popular trail, so expect to encounter a lot of hikers. Go on a weekday or early morning for the experience of quiet and solitude. After hiking the .3 mile segment of trail, you'll arrive at Adams Falls. There is an observation area that grants the best and safest views of the falls.

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The hike to Adams Falls is perfect for families with young children who may not be able to hike as far. As with all streams and waterfalls, have children exercise caution. Rocks are slippery and the hydraulic force of the creek can be incredibly powerful. About 1/4 mile beyond Adams Falls, there are spectacular views of the East Meadows, making the short distance a worth addition to this easy waterfall hike.

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East Meadow - about .3 Mile Beyond Adams Falls

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Adams Falls, Grand Lake, CO

  • Wear Good Footwear: The trail has a lot of rocks and roots, so be sure to have shoes or boots that can handle slick surfaces.
  • Explore More: Hike about a quarter mile past the falls to where the meadows open up and East Inlet creek meanders through the tall grass. It's an amazing sight.
  • Trail Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: Trail Map
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: The Hub Coffee
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Kimon Berlin for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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Shelf Creek Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Shelf Creek Falls is a waterfall hidden within the races of Shelf Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park. This waterfall is not marked on maps, but can be found along the hike up to Shelf Lake, a demanding hike on an unmaintained trail in Glacier Gorge. Because this hike is off-the-beaten-path, it is recommended only for those who have a familiarity with Rocky Mountain National Park and who have honed their skills in backcountry travel. See the full trail profile for Shelf Lake for details.

Trail Snapshot: Shelf Creek Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Shelf Creek Falls can be seen in the distance from the trail along Glacier Creek, after leaving Jewel Lake, at approximately 1/4 mile past the Glacier Gorge Campsite/Black Lake signpost. Different segments of the falls, like on the one pictured below, can be seen along the unmaintained trail that leads up to Shelf Lake and Shelf Falls. For a more detailed description of the hike to this area, see the trail profile for Shelf Lake.

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Lake of Glass Waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you are up for a demanding hike in Rocky Mountain national Park, with 3 waterfalls in the space of less than 5 miles, then the hike up to Lake of Glass Falls is a great choice.

A hidden waterfall that you won't find on the map! Lake of Glass falls is a segmented cascade spilling into the creek that soon becomes Timberline Falls. This relatively demanding hike in Rocky Mountain National Park begins at the Glacier Gorge trailhead, and takes you past two larger waterfalls on your 4.2 mile journey to Lake of Glass Falls.

Trail Snapshot: Lake of Glass Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information

The trail up to Lake of Glass Falls begins at either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (see driving directions above), or at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). Because the Glacier Gorge Trailhead has a much smaller lot, you may need to drive further up to Bear Lake. There you'll find a short connector trail that will put you on the path down and over to the Glacier Gorge Trail system. In the event that parking at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

The Hike to Lake of Glass Falls

The first destination that you can't and don't want to miss is at .8 miles, Alberta Falls. The trail then climbs toward an eventual trail junction. The way to the Lake of Glass Falls is to follow the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail that bears right and ascends for about another .5 mile to a second trail junction. At this second junction, the middle of the three trails leads onto the Loch Vale Trail, and up to the Loch, Timberline Falls (pictured below), then to Lake of Glass Falls, and eventually beyond to Sky Pond.

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At Timberline Falls (pictured above), the trail up to Lake of Glass Falls is a steep scramble to the right-side of the waterfall. Be aware, the rock may be slick and this area is very steep. Hikers should have good footwear, and may need to be patient for those who are descending this section of the trail. In most of this segment, there is only room for one hiker at a time to safely negotiate the scramble. Many hikers will find the descent of this short portion of the trail more difficult than the way up.

Lake of Glass Falls can be seen trailside, on your left, after the "timberline scramble" and just before reaching Lake of Glass in Rocky Mountain National Park.

List and Links of Destinations Along the Loch Vale Trail

1. Alberta Falls - @ .8
2. The Loch - @ 2.7 miles
3. Timberline Falls - @ 4 miles
4. Lake of Glass & Waterfall -@ 4.2 miles
5. Sky Pond - @ 4.6 miles

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lake of Glass Falls RMNP :

  • Stay the Trail: This area of the park gets a lot of traffic and the waterfall does not have an established trail to it. Because of this, please enjoy the falls from the trail so that we can all reduce the impact on the beautiful, but fragile ecosystem in the high country. Hike on durable surfaces.
  • Get There Early: The trailheads fill up early and there are afternoon thunderstorms up at this elevation (and lower elevations in RMNP), so it's always a good idea to begin your hikes early.
  • Another Hidden Waterfall There is another small fan cascade that flows out of Sky Pond. Explore our Sky Pond Trail Profile for more information.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Recommended Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: The trail maps provided by Rocky Mountain National Park are usually sufficient. However, if you plan to hike RMNP often, we recommend purchasing a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Inkwell Brew Coffee

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Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Timberline Falls is a demanding 8-mile round-trip waterfall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail takes you past Alberta Falls up into beautiful Loch Vale. Beyond Timberline Falls hikers will find Lake of Glass, additional falls, and breathtaking Sky Pond.

Glacier Gorge is the home to some of the best hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this waterfall hike is one of the best. Be sure to read through the trailhead and parking information below, because, in the busy season, parking fills up fast. Explore our Timberline Falls trail profile below for trail details, driving directions, maps, and more.

Trail Snapshot: Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information

The trail up to Timberline Falls begins at either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (see driving directions above), or at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). Because the Glacier Gorge Trailhead has a much smaller lot, you may need to drive further up to Bear Lake. There you'll find a short connector trail that will put you on the path down and over to the Glacier Gorge Trail system. In the event that parking at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

The Hike to Timberline Falls

The hike up into the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail system takes you past one of Rocky Mountain National Parks' most accessible waterfalls, Alberta Falls.

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After the waterfall, the trail begins to wind up a series of switchbacks for just shy of a mile until a trail junction with the NorthLong's Peak Trail. The trail into Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale then bears right and ascends for about another .5 mile to another trail junction. The trail to the left will take hikers to Glacier Gorge, and the trail to the right takes hikers on a jaunt to Lake Haiyaha (fun to say three times fast) but this trip to Timberline Falls takes the middle trail onto the Loch Vale Trail.
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The path follows the path of Icy Brook through a series of longer switchbacks. The brook can be heard gushing and pouring over the rocks below, and one particular switchback there is a great view of its waters casacading through a green canyon (pictured above). At approximately 1 mile after leaving the junction, the trail opens up to more level ground at The Loch. In the distance, beyond the Loch in the west, the cliff face of the Cathedral Wall calls technical climbers to its challenging routes.

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The trail continues along the right side of the Loch until another trail junction beyond its western shores and deep in the the lush forest surrounding Icy Brook. The trail up to Timberline Falls, Lake of Glass, and Sky Pond is on the left, and the path to the right will take hikers into the Andrew's Creek area, one of my favorite areas of the Park. Here the trail up to Timberline Falls gets more steep, working its way up through subalpine forest of fir and spruce, the ground bejeweled with Columbine flowers. Soon you'll gain views of the falls in the distance.

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A series of stone stairs takes you to the base of the waterfall. In the late Spring and Early Summer, the falls cut through the winter snowpack and creates fantastic shapes out of the snow. For hikers who want to see more, a very steep and slick trail can be found to far right side of the waterfall. This leads up to the Lake of Glass, it's own waterfall, and to Sky Pond.

Video of Timberline Falls in RMNP

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Timberline Falls :

  • More to Explore: Be sure to budget extra time to explore the lakes above Timberline Falls.
  • Parking: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead. See details at the the top of this trailprofile
  • Gear: Wear good boots with soles that are good for grabbing the rock if you plan to scramble up the steep trail to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond.
  • Pack a Lunch: This is a long hike and you'll certainly need water, but you'll also most likely need fuel for the journey back. Download our hiking guide for a list of great hiking food and snacks.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Inkwell & Brew Coffee

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Guide for Hiking Hanging Lake in Colorado

Hanging Lake is a short hike to two waterfalls and one of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado. On the same hike, you can explore Spouting Rock Falls, and even walk behind the waterfall. Reservations are required to hike Hanging Lake so don't leave home without booking (see info in trail snapshot below). It’s not a day hike near Denver, but it’s definitely worth the nearly three-hour drive to the Hanging Lake Trailhead just outside of Glenwood Springs.

We've attempted to create the definitive guide to hiking the Hanging Lake Trail. In this guide, you'll find: how to make reservations for hiking hanging lake, 10 hiking tips, notes on driving directions to Hanging Lake. You can download the Hanging Lake trail map, find tips on photography at the lake, and some notes on hiking this trail with kids. If you are planning a Colorado vacation, there is helpful information for planning both your hike and trip to this Colorado destination. This guide is extensive, so we have created a table of contents help you navigate your way around.

Hanging Lake Guide Contents

  1. Trail Snapshot
  2. Reservations and Permits
  3. Driving Directions
  4. Parking & Trailhead
  5. Hiking the Trail
  6. At Hanging Lake
  7. Spouting Rock Falls
  8. Photography
  9. Hiking Hanging Lake with Kids
  10. For Out-of-State Hikers
  11. Ten Hiking Tips
  12. Fishing Prohibited
  13. Dogs Prohibited
  14. Camping Nearby
  15. Lodging Nearby
  16. Things to Do Nearby
  17. Proposing at Hanging Lake
  18. History and Geology of Hanging Lake

Trail Snapshot: Hanging Lake Trail

Hanging Lake Reservations and Permits

Year-round, permits are required to hike Hanging Lake. You can purchase your permit and schedule your reservation slot online at the Hanging Lake Shuttle site.

You might be wondering why permits are necessary? The trail receives over 100,000 visitors each year, which is common for some areas in the National Parks system, but there are two other factors at play: first, hanging lake is a sensitive area and because of the sheer volume of visitors, the ecosystem was becoming threatened by the impact; second, the trailhead parking area is in a canyon alongside interstate 70, so it would be incredibly difficult and expensive to expand the parking and trailhead facilities. Not to mention that by expanding, we would end up expanding the problem of impact. In short, Hanging Lake was getting loved to death. Now the city of Glenwood Springs and the Forest Service have teamed up to preserve this natural wonder, so that future generations will get to enjoy it, too.

Hanging Lake Driving Directions

Hanging Lake Driving Directions - May 1 - Oct. 31 - Peak Season

During peak seasons, Park at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center in Glenwood Springs to access the shuttle. From Denver, take interstate 70 West to Take exit 116 for CO-82 East toward Glenwood Springs/Aspen. You'll stay on 82 as it wraps back around to the South and becoming Grand Avenue. After going over the bridge, take 8th street west/right. After about 0.4 mile, take a right onto Midland Ave. Go about 0.5 mile and turn right onto Wulfsohn. The Hanging Lake Welcome Center is just up the road on Wulfsohn next to the Glenwood Springs Community Center. Check up-to-date maps via the links above, as construction may change driving directions.

The Return Shuttle: The hanging lake return shuttle is on a 3-hour schedule, meaning that it will be ready to take hiker back after three hours from their drop-off. Hikers who stay longer will be on standby, so plan accordingly.

Hanging Lake Driving Directions - Nov. 1 - April 30 - Off-Peak Season

These directions to the Hanging Lake Trailhead are only for those visiting during the off-peak season (Nov.1 to April 30th). The trailhead is closed to vehicles during the peak season. Driving to Hanging Lake from Denver (the east) can be a bit confusing. Here’s why: you have to drive past the trailhead because there is not westbound exit, then take exit 121, go under interstate 70 and get back on eastbound I-70. Then you’ll take exit 125 to the Hanging lake Trailhead. I’ve posted a map below that shows all this in detail.

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When leaving the Hanging Lake Trailhead, you can only exit onto the Westbound lane of interstate 70. So, you’ll have to do the same thing and take exit 121 again to double-back and head back to Denver. If you are coming from Glenwood Springs or the west, then things are pretty straightforward. Driving from Denver, this maps out as a 2.5 hour drive using Google maps, but be sure to add time for construction.

Parking and Facilities at Hanging Lake Trailhead - Nov. 1 - April 30

We arrived at the Hanging Lake Trailhead parking lot at 8AM on a Saturday morning in July. The first parking lot was full, and by 8:30, the second lot was nearly full. Beginning in 2015, a gate has been installed to close the lot when it is full.The restroom facilities were large enough to serve the number of people who frequent this popular Colorado hike, and were well kept. This is important: if you get there when the lot is full, you will either need to try again later, or make other plans. An alternative is to rent bikes in Glenwood Springs, to bike in, and lock up your bikes at the trailhead (be sure to get locks at the rental shop).

There were a few shaded picnic areas near the parking area, and some unshaded ones along the river. On our way out, the parking lot was at full capacity with cars having to turn around and leave because there was no place to park. Parking is prohibited along the the I-70 exit ramp, so if the parking lot is full, your best bet is to drive into Glenwood Springs, grab something to eat, and try back later. Don't wait idling or clog the ramp, it prevents emergency vehicles from accessing folks who really need their help. It's also important to note that recreational vehicles and trailers are prohibited from parking at the hanging lake parking lots as there is not sufficient space to turn around.

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Hiking the Hanging Lake Trail

The Trailhead begins along the Colorado River with a paved bike path surrounded by the banded rock walls of Glenwood Canyon. The morning air was cool, and steam was lifting from the warm surface of the Colorado River. After about a quarter-mile you’ll see a bike rack and the Hanging Lake Trail on your left. This is the beginning of Dead Horse Creek Canyon, the canyon that you’ll follow for about 1 mile up to Hanging Lake, then to Spouting Rock Falls.

Depending on your pace, it may take you anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half to get to the top.Though the prize at the end of this hike are two breathtaking Colorado waterfalls, one of our favorite features of the Hanging Lake trail is that it follows and crosses a mountain stream all the way up to the lake. In fact you’ll cross seven bridges on your journey up to Hanging Lake. You’ll be refreshed by the sights and sounds of cascades and the cool air of the canyon.

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Most of the hike is in the shade of towering spruce, cedar, and fir trees. You’ll find several benches and rocks where you can stop and rest. If you are acclimated to the altitude, the hike up the Hanging Lake is relatively easy and short, but it is steep and there are a lot of rocks to negotiate, so we have categorized the Hanging Lake trail as a moderate hike.

If you are not acclimated to the altitude, or not a regular hiker, this Colorado hike will be a real workout, so you may classify it as difficult. If this is you, then be sure to read our Tips for For Out-of-State Hikers. The piece you may find most challenging is just how slippery some of the rock can get. I hiked this in Chaco sandals, which had great grip, but I got a few blisters on the descent. I’d recommend wearing a shoe or a boot that you know won’t be prone to slipping.The piece you may find most challenging is just how slippery some of the rock can get. I’d recommend wearing a shoe or a boot that you know won’t be prone to slipping.

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At bridge three you’ll come across a beautiful cascade. The canyon soon opens to display clifftops that look like the ancient ruins of some abandoned castle. In areas where the sunlight breaks through, you may find raspberries along the trail in the latter half of the Summer. You’ll find more cascades near bridge number five. Dead Horse Canyon is a particularly lush ecosystem packed with spruce trees, moss, lichen, ferns, and sweet woodruff. As our six-year old daughter hiked into this part of the trail, she looked up to me and said, “It’s a rainforest, Dad!”

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Close to the one-mile point, you’ll climb a steep staircase of rock complete with handrails. While the handrails are helpful, it would be easy for a child to slip over one.So, we’d recommend that you keep smaller children on the inside of the steps as you ascend and hold their hand. It’s a sheer drop on the other side of the handrail.At the top of the stairs follow the path about 100 yards to Hanging Lake. On the way, just before Hanging Lake, you’ll notice a sign to Spouting Rock. We’ll detail this trail in a moment, but you absolutely must hike this short 200 yard trail to this waterfall hidden behind Hanging Lake.

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At Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake is a masterpiece of the natural world. You could spend the entire morning staring into its waters and discovering new things. We spotted trout in its green and blue waters, and dippers, little birds that create nests right on the rocks along the water. There are a variety of moss, ferns, and wildflowers all along the lake. Because of all the traffic at the lake, we saw a bit of trash floating at the base of the waterfall. Dayhikes Near Denver would like to challenge you to look for a piece of trash at the lake and to pack it out with you. Of course, don't go in for it, but pick up what is along the trail and edge of the lake. If we all do this, we can do a little part to help keep this natural wonder beautiful. With over 130,000 people visiting a year, the impact adds up fast.

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The back side of Hanging Lake was my favorite spot. The light play and the water spray made for great photos (see our photographing hanging lake tips below), and it gives you a real stunning perspective of the waterfalls pouring into the lake.

You may notice what looks like a huge chain-link cage along the canyon wall above Hanging Lake. It’s there to hold back the rocks that are prone to pile up and roll downhill toward the lake.

Stay off the Log

There is a log that stretches out into the lake, and its tempting to walk out onto it. However, it’s important to know that the oils and detergents on our bodies and clothing--even our shoes just touching the water--can damage the sensitive ecosystem of Hanging Lake. So, as cool as it might be to get that pic of you out on the log, it’s even cooler to help preserve this place for the next generation who gets to see it.

So, as cool as it might be to get that pic of you out on the log, it’s even cooler to help preserve this place for the next generation who gets to see it.

Spouting Rock Waterfalls

On your return, be sure to hike the short spur (about 200 yards) up to Spouting Rock Falls. That’s right, it’s plural--there are multiple falls. This set of waterfalls is much higher than the Bridal Veil falls at Hanging Lake, and instead of pouring over the cliffside, the falls shoot out from holes that the water has carved through a sheer wall of limestone. When the water is really flowing (which is most of the time), an additional gusher of a falls spills out from the heights above Spouting Rock, creating a breathtaking series of waterfalls.

Photography: How to Get Great Photos of Hanging Lake

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The key to getting the best photos of Hanging Lake is to go very early or later in the afternoon when the sun is close to setting. We hit the trail around 8:30 AM, and by the time we got to the lake, there was direct sun on the waterfalls pouring into Hanging Lake.

The real problem is that part of the waterfalls and lake are in direct sun and part in in the shadow of the canyon walls. This makes for two very different exposures within the same frame. So, that’s why we recommend that you go earlier or much later when the sunlight is still indirect and diffused. For some incredible shots, be sure to walk over to the back side of hanging lake where you can take photos that reveal the area carved out under the falls--but be sure to keep out of the water.

You will find the light at Spouting Rock Falls much more forgiving. Spouting rock is shaded more by both the canyon walls and trees that surround it. However, I would expect that light might be a bit harsh around midday.

Hiking with Kids at Hanging Lake

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The trail is steep and the rock steps are high, so if you are bringing your kids, be prepared to hike at a slower pace and for a lot of people to be passing you. Be aware that there is a lot of slippery rock along the trail, so both good hiking shoes with grip and close supervision of kiddos are important. We brought our 4-year old and 6-year old with us and they did fine. Take into account that we have been hiking with our kids since they were a few weeks old, so this is more normal for us. We read an online comment where another family recommended this hike only for kids 10 and up. If your kids are young, I wouldn’t recommend this as a first hike.

The experience of hiking the Hanging Lake trail with our four-year old was a bit like hiking with a marionette. A lot of the rock steps on the trail were above her knees, so we were helping her up most of the way. This eventually turned into a game of leapfrog, as there were a lot of folks visiting from out-of-state who quickly became winded and needed to take stops, too.

The trail got busy quickly, so we found ourselves stopping often and stepping aside to let others pass us. Our children were particularly taken with the snails we found along the trail when we took breaks. The snails are easy to miss, but if you just stop and look around for a moment, they seem to appear from out of nowhere.

Visiting Hanging Lake From Out-of-State

  • Be ready to feel winded by the altitude change. You can help yourself adjust to altitude and to have a successful hike up to Hanging Lake by getting a good nights rest, drinking lots of water, and by going at a slower pace than you may be used to. This is good basic advice for anyone vacationing in Colorado.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the rock on the trail can be wet and slippery, so make sure that you have footwear that can grip the rock.
  • If you are overweight or have knee or ankle problems, then trekking poles are an absolute necessity. Coming down the trail is tough on the joints, and you’ll be weary at that point, so it’s easy to turn an ankle (I did, but that was probably because I was wearing Chaco sandals).
  • Don’t give up. We saw several people about 400 yards shy of the lake talking about turning around and heading back. They were so close. Of course, if you think that your health would be compromised by continuing, or if a bad lightning storm is rolling in, then it’s always wise to turn around.
  • If you are from out-of-state, or just not in the best of shape, plan for your hike to take longer. And definitely get to the parking lot early, 7AM, to avoid the heat and crowds. If you would consider yourself very out-of-shape, I’d recommend building up to this hike. See our Easy Hikes Near Denver or Short Hikes Near Denver pages for a good place to start.

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Ten Hiking Tips for Hiking Hanging Lake

Because there are a lot of first-time hikers on this trail (and you might be one), we wanted to share a few tips.

  1. If you find that you are going at a slow pace, step off to the edge of the trail to let other groups pass.
  2. If you are going at a faster pace, simply say, “Pardon us as we pass on your left.” Just like driving, always pass on the left.
  3. Take your time and don’t pass folks on the handrail section. It gets crowded here, but it’s just a short jaunt, so take your time so that everyone can make a safe passage of it.
  4. Don’t feed Bucky: We encountered one woman who had tried to feed an almond to a squirrel, but the squirrel mistook her finger for the nut. As a rule, you don’t want to be feeding wildlife because it makes them dependent upon an unnatural food source (especially fingers), but it’s also not a good idea because you could get bit.
  5. Make sure to bring a snack and some water. Be sure to pack out your plastic water bottles and other trash.
  6. Hike the Hanging Lake Trail early in the morning, not just because of parking and traffic, but to cut down on the heat and humidity of the day. Depending on when you hike this trail, it can feel like two completely different experiences. If you hike in the early morning, the canyon is cool and refreshing. Hike it after 11am in the summer and it can feel more like a sauna.
  7. This is one of the most popular if not the most popular hike in Colorado, so avoid holiday weekends. Or go very early, by 7am, if you want a parking spot.
  8. Don't forget to bring a camera.
  9. There will likely be snow on the trail in the Spring, Fall, and of course Winter, so we advise bringing a traction device like YakTrax and trekking poles.
  10. Don’t cut through the switchbacks, these are here to cut down on erosion, which can be significant with around 130,000 visitors hiking the trail each year.

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Can I Fish at Hanging Lake?

There are trout at Hanging Lake, but fishing is NOT allowed because of the lake’s unique and fragile ecosystem. However, if you would like to add fishing to your day, I’d recommend fishing the Colorado River along the Hanging Lake trailhead. I’ve not fished this section of the Colorado River, but I saw trout rising while we were walking past, and there looks to be some pretty good access to the river banks.

Are Dos Allowed at Hanging Lake

You’ll have to leave Fido at home for this one because dogs prohibited on the Hanging Lake Trail and at Hanging Lake. In fact, the forest service sites that dogs, and the trash left by visitors, are biggest threat to the sensitive environment of Hanging Lake. A lot of people ask if you can swim in Hanging Lake, and for the same reasons swimming is prohibited. In fact, the US Forest service details that there is to be "no bodily contact" with the water.

Camping Near Hanging Lake

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We decided to camp with our family on Friday night, then to get up early on Saturday to do the Hanging Lake hike. I was surprised by how difficult it was to find a campground near Glenwood Springs.

However, we eventually found and reserved amazing campground. In fact, it’s so good that I’m hesitant to share it. We booked a campsite at Bogen Flats Campground along the Crystal River. It was a 1 hour drive from the campground to the hanging lake trailhead. Though, not as beautiful, you could camp at Redstone Campground, which is a bit closer. We would also recommend (if you have a good clearance 2WD vehicle), the Avalanche Creek site--no reservations required. There is a KOA near Glenwood Springs that gets great reviews, too.

Lodging near Hanging Lake

If you don’t want to rough it, there are plenty of lodging options in Glenwood Springs and great places to stay.

Other things to Do in Nearby Glenwood Springs

If you are driving from the east, there is a good chance that you may want to spend the weekend or a couple vacation days in Glenwood Springs. If you are looking for some things to do, here are a few suggestions.

  • The Hot Springs at Glenwood Springs - Sit back and soak in the main attraction and namesake of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. This is a perfect way to recover after your hike up to Hanging Lake.
  • Glenwood Caverns Cave Tours and Adventure Park - Go on one of the many different cave tours, or seek some above ground thrills on the parks many rides and attractions.
  • Rafting - There are a ton of rafting outfits in the Glenwood Springs area. Check out this Glenwood Springs page for a listing of Colorado guided rafting tours.
  • A Whole Lot More - Glenwood Springs was voted as one of the best vacation spots in the West--there is just a surprising amount of fun to be had in this Colorado town. The best place to really explore and find out more about the area’s attractions, see the Visit Glenwood site and begin planning your trip.

Proposing at Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake is a picture perfect place for an engagement. The downside is that there is a lot of traffic on this popular Colorado trail. So, here are three tips that should help you out.

  • Go early on the weekend, on a weekday, or off-season. By early, I mean parking the car by 6:45 AM.
  • Hanging Lake is great, but Spouting Falls is, in my opinion an even more spectacular spot for an engagement, especially because you can walk underneath the waterfall.
  • There are some rocks on the back side of Hanging Lake that you could scramble up with your significant other and get engaged under the spray and sound of the waterfall along Hanging Lake.
  • For a great example of engagement photos, check out Kristen Hakes Photography's photo shoot at Hanging Lake and Spouting Rock.

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History and Geology of Colorado’s Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake was formed in a really interesting way. At some point in it’s geologic history, about 1.5 acres of the valley floor dropped out and formed the bed of the lake. This happened because it sits right on a fault line. The blue and green colors in the lake is a result of the carbonates, minerals that have dissolved in the water. Most of the rock in this area is travertine, a kind of limestone that often precipitates out of hot springs and mineral springs.

It was supposedly first discovered by an early pioneer prospecting for gold in the area. He and his family lived on the real estate near Glenwood Springs for some years before the city of Glenwood Springs purchased it as a park. Hanging Lake is now under the authority and management of the White River National Forest. In 2011, Hanging Lake was declared a National Natural Landmark.

Links & Resources for Hiking Hanging Lake :

Cascades Near Berthoud Falls

Looking for a place to stop and stretch your legs on your way to Winter Park? These cascades along US 40 will refresh your spirit and are immediately accessible right off the road.There are some unmaintained trails to explore, so check out the full profile below to discover more.

Trail Snapshot: Cascades Near Berthoud Falls

Our family drives Highway 40 over Berthoud pass about once a month, and this little side stop is a great place to stretch your legs and listen to the water gushing down the mountainside. This beautiful cascade and stone bridge are located on the second switchback curve on highway 40 as you head towards Winter Park from Denver (south side of Berthoud pass). It's not a formal parking area (I think it's used for snow removal), but it can hold several cars after the snow has melted away in late May/early June. A small hiking trail can be discerned on the right side of the Hoop Creek, but it's not maintained. I've not hiked it, so I'm not sure how far it goes.

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There are some great views looking South to Engelmann Peak and Red Mountain. There is no picnic area, and the ground is soaked in early Summer, but my guess is that you could bring a blanket in late summer and Fall and enjoy a picnic lunch by the falls.

It's unclear if this falls is where the small settlement of Berthoud Falls got its name. My guess is that this is not Berthoud Falls. Here are my two guesses on the correct location. Click here for the Google map pin locations.

1 - Where a creek runs about 1200' feet down into the settlement of Berthoud Falls. This is not a sheer drop, but it is quite steep terrain. The proximity to the settlement makes this the best choice.

2 - Where Hoop Creek and another creek meet then drop into a very steep ravine. This is a more sheer drop and is located about a mile east of the settlement of Berthoud Falls. Because it's so far from the town, it's not likely that this is the namesake However, because of the steep terrain, it may contain a legitimate waterfall, or some amazing cascades.

I'm hoping to explore these more sometime and will plan to update this post when we have more information.
If you know the history of the area or have additional information about the Berthoud Falls Waterfall, I'd appreciate it if you left a comment in the trail reports below.

Tips & Resources for Viewing the Cascades Near Berthoud Falls:

  • Be Safe: The pull-off can sneak up with you and there can be a lot of traffic on the weekends. Be alert for cars.
  • Picnic Areas: There are some great picnic areas at Jones Pass, bottom of US 40 near the settlement of Berthoud Falls, and along Clear Creek just east of Berthoud Falls.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Rocky Mountain Roastery in Winter Park

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Map & Driving Directions


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Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.


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Elk Falls - New Waterfall Near Denver

Elk Falls in Colorado's new Staunton State Park opened to the public in 2013. This highest waterfall near Denver had been unknown to most, and inaccessible, except to a few. Now it's an adventure waiting for able hikers! If you are a fan of waterfall hikes and you live near Denver, you'll know that it's kind of slim pickings; most of the best waterfalls in Colorado require driving beyond the Front Range, or into Rocky Mountain National Park. Elk Falls, is just 50 minutes from Denver! The 3700 acre Staunton State Park offers incredible hiking, rock climbing, and beautiful rock formations - all making for some great Colorado day hikes. Explore the full Elk Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Staunton State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Elk Falls Overlook Hike at Staunton State Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Elk Falls in Staunton State Park

The parking and trailhead area are immediately noticeable after the park entrance. On weekends, things can really back up at the entrance due to the number of visitors and those who need to purchase a parks pass. If you don't have your yearly parks pass, you can pick one up at a local Kings Soopers grocery store at the customer service area. Because your hike will begin with the Staunton Ranch Trail, the main artery of Staunton State Park, just look for the main trail which heads to the center of the park. If you've parked at the lower parking area, you'll have two Trailheads before you, the Staunton Ranch and the Mason Creek trailheads. Be sure to choose the Staunton Ranch Trail. The Elk Falls overlook can be reached by starting on the Mason Creek Trail, but its a significantly longer and more difficult 17 mile loop hike. Maps are available at the entrance and highly recommended for this hike.

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The Hike: Elk Falls in Staunton State Park

The Staunton Ranch Trail leads hikers into the heart of Staunton State Park, through stands of ponderosa pine and past the Staunton Rocks climbing area. After 3.3 miles, the trail ends at a trail intersection with three new trails. The most direct route to the Elk Falls overlook is to choose the Bugling Elk trail which follows a small creek for 1.1 miles until it arrives at Elk Falls Pond, a good place to stop and Fish.

At Elk Falls Pond, a third trail, the Lion's Back Trail, leads another 1 mile up to the Elk Falls Overlook. Atop a highpoint, hikers will gain great views down to where Elk Falls drops from the cliff face into a beautiful mult-tiered waterfall. Out and Back, its a total of 10.8 miles.

Colorado State Parks is working on an Elk Falls Trail project that will eventually open access to the base of Elk Falls. This is projected to be completed and opened to the public in the Fall of 2016.

If you'd like to add a more challenging return segment to your hike and see new areas of the park, hikers can pick up the Marmot Passage trail until it meets with the hiker-only Scout Line trail, which eventually leads back to the main Staunton Ranch trail. This return route will add additional mileage, difficulty, and time to the hike back. Consult the trail map and topo lines to get a feel for the demanding nature of this option.

Tips & Resources for Hiking To Elk Falls Overlook:

  • TIP: Getting into the park can be slow at times, so be prepared to wait at the entrance on busy weekends.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Trail Map for Staunton State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crow Hill Cafe in Bailey
  • We would like to express our gratitude to Bill Chopp for sharing such an amazing photograph of Elk Falls.

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Map & Driving Directions


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waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado

Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.