Getting to the trailhead turns out to be easier said than done. Our hosts had assured us the exit was marked, but the exit for Hanging Lake has since been closed. It turns out you now have to go two exits farther, turn around and get back on the freeway going the other direction, and remember the exit number to get off at the right place. Don't get off early, or you can't get back on and have to cycle all the way around again.
Once there, you walk a quarter mile along the river on a paved bike path, and then the real trail begins, climbing steeply along rock stairsteps. The steepness of the climb doesn't ever let up significantly. Groups of people (this is a popular trail) rest by the trailside. Groups coming down mutter encouraging words to tired climbers. We asked one descender, "Is it worth it?" His answer: "Oh, god, yes."
And indeed it was. The hanging lake is spectacular and beautiful, a shallow pond of clear azure waters. And fish. How did the fish get there? Interpretive signs discuss black swifts (nowhere to be seen) and oil shale columbine (which I'm sure are lovely if you're there in season, which we weren't) but nothing about the fish.
Every descending hiker, as well as the trail description down at the trailhead, urged us not to miss the short side trip to Spouting Rock, so of course we checked it out. A stream of water gushes mysteriously out of a hole in the otherwise solid rock of the cliff face, becoming a waterfall which feeds the lake. Fabulous!
I've driven through Glenwood Canyon several times before, always impressed at the beauty of the canyon (I-70 through eastern Utah and western Colorado has got to be the prettiest interstate highway anywhere) but I had no idea I had been missing the best part. It's well worth the couple of hours' stopover when travelling through that area.
[ 22:50 Sep 13, 2004 More travel/southpark | permalink to this entry | ]