I have a love/hate relationship with those Buzzfeed style articles that list all the things that you absolutely must do in a certain place. Those places are beautiful but also filled with people and typically not what I have in mind when I head out for a hike. For as much time as I spend gallavanting around our fine state, there’s a long list of iconic places that I haven’t been. I’ve never stepped foot inside Garden of the Gods or driven to the top of Pike’s Peak and the only views I’ve had of the Maroon Bells have been from the tops of 14ers or the glass walled bathroom at the Benedict Hut.
I’m trying to keep my mind open, though, and visit the places that I haven’t been. Because you don’t make it on a “best of” list about a state like Colorado without being pretty damn special.
One of the spots that seems to make every single “must do” list is Hanging Lake. I had been wanting to get up there for a while to shoot the waterfall (swarms of people be damned!) so when a friend mentioned we could make a quick stop there on our way up to Aspen for a hut trip, I jumped at the opportunity.
And I’m so glad I did.
Hanging Lake is a geologic oddity nestled in the cliffs above Glenwood Canyon. A short but steep hike along a cascading stream takes you to the boardwalks that surround this delicate ecosystem. Someone in our group mentioned that it looks like a place that fairies would live, and it’s probably the best description that I have heard so far. A waterfall trickles over mossy rocks into a perfect aqua marine pool. The color of that water is unlike any I have seen in Colorado and the effect made the whole place feel a little bit magical.
We went on a Friday afternoon and, while there were certainly plenty of other people there, it really wasn’t too bad. I would imagine that a weekend day in the summer would be slammed. But even if there were a couple hundred people hanging out around the lake, it would still be worth it.
I suspect that the best way to find solitude at Hanging Lake is to head up the trail in the winter. I’m already planning on making a day trip up once the weather turns cold again. The trail can be steep and slick but with hiking poles and microspikes I think it would be very manageable. And I imagine that frozen water and a fresh layer of snow would make the whole place feel even more surreal.
It’s a good reminder that places make those “best of” lists for a reason and that sometimes the tourist trail isn’t so bad. I will be back.