Looking for a challenging hike with a jaw-dropping reward? Look no further than Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado. 

Hanging Lake - Glenwood Canyon, Colorado

A photo of Hanging Lake's turquoise waters framed by lush greenery and cascading waterfalls.
A photo of Hanging Lake's turquoise waters framed by lush greenery and cascading waterfalls. Source: Wikipedia 


Hanging Lake is a stunning alpine lake located in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado. The lake is suspended 1,200 feet above the Colorado River, and its unique beauty makes it a popular destination for hikers and photographers.

The hike to Hanging Lake is challenging, but the views from the top are well worth the effort. The trail is 1.2 miles long and gains 1,000 feet in elevation. It is rocky and steep in some sections, so be sure to wear proper footwear and be in good physical condition.

Getting There:

Start your journey at the Grizzly Creek Rest Area (Exit 121) on I-70, just east of Glenwood Springs. A word of caution for westbound travelers: due to ongoing construction in the canyon, you'll need to turn around at Exit 116 instead. Don't let this detour deter you – the stunning scenery will erase any frustration in no time.

The Hike:

The 1.2-mile trail to Hanging Lake winds through a lush forest alongside Dead Horse Creek. Be prepared for a moderate to strenuous climb, with an elevation gain of approximately 1,000 feet. The path features switchbacks, rocky sections, and wooden boardwalks, making it accessible for most hikers with a sense of adventure.

As you ascend, keep your eyes peeled for Spouting Rock, a natural spring that cascades down the cliff face, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. The rhythmic gushing of the water adds to the serene ambiance of the hike.

The Grand Finale:

Finally, after rounding a bend, the majestic Hanging Lake comes into view. Suspended precariously above the canyon floor, the lake's turquoise waters shimmer like a jewel against the backdrop of towering cliffs. Bridal Veil Falls, cascading gracefully into the lake, completes the picture-perfect scene.

Take a moment to soak in the awe-inspiring vista and appreciate the unique geological formation. Hanging Lake is a travertine lake, formed by mineral deposits from the cascading falls. This rare phenomenon creates a breathtaking natural wonder unlike any other.

Tips for Your Hike:

  • Permits: Hanging Lake is a protected area, and permits are required year-round. Purchase your permit online at visitglenwood.com/hanginglake before your trip.
  • Best Time to Go: Spring and fall offer pleasant temperatures and vibrant foliage. Summer can be hot and crowded, while winter brings icy conditions and potential closures.
  • Wear proper footwear: Sturdy hiking boots are essential for navigating the rocky terrain.
  • Pack plenty of water: Stay hydrated throughout the hike, especially in warm weather.
  • Leave no trace: Respect the fragile ecosystem by packing out all your trash and staying on designated trails.

A Hike to Remember:

Hanging Lake is more than just a hike; it's an experience that will stay with you long after you've returned home. The challenging trail, the breathtaking scenery, and the unique geological marvel combine to create a truly unforgettable adventure. So lace up your boots, grab your permit, and embark on your own journey to this magical spot in the heart of Glenwood Canyon. Learn more about Hanging Lake rules.


For those familiar with hikes on the East Coast, imagine Hanging Lake as a blend of Angel's Rest in Virginia and Sharp Top. The rocky terrain and steep inclines might be familiar, but the unique scenery and suspended lake will leave you breathless.

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The North Halfmoon Creek Trail is a challenging hike in the Mount Massive Wilderness of Colorado. It is a 3.4-mile one-way trail with a gain of 3,950 feet. The trail is very steep and not recommended for beginners. 

Mount Massive North Halfmoon Trail

North Halfmoon Trail, Colorado
North Halfmoon Trail

Towering at a majestic 14,421 feet, Mount Massive stands proudly as the second-highest peak in Colorado, mere footsteps behind its neighbor, Mount Elbert. Its formidable height and elongated form, boasting five summits above 14,000 feet and a 3-mile-long ridge, earn it the title of "Colorado's Massive Monarch." This guide will equip you with all the essential information to tackle the challenging yet rewarding North Halfmoon Trail, leading you to the summit of this awe-inspiring Colorado fourteener. 

Read also: 

A Weekend in the San Isabel National Forest

A Landscape Steeped in Wilderness

Mount Massive isn't just about the altitude; it's about the journey. Nestled within the pristine Mount Massive Wilderness, the trail winds through breathtaking alpine meadows, rocky slopes, and glittering tarns, offering a front-row seat to Colorado's raw beauty. Established in 1980, the wilderness area protects the region's ecological integrity, ensuring a pristine environment for generations to come.

Trail Details: A Test of Will and Endurance

  • Location: Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Distance: 3.4 miles (one way), 6.8 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation Gain: 3,950 feet (be prepared for a steep climb!)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trailhead: North Halfmoon Creek Trailhead (accessible by 4WD vehicle only)

Reaching the Trailhead: Gearing Up for Adventure

The adventure begins at the Main Mount Massive Trailhead. From there, you'll navigate a 2-mile stretch of rugged 4WD road to reach a junction. Stay straight and avoid the enticing left turn onto Forest Road 110J. For the final 0.5 miles, high-clearance 4WD vehicles reign supreme. Passenger cars, unfortunately, will have to concede defeat at this point. If your trusty car doesn't make the cut, fret not! Park at the junction and embark on a scenic (albeit slightly longer) half-mile walk to the official North Halfmoon Creek Trailhead.

Embracing the Challenge: A Climb to Remember

Once you reach the trailhead, prepare for a leg-burning ascent. The path switchbacks relentlessly through meadows and forests, gradually gaining altitude with each step. The thin air at such heights will test your endurance, but the breathtaking panoramas unfolding around you will serve as ample motivation. As you near the treeline, the landscape transforms into a surreal moonscape of rocky slopes and glittering tarns. Embrace the challenge, savor the views, and remember, the summit awaits!

Standing Atop Colorado's Second-Highest Throne

Reaching the summit of Mount Massive is an accomplishment to be cherished. The 360-degree vista from the top is nothing short of breathtaking. Behold a tapestry of snow-capped peaks, emerald valleys, and shimmering lakes stretching as far as the eye can see. Take a moment to soak it all in, for you've conquered one of Colorado's most formidable peaks.

A Few Final Tips for a Successful Summit Push

  • Start early: Aim to hit the trail before sunrise to avoid the heat and crowds.
  • Acclimatize: Spend a few days at higher altitudes before attempting the hike to allow your body to adjust to the thin air.
  • Hydrate: Pack plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout the hike.
  • Dress in layers: Be prepared for changing weather conditions.
  • Leave No Trace: Respect the wilderness and pack out all your trash.

The North Halfmoon Trail to Mount Massive is a journey for experienced hikers seeking a true test of their physical and mental limits. With careful planning, preparation, and a deep respect for the wilderness, you can conquer this epic challenge and claim your place atop Colorado's second-highest peak.

Remember, the reward for the climb is not just the summit, but the memories and experiences you'll collect along the way.

Happy hiking!

Additional Resources:

Nestled amidst the grandeur of central Colorado lies the San Isabel National Forest, a crown jewel in the state's wilderness tapestry. Encompassing over 1.1 million acres, this breathtaking expanse unveils a landscape sculpted by towering peaks, pristine alpine lakes, and verdant valleys teeming with life.

San Isabel National Forest (Colorado)

San Isabel National Forest, Colorado sign
San Isabel National Forest, Colorado sign
Source: Wikipedia 

The San Isabel National Forest boasts a staggering 19 of Colorado's 53 fourteeners, mountains that pierce the sky surpassing 14,000 feet. Among these giants stands Mount Elbert, the undisputed king, proudly claiming the title of Colorado's highest point.

But the majesty of San Isabel extends far beyond mere altitude. Three majestic mountain ranges - the Sawatch Range, the Collegiate Peaks, and the Sangre de Cristo Range - intertwine within its borders, each carving its own unique character into the land.

Hikers, backpackers, and climbers will find their paradise in this playground of endless trails. Wind through meadows carpeted with wildflowers, scale challenging peaks rewarded with panoramic vistas, or cast a line in a shimmering alpine lake - the possibilities for adventure are boundless.

For those seeking a deeper immersion into nature's embrace, seven designated wilderness areas beckon with their promise of solitude and pristine beauty. From the rugged peaks of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness to the otherworldly landscapes of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, each wilderness area offers a unique sanctuary for the soul.

Beyond the thrill of outdoor pursuits, the San Isabel National Forest whispers tales of the past. Historical sites like the Zapata Cabin and the Blanca & Fort Garland Museum offer glimpses into the region's rich cultural heritage, while charming mountain towns like Salida and Creede exude a timeless Western spirit.

Whether you're an adrenaline-seeking adventurer, a nature enthusiast seeking solace, or a history buff yearning for bygone eras, the San Isabel National Forest has something to offer everyone. So, lace up your boots, pack your sense of wonder, and prepare to be awestruck by the magic that unfolds within its boundaries. 


  • Respect the wilderness: Leave no trace and tread lightly on this fragile ecosystem.
  • Plan ahead: Be prepared for changing weather conditions and pack accordingly.
  • Get informed: Check current regulations and closures before your trip.

With a little planning and a spirit of adventure, the San Isabel National Forest promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you breathless and yearning for more. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your adventure today and discover the magic that awaits in the heart of Colorado's wilderness.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go camping in the San Isabel National Forest, near the base of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, the two highest peaks in Colorado. It was a great trip, full of beautiful scenery, relaxation, and even a little bit of adventure.

Pike-San Isabel National Forest
Pike-San Isabel National Forest

Our trip started out a little bit rocky (pun intended!), when I-70 was closed due to an overturned tractor-trailer. We ended up taking a detour that added a few miles to our trip, but at least we weren't stuck in traffic for hours!

Once we finally made it to our destination, we were greeted by the sight of a beautiful campsite near a babbling brook. We set up our tents, cooked some dinner, and enjoyed the fresh mountain air.

The next day, we went for a hike on the N. Half Moon Trail. The trail was a bit challenging, but the views from the top were definitely worth it. We could see for miles in all directions, and we even spotted a few marmots sunning themselves on the rocks.

After our hike, we relaxed by the campfire and enjoyed some good conversation. We also did a little bit of stargazing, and the sky was so clear that we could see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

On our last day, we packed up our camp and said goodbye to our new friends. We made our way back down the dusty road, stopping to take in the scenery one last time.

Overall, it was a great weekend trip. I loved the beautiful scenery, the fresh mountain air, and the chance to relax and unwind. I can't wait to go back and explore more of the San Isabel National Forest!

Tips for Planning Your Own Trip to the San Isabel National Forest:

  • If you're planning on camping, be sure to make reservations in advance, especially during the peak season.
  • The weather in the mountains can change quickly, so be sure to pack layers of clothing.
  • Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
  • There are a variety of hiking trails to choose from, so be sure to pick one that is right for your skill level.
  • Leave no trace! Pack out all of your trash and be respectful of the environment.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my camping trip in the San Isabel National Forest (Wikipedia). If you're looking for a beautiful and relaxing place to spend a weekend, I highly recommend it!

Additional Information:

  • The San Isabel National Forest is located in central Colorado.
  • Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado, at 14,440 feet.
  • Mount Massive is the second highest peak in Colorado, at 14,265 feet.
  • The N. Half Moon Trail is a 7-mile moderate hike.