The Colorado Adventure: Day 3
In 2015 we were traveling back to Iowa from my wife’s family reunion in Idaho, on a route through Colorado, because I made the route and wanted to see Colorado. Along the way she saw the road sign for Hanging Lake, looked it up on her phone, and said she wanted to come back and check it out. Then a little over a year later we start watching a YouTube channel that visited the park, and she excitedly remembered it and said that it had to go on the list. Even though that is the true beginning to this hike, let’s start at the beginning as we will continue to do for the 2017 Family Vacation.
If you’re new to this string, keep reading. If you’ve read about our adventure before, skip to the next picture.
I must give credit where it is due. While the majority of the trip were places we knew about, the specific itinerary ideas were thanks to a YouTube channel called Less Junk, More Journey. The channel is a regular vlog about a family traveling around the country full-time in their RV. I used locations from their videos that really interested Cheryl and I, and formed a route that covered most of the state of Colorado. The route’s intention was to give us a taste of what every area had to offer so that we would know what we wanted more of. We consulted the kids to get their input and set our plans in motion.
Our second stop on our journey was at Hanging Lake Park, just off the interstate in northwesterly Colorado. Hanging Lake is this not-so hidden little gem that is challenging and in-demand. The parking lot is small, only holding roughly a couple dozen vehicles. I read up and learned that it fills up quick and doesn’t take long to form a line all the way out to the off-ramp. If you get there at a bad time the rangers will actually turn you away. As we were leaving there was a ranger at the entrance holding everyone up, and as he saw us exiting he pointed to the next car to let them in. The line went on for quite a while, but there was room for a good number more that day. Shortly after our visit I read somewhere that the park service is considering requiring permits to limit the number of visitors per day and help the parking situation starting as early as next year (2018).
(This is all they have for parking.)
Being forewarned of the parking situation we once again left the hotel just before dawn. When we arrived our preparedness worked again. We were one of the first visitors of the day, but there were only a few parking spots left already! The sun was barely cresting the horizon and this place was almost full.
The hike itself is pretty short overall, only about 1.2 miles from the parking lot to the lake. That’s the length… the vertical gain is a around 2,000 feet in that 1.2 miles! It’s a butt-kicker for sure. The state of Iowa only has roughly 1,200 of gain from the lowest point in Keokuk to the highest point at Hawkeye Point. In fact I just did a 20 mile hike up at Yellow River State Forest in the northeast corner and only had a total of 2,200 feet over that 20 miles. This was a climb, with a toddler on my back no less, but totally worth it!
The trail starts off as this nicely paved path that traces along the river. The kids were in a brighter mood and started farting around with the trekking poles. Like the great parents that we are… we decided it was a good idea to take pictures instead of the, ya know, safer alternative of telling them to stop.
However, this path is not specifically for Hanging Lake. This path is an exercise path that just happens to go past the trailhead for Hanging Lake. You only get the bliss of this smooth path for the first .2 miles of your 1.2 mile hike. Once you exit the path you are immediately set upon by this jagged slope of rock that informs you this climb is for real.
While the steepness of the climb doesn’t relent often, the surface of the trail does smooth out so you can enjoy your surroundings more easily. The majority of the trail runs alongside the fast flowing creek created by the overflowing waters from Hanging Lake. This little steady stream of water has mini waterfalls of its own that creates this rushing sound your entire journey.
Cheryl being your standard waterfall enthusiast, had to stop and get pictures every time we came across any white water. While it slowed her and me down a bit, I didn’t mind since I was carrying some extra weight and appreciated the breather (Titan and Odessa just kept charging forward). I got several “good job dad,” and once I crossed paths with another toddler carrying dad, we gave each other a knowing smile and nod. lol.
The scenery during the entire hike was simply amazing and helped to detract from the strain of the effort. Here are a few shots to help you see just how much the trails crams into only 1 mile:
After all of that, you make it to the top and are greeted with an open view of the valley you just hiked up.
In truth you only have one spot to see this view before you are back in the trees. Unfortunately, this little spot is part of the last few feet of the trail as well. So you do need to be quick with your camera as people do want to pass by. Everyone we encounter were very nice and and even offered to take our “selfie” for us.
Part of that could also be that at this point in the trail more often than not the people we encountered pulled their little groups off to the side to make way for the huffing and puffing dad, and smile at the cute baby enjoying the ride.
Finally we get to see what all of the effort was for, Hanging Lake!
The lake is surrounded by a nice walkway made of deck boards with warnings not to stray from the path. Not only that, but there were plenty of benches! Oh yeah, and we caught up to Titan and Odessa who had been chillin’ at the top for a bit. They have a somewhat large platform that puts you right in the center of the lake to make room for all of us that want to get our photos. There were a good number of people trying to get photos, but for the most part everyone was very courteous. They snuck up to the railing, took their photo, and stepped back to make room for the next person. Ahem, I was actually the one taking my time.. but I only felt a little bad about it. My whole plan once we got to the top was to take a long exposure of the falls to get the smoothed out surface look with the white streams of water from the falls. I set my tripod up and proceeded to take several exposures; one to make sure I got it right, and two… remember I said the platform was made of deck boards. Well deck boards vibrate when people walk on them and it was just enough to cause camera shake during the long exposure to ruin the image. Eventually I did get what I was after though:
After we figured we spent enough time at the lake we went back to the entrance of the platform where another steep trail heads up and behind the lake so you can check out the source of the water; Spouting Rock.
Spouting Rock is a large waterfall that is spewing tons of water with some powerful force. It doesn’t just trickle over the edge, but projects the water like someone turned on a hose at full force. CJ didn’t quite know what to think of this loud shower.
Eventually we had to start making our way back down the trail and move on. Even on the way down new sights crossed our camera lenses that had a smiling and praising this little hike. Once the sun was above the mountains the trail seemed to brighten up (both literally and figuratively).
As we neared the bottom of the hike and the paved trail back to the car we were given one last scenic shot with trail disappearing into the trees and sun shining on the river and mountains:
Of course when you’re in Colorado with your family, it isn’t hard to find a scenic view around any corner.
Here are the rest of the photos from the hike and I hope you have a great walk!