On the trail: Hanging Lake | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Hanging Lake

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – I had come to the conclusion that Exit 163/Edwards – better known as “The Larkburger Exit” – would be No. 1 on my list of I-70 pull-overs. Short of a Popeye’s chicken miraculously opening in, say, Georgetown (Exits 226 and 228), what was going to beat out a quality burger a minute off the highway, located an hour and a half from home – the precise point at which a road trip becomes a snack trip?

But there is a new No. 1, and to my shock, food is not involved. (Note: Vail – Exits 173, 176 and 180 – ranks down there with Exit 235/Dumont/No Services and Exit 212, a parking area with no name, on the list. Honestly, I just never find a reason to pull over in Vail; haven’t stepped foot there in nearly 10 years.)

Our new No. 1: Exit 125. No restaurants, not even a snack stand with long out-of-date Doritos and off-brand soda pop, but something even more attractive: Hanging Lake. (OK, not more attractive than a Popeye’s, but better than even your top-tier fast food – Moe’s, Subway, Sonic. Popeye’s, of course, has a tier all its own.)

Hanging Lake had always been on my list of good ideas, but not quite good enough to actually make me pull over and spend a couple of hours while headed to the Front Range. And now I feel like a dad-burn fool for not making it a destination hike. Apparently, I’m not the only one who put it off and off and off; it seems like anytime you mention Hanging Lake, the response is, “Yeah, when I finally made it up there, I couldn’t believe it.”

The number of people delaying their Hanging Lake trip (I may have the all-time record, at 19 years) doesn’t mean the trail is empty. Far from it – especially this past Sunday, a gorgeous afternoon just after school got out for summer.

The trail of hikers reminded me of the last pitch on Everest on a clear day in late spring (not that I’ve been, but I’ve heard stories), minus the oxygen canisters strewn about the trail. (Actually, some of the Hanging Lake hikers probably could have used supplemental oxygen. This from one woman, not yet halfway up: “I think I’ll be using the elevator tomorrow.”)

The trail is a mile up, fairly steep, wonderfully shaded. A creek that runs alongside is, at the moment, rushing furiously, providing breeze, beauty and a pleasant soundtrack. What waits up top is remarkable, unlike anything I’ve seen in Colorado: a small turquoise lake (no swimming, though), and above it, Spouting Rock, a magnificent waterfall.

Go now. The water elements will never be better. You won’t want to say, I can’t it took me 14 years to do this. And if you’re waiting for the day when you can do a Hanging Lake/Popeye’s excursion … well do Hanging Lake, and keep praying.


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