Hanging Lake is one of Colorado’s most iconic places; a bucket-list destination and hike. Located on the White River National Forest, the crystal clear, aqua–blue lake with tumbling waterfalls was formed by a geologic fault that caused the lakebed to drop away from the valley floor above. Visitors can access the lake via the Hanging Lake Trail, which climbs 1,000 feet above the floor of Glenwood Canyon.

When the Grizzly Creek Fire burned over 32,000 acres near the lake in 2020, the lake itself was miraculously spared. However, massive debris flows in the Grizzly Creek burn scar in July 2021 caused enormous piles of mud, boulders, and debris to sweep away major sections of the Hanging Lake Trail, destroying bridges, downing trees, and burying the recreation area in rubble. As a result, public access to Hanging Lake (which requires a permit) was suspended for over eleven months, causing the cancellation of more than 15,000 visitor reservations.

Destroyed bridge site as the result of debris flows.

In response, the NFF, in close cooperation with the Forest Service and other local stakeholders, is aggregating funds and overseeing contracting to facilitate short- and long-term repairs to the trail.

Repaired bridge site.

Temporary repairs implemented in Spring 2022 successfully restored limited public access to Hanging Lake. However, with more than $2.2 million in grant support from Great Outdoors Colorado, we are working to design a more sustainable, permanent trail, and reconstruction is slated to begin in 2023. This collaborative effort will enable Hanging Lake to continue to provide an awe-inspiring, meaningful experience to White River National Forest visitors for decades to come.

All photos by the NFF.


You now know that National Forests provide more hiking opportunities than any other public lands in the U.S. The NFF is determined to ensure this incredible resource is always available. Your unrestricted gift today can help us restore trails, improve safety, and much more. Please click here to make your gift today. Thank you!

National Forest Foundation