Looking for a scenic drive with views that take your breath away? Then the drive between Denver and Moab was built for you. I honestly didn’t do much research on this drive before doing it. I simply knew I had to get to Moab and figured the travel between the two cities would be fairly scenic….I now know that’s an understatement.
This drive takes you straight through Glenwood Canyon and follows the Colorado river in most parts. Your surroundings begin as lush greenery and then about halfway through you suddenly find yourself in a desert environment. It’s crazy and it’s all gorgeous. Don’t plan on napping during this road trip.
Anyway, a friend suggested that we check out Hanging Lake on the way. I can’t recommend the park highly enough, but I can recommend planning a bit better than we did. We mistakenly thought we’d be able to enter the park on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend….not so easy my friend. They have a ranger monitoring traffic on weekends, so if there is no parking spot available you get turned around and told to come back another time. It’s truly just luck of the draw on if a car exits at the same time that you reach the front of the car line. Parking is veryyy limited so get there early or pick a weekday! While it stinks, they have to do this because the exit itself is so small that traffic can quickly back up onto the highway. Also- if you’re coming from the east, you’ll actually have to pass hanging lake and turn back around because the 1 exit is only accessible from the west.
Alas, we returned a few days later on our way back to Denver. While the parking lot was busy, I was able to easily stalk some hikers who were heading back to their car and grab their spot. No ranger was monitoring that day, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have been allowed to circle the lot like the parking vultures we are.
So let’s talk about the hike. 2.4 miles round trip. 1,000 ft elevation gain (coming down is definitely more enjoyable). 2-3 hrs (we ran closer to 2). I HIGHLY recommend true hiking shoes for this if you have weak ankles. The rocks are jagged and steep in parts. This is not the trail to sprain an ankle on so plan ahead. While the hike is hard it is 100% worth the beauty at the top. You’re rewarded with breathtaking views of the canyon, Hanging Lake, and Spouting Rock Falls just a bit higher up.
My final note will be a reminder to leave no trace when hiking. Don’t litter, don’t try to fish in the lake, and stay on marked trails. Environments like this require a lot of balance to stay so beautiful and any outside force can easily disrupt that. For this reason, Hanging Lake is planned to become permit only and include shuttle transportation in 2019. So plan ahead and remember that it’s all to preserve these lands for future generations to enjoy too.