GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Hanging Lake has gone through a bunch of changes over the years.

The tourist destination east of Glenwood Springs started out as private land. After that it became a Glenwood Springs city park complete with cabins at the trailhead. Then in 1972 it became part of the White River National Forest. This past summer Interior Secretary Ken Salazar named it a National Natural Landmark.

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Drawn by visions of the clear waters of Hanging Lake, hikers like Mike Johansmeyer can’t get enough of the hike up the mile-and-a-half long trail. Although the hike gains 1,000 feet in elevation as it passes over mountain streams, Johansmeyer says the payoff makes it worth it.

Johansmeyer, 56, has made a point of hiking the trail every year since the first time he went when he was 16. He said he never gets tired of the scene.

Mosses and ferns thrive in the lush Colorado canyon hikers climb up through.

“You rise very quickly on this trail, but one of the things that allows you to do is explore the vegetation and explore the ecosystems that you pass through,” said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Pat Thrasher.

Once at the end of the trail, visitor finally get to see what all the fuss is about.

From deep underground, water pours over the ledge of Spouting Rock, filling Hanging Lake down below.

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“The source is back here in the mountain itself,” Thrasher said. “As water is percolating down through the bedrock, it’s dissolving the calcium carbonate out of the bedrock and redepositing it here.”

The calcium carbonate reforms as a rock called travertine, which acts as a natural dam. The lake literally hangs on the cliffside because of the deposition of travertine.

“Visitors I hope will come here with the mindset of taking only pictures and leaving only footsteps,” said Thrasher.

How To Get There

The trailhead to Hanging Lake is reached only from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon.

Heading west toward Glenwood Springs, take the Grizzly Creek exit and follow signs back a few miles to the Hanging Lake exit.

More Information

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Get information about the lake and the area by calling the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest at (970) 827-5715 or check out the National Park Service link Hanging Lake – A National Natural Landmark.