You now need a permit to visit Hanging Lake. Go to the website for more information on hours, maps and such. If you just want to see great photos of Hanging Lake, and Hanging Lake trail, then keep reading.
Hanging Lake Waterfalls Hike and Photography – Late August – 2019
Due to the trail and waterfalls being so popular, regulations have been set. The only way to legally visit Hanging Lake is to get a permit. You can book this permit online for the selected time frame. If you want a good photo of the waterfalls I recommend booking the earliest, or first, time available.
As we arrived to the Hanging Lake parking lot, the shuttle bus riders getting off were greeted by a marmot.
My mom and I booked the 6:45am shuttle, arrived at 7:15am to the Hanging Lake Parking lot, and I hiked up to the waterfalls by 8:00am. Which gave me plenty of time to get some even lighting across the lake and waterfalls.
The Hike Up
It’s not necessarily an easy hike. But not extremely difficult. The picture above describes most of the hike, it’s extremely rocky and pretty steep at many points. In the summer this is very doable. I tried this in mid spring when it was icy, and was not fun. Wear the right shoes, be in decent shape, and don’t carry 40lbs of photography gear up with you like I do, and it’s not that bad of a 1.2 mile incline hike.
Note: I’m not here to rate difficulty of the hike and what kind of shape your in. I’m saying that if you want to get pictures of the lake and falls before the sun hits it with harsh uneven lighting, you need to get up there quick!
Although I hated carrying my bird photography lens up with me, I don’t regret it at all. I was the first one that morning up to Hanging Lake and I was greeted by an American Dipper. The only aquatic songbird in the United States. One of my favorite birds in Colorado.
At the waterfalls, I had the place to myself for about 10 minutes. If you get the first shuttle though, it’s not that big of a deal with the regulations. You aren’t supposed to swim in the lake anymore. If you get up there first, you don’t have to worry about people being in your photo, uneven light from the sun if the day light isn’t overcast, and the most important, boardwalk shake when taking waterfall photos with long shutter speeds.
Although I don’t rate the waterfalls themselves as good as Rifle Falls, but the overall serenity and experience of Hanging Lake is better. It’s worth the hustle, grit, incline and push to get up there early. A truly mind-blowing, and extremely rewarding experience.
The hike is pretty steep up to the lake, and stunning views once you are at the top, but the scenery on the rugged path up there is no pushover. The stream runs along most of the hike up to the lake, and once you get to the 1 mile mark on Hanging Lake Trail, the small waterfall streams start getting better compared to the beginning.
I personally like the fact that they require a $12 permit to visit Hanging Lake now. As well as only making it available via shuttle service. Wine if you want but I love this. I enjoyed every bit of my experience at Hanging Lake and recorded it the best that I could.