3.2 Geology & History

It's a unique place!


Hanging Lake is a unique example within the Southern Rocky Mountains biophysiographic province of a lake formed by travertine deposition. It is one of the larger and least altered travertine systems in the area, where natural geologic and hydrologic processes continue to operate as they have done throughout the history of the lake. The site also supports one of the best and largest examples of a hanging garden plant community.


Located on a fault line, Hanging Lake's valley floor fell out and created Hanging Lake. The Lake is a very fragile ecosystem due to the travertine composition. Travertine is a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs. Limestone is sensitive to external factors and extremely susceptible to transformation due to it's calcium carbonate concentration. Getting in the water could damage this fragile system!


What does this mean?

Hanging Lake is fragile and in need of our care. When you visit please obey all posted regulations to help us keep this place special forever. We need your help.


History of the Area:


The story begins with a gold hunting prospector who came to Colorado in hope of striking it rich. Stumbling upon a dead horse at the base of what is now known as Dead Horse Canyon, he wandered along Dead Horse Creek eventually leading him to discover what is now known as Hanging Lake


Soon after the discovery, young man Thomas F. Bailey, built a homestead which attracted many travelers looking for both adventure and a place to rest during their travels.


  • 1910: The Taylor Bill was passed which allowed cities to purchase federal land to use as city parks.
  • 1912: Glenwood Springs purchased 760 acres near Hanging Lake for $953.00
  • 1930’s: Civilian Conservation Corps built bridges and rain shelter along the trail.
  • 1945: The Danforth’s opened Hanging Lake Resort at the base of the trailhead which included a gas station, a cafe, and eight cabins. The resort was in business for 23 years until I-70 was constructed in 1968.
  • 1972: The Lake and Land entered the protective hands of the Forest Service.
  • 1992: Interstate 70 was completed after 10 years of debate about how the construction in the Glenwood Canyon would take place.
  • 2011:Recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the Park Service
  • 2015: 133,000 visitors!