Bridal Veil Falls and Spouting Rock

Hanging Lake Park / Glenwood Springs, Colorado, USA

About Bridal Veil Falls and Spouting Rock


Hiking Distance: 4 miles round trip (to both waterfalls)
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2017-04-18
Date last visited: 2017-04-18

Waterfall Latitude: 39.60158
Waterfall Longitude: -107.19183

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Few waterfalls could take your breath away, but the Bridal Veil Falls at Hanging Lake pretty much did just that – both literally and figuratively.

This waterfall was actually modestly-sized (possibly 40ft tall) as it was wider than it was tall when we saw it in mid-April 2017.

Hanging_Lake_207_04182017 - Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake
Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake

However, as you can see from the picture you see above that size wasn’t the only thing this waterfall had going for it.

Indeed, that photo only hinted at the breathtaking scene with its colorful yet clear lake fronting a wide travertine waterfall.

The landscape was also flanked by tall cliffs with more cascades further downstream as well as a great view of the canyon carved out by Dead Horse Creek.

It was the kind of scene that reminded Julie and I of places like the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, or Jiuzhaigou in China, or even the Havasu Falls.

Hanging_Lake_292_04182017 - Spouting Rock
Spouting Rock

In all of those examples, the clear water amongst travertine dams and waterfalls created a feast for the eyes and made us not want to leave.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was a very impressive waterfall further upstream called Spouting Rock, where quite literally, the falls gushed out of a cliff in dramatic fashion.

That secondary waterfall even let us go behind it, while it also featured a pool of its own with an idyllic setting.

Heck, that even compelled our daughter to pick out a little nook in a rock and treat it like her couch looking out towards the pool.

Hanging_Lake_306_04182017 - Tahia found this little nook in the rock fronting Spouting Rock, which she claimed as her own little 'couch' so-to-speak
Tahia found this little nook in the rock fronting Spouting Rock, which she claimed as her own little ‘couch’ so-to-speak

The high scenic rating we’re giving this combination of Bridal Veil Falls and Spouting Rock was reflective of the consensus amongst Julie, Tahia, and I that it was the waterfalling highlight of our Spring Break Desert Southwest trip.

About the Hike to Hanging Lake, Bridal Veil Falls, and Spouting Rock

In addition to taking our collective breaths away in terms of sheer beauty, it also did so physically.

That was because as the name of the place suggested, the lake was “hanging”.

So that meant, we had to go on a hike that was relentlessly climbing to even get up to the famed Hanging Lake.

Hanging_Lake_173_04182017 - The hike up to Hanging Lake and Bridal Veil Falls involved a steep and relentless climb up the canyon carved out by Dead Horse Creek
The hike up to Hanging Lake and Bridal Veil Falls involved a steep and relentless climb up the canyon carved out by Dead Horse Creek

Since the lake itself was said to be at an elevation of over 7,000ft, it also meant that the air was thin and our lungs were beating harder in an effort to get as much oxygen as possible in the thin Rocky Mountain air.

Even though the hike had a modest round-trip distance of 4 miles to take in both Spouting Rock and Bridal Veil Falls, it still took us as a family about 3.5 hours away from the car to complete and ejoy the entire excursion.

By the way, it was about 3.2 miles round trip just to get up to Hanging Lake and Bridal Veil Falls alone.

Therefore, given the demands of the Hanging Lake Trail, I’d say that in order to have a good time with the Bridal Veil Falls and Spouting Rock, an early start would do you some good.

Hanging_Lake_162_04182017 - Looking up at other hikers making the climb up to the Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake
Looking up at other hikers making the climb up to the Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake

It would help out both in terms of finding parking as well as ensuring that there’d be more available shade to take rest breaks along the way.

It would also tax your body less as a good chunk of the trail was exposed to sun.

Hanging Lake Trail Description – from the trailhead to Dead Horse Creek

The hike began from the Hanging Lake Rest Area, which was an exit right off the I-70 (see directions below).

From the parking lot and restroom area next to a man-made lake on the Colorado River, a paved and flat trail followed along its north shore for about a half-mile.

Hanging_Lake_009_04182017 - The restroom facility towered over by beautiful cliffs at the Hanging Lake Rest Area and Trailhead
The restroom facility towered over by beautiful cliffs at the Hanging Lake Rest Area and Trailhead

This part of the trail was already scenic in that the lake was flanked by tall cliffs and the lake created opportunities for those reflection shots.

Another thing we noticed about this part of the hike was that most of this section of the park was devoid of the I-70 highway noise (at least until we got closer to the half-mile point).

It was a testament to the community activism that was involved to force the development of the interstate to preserve the character of Hanging Lake Park even if it meant higher development costs.

That said, environmental costs are typically externalized so perhaps the “increased” cost was more indicative of the true cost of having the highway in the first place.

Hanging_Lake_019_04182017 - Hiking along the tame walkway following the northern shore of the man-made lake on the Colorado River for the first half-mile en route to Hanging Lake
Hiking along the tame walkway following the northern shore of the man-made lake on the Colorado River for the first half-mile en route to Hanging Lake

Once we were at the half-mile point, there was a bridge over Dead Horse Creek, a small cascade on the creek itself, as well as a smaller restroom facility.

On the near side of the bridge, the Hanging Lake Trail began to climb in earnest as it left the concrete path and became more of a conventional dirt and rock trail.

It climbed almost immediately past a large scree and boulder field and ultimately followed along Dead Horse Creek.

The trail was quite obvious and easy to follow as this very popular trail had gotten a lot of use over the years.

Hanging_Lake_035_04182017 - Looking back over the man-made lake on the Colorado River nearby the trail junction at the bridge over Dead Horse Creek
Looking back over the man-made lake on the Colorado River nearby the trail junction at the bridge over Dead Horse Creek

On the far side of the bridge, the concrete path continued along the north shore of the man-made lake towards the highway noise from the I-70.

Naturally, we proceeded to climb up the Hanging Lake Trail, and it didn’t take long before we understood why the park signage rated this trail as “strenuous.”

Hanging Lake Trail Description – hiking up along Dead Horse Creek to Bridal Veil Falls

The Hanging Lake Trail ascended up several inclines and zig-zagged switchbacks, which caused us to take frequent water breaks.

The entire time, the ascending trail was flanked by vertical cliffs while also ascending alongside minor cascades on Dead Horse Creek.

Hanging_Lake_070_04182017 - Tahia and Julie ascending a bit of a scree and boulder field at the start of the Hanging Lake Trail alongside Dead Horse Creek
Tahia and Julie ascending a bit of a scree and boulder field at the start of the Hanging Lake Trail alongside Dead Horse Creek

So the scenic distractions somewhat helped to take our minds momentarily off the physical exertion.

In addition, we noticed that bridges were sequentially numbered, and we saw quarter-mile posts acting as “milestones” (or progress indicators) to further distract us from the physical challenge.

Nevertheless, the relentless climb meant that we made very slow progress.

Heck, we wound up climbing so high that we even got to spots where snow was still covering parts of the trail!

Hanging_Lake_094_04182017 - Julie and Tahia hiking past an intermediate waterfall on Dead Horse Creek along the Hanging Lake Trail as it continued its relentless ascent
Julie and Tahia hiking past an intermediate waterfall on Dead Horse Creek along the Hanging Lake Trail as it continued its relentless ascent

Eventually after what seemed like forever, the trail made a turn away from the canyon carved out by the West Fork Dead Horse Creek.

Then, it started hugging the tall cliffs segregating the West Fork and East Fork of Dead Horse Creek.

This cliff-hugging section was narrow but contained railings to help assure and protect us from the dropoffs.

It also involved a steep and pretty dramatic climb up steep rock steps.

Hanging_Lake_177_04182017 - Julie and Tahia ascending some pretty steep steps with handrails on the final climb up to Hanging Lake
Julie and Tahia ascending some pretty steep steps with handrails on the final climb up to Hanging Lake

The higher we went, the more dramatic the views became when we looked back down the main canyon.

Eventually, after cresting this dramatic ascent, we encountered a trail junction where the trail on the left continued to ascend towards Spouting Rock while there was a boardwalk on the right leading to Hanging Lake and the Bridal Veil Falls.

Naturally, we did the latter first, and after all the work it took to get up here, we were quite relieved to finally see Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake.

Indeed, it was well worth it!

Hanging_Lake_234_04182017 - Context of Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake
Context of Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake

At the Hanging Lake, in addition to the scenery, we also noticed fish in the lake.

There were benches alongside most of the boardwalk for sitting and viewing, and there was also a viewing platform right in the middle of the semi-circular boardwalk.

Despite how much work it took to get up here, this area was still very busy.

We never recalled a moment where there was no one here though admittedly, we showed up right at midday and easily spent an hour here.

Hanging Lake Trail Description – continuing to Spouting Rock

Hanging_Lake_269_04182017 - Julie approaching the Spouting Rock Waterfall
Julie approaching the Spouting Rock Waterfall

Back at the trail junction, we then continued upwards to the Spouting Rock.

As we did this, the trail continued its ascent (albeit less steep), and followed the base of more tall cliffs before heading right to the dramatic spring.

The trail allowed us to go right behind the Spouting Rock Waterfall.

Moreover, like Hanging Lake, this spot was also very popular so it would be difficult to take people-free photos.

Hanging_Lake_278_04182017 - Looking out from behind the Spouting Rock Waterfall
Looking out from behind the Spouting Rock Waterfall

Spouting Rock also featured a plunge pool of its own though it was shallower and featured less travertine than Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake.

That said, we thought the waterfall here was pretty impressive as I’m guessing it had a height of around 60ft.

When we had our fill of this both waterfalls, we then descended back down the way we came.

Since the trail was mostly downhill, it only took us 70 minutes to return to the parking lot (as opposed to over 2 hours that it took us to get up to Hanging Lake).

Authorities

Bridal Veil Falls and Spouting Rock reside in the White River National Forest near the town of Glenwood Springs in Garfield County, Colorado. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions and permits, visit the USDA Forest Service website or Glenwood Springs website.

Hanging_Lake_007_04182017 - Checking out the man-made lake on the Colorado River at the Hanging Lake Rest Area
Hanging_Lake_024_04182017 - Julie on the walkway leading from the Hanging Lake Rest Area to the Hanging Lake Trail surrounding by attractive cliffs
Hanging_Lake_029_04182017 - Julie and Tahia continuing on the concrete path along the north side of the man-made lake on the Colorado River
Hanging_Lake_045_04182017 - The paved walkway along the north shore of the man-made lake on the Colorado River was also friendly to bikers like this guy who whizzed by us
Hanging_Lake_047_04182017 - The Hanging Lake Rest Area was mostly quiet except for this stretch where the I-70 was exposed
Hanging_Lake_048_04182017 - Julie and Tahia getting close to the half-mile point as the cliffs were starting to close in and the Hanging Lake Trail was about to leave the concrete
Hanging_Lake_054_04182017 - This was the trail junction by the bridge where the Hanging Lake Trail started ascending on the left side of Dead Horse Creek
Hanging_Lake_061_04182017 - Tahia starting the long ascent up to Hanging Lake as she was traversing this large boulder field
Hanging_Lake_064_04182017 - Closer look at Julie and Tahia dealing with the boulder field early on in the long ascent to Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_070_04182017 - Julie and Tahia continuing the long ascent up the boulders and steps on the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_073_04182017 - Above the boulder field, the Hanging Lake Trail was still climbing
Hanging_Lake_074_04182017 - As you can see, Julie and Tahia were pretty much exposed to the sun on the climb up to Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_078_04182017 - Eventually, the Hanging Lake Trail started to ascend alongside Dead Horse Creek, where we encountered some intermediate waterfalls and cascades along the way
Hanging_Lake_081_04182017 - This was the first of the quarter-mile posts on the ascent up to Hanging Lake.  This number pertained to the distance from the start of the ascent back at the bridge and not the overall hike to this point
Hanging_Lake_083_04182017 - At this point, the Hanging Lake Trail started to hug the base of some tall vertical cliffs
Hanging_Lake_085_04182017 - Julie and Tahia going across another boulder or scree field that we had to traverse while ascending the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_090_04182017 - Like the first boulder field on the Hanging Lake Trail, this one was also pretty extensive
Hanging_Lake_100_04182017 - Looking back at the second boulder field we had traversed along the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_102_04182017 - Julie and Tahia resuming the long ascent up the Hanging Lake Trail while towered over by cliffs closing in on us
Hanging_Lake_116_04182017 - Tahia and Julie going across still more boulder fields on the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_118_04182017 - Looking up at some of the more notable cliff formations along the ascending Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_120_04182017 - Julie and Tahia walking past another intermediate cascade on Dead Horse Creek during the ascent on the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_122_04182017 - Tahia and Julie continuing on the Hanging Lake Trail as it followed the other side of the canyon so tall cliffs were now showing up on our right side
Hanging_Lake_123_04182017 - Looking through some foliage towards intermediate cascades on Dead Horse Creek en route to Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_126_04182017 - Julie and Tahia going past the 3/4-mile post, which was at the top of a series of switchbacks along the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_136_04182017 - Given how strenuous the ascent was on the Hanging Lake Trail, it wasn't unusual to see these rest benches getting a lot of use
Hanging_Lake_137_04182017 - Tahia walking past some shelter along the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_142_04182017 - Julie and Tahia continuing along the Hanging Lake Trail, which was definitely hugging tall cliffs as we went higher up the canyon
Hanging_Lake_398_04182017 - Looking back at the shelter along the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_145_04182017 - The Hanging Lake Trail was now starting to go right by some alcoves at the base of this cliff while still staying next to Dead Horse Creek and its intermediate cascades
Hanging_Lake_146_04182017 - We went high enough on the Hanging Lake Trail that we started to encounter snow
Hanging_Lake_155_04182017 - Looking towards a pair of cascades on Dead Horse Creek behind the overgrowth as we continued to ascend higher on the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_155_04182017 - This was one of the more impressive intermediate cascades on Dead Horse Creek during our Hanging Lake hike
Hanging_Lake_169_04182017 - Tahia and Julie going up the steep and narrow cliff-hugging trail on the final ascent up to Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_179_04182017 - Looking back down at the main canyon while we made our final ascent up to Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_186_04182017 - Finally making it to Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_201_04182017 - Context of Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_192_04182017 - This was the boardwalk fronting Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_194_04182017 - Looking down over some cascades on the other side of the Hanging Lake Boardwalk, which was draining the Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_210_04182017 - Looking down at some fish in the very clear Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_211_04182017 - Some more fish swimming in the clear Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_215_04182017 - Portrait view of the colorful Hanging Lake fronting Bridal Veil Falls
Hanging_Lake_220_04182017 - Broad look at Hanging Lake backed by the Bridal Veil Falls, which was wider than it was tall
Hanging_Lake_224_04182017 - Looking back across Hanging Lake from the far end of the boardwalk
Hanging_Lake_229_04182017 - Looking over Hanging Lake towards part of Bridal Veil Falls to show the context of more of the cliffs towering over this area
Hanging_Lake_238_04182017 - Looking back at the viewing area for Hanging Lake over some of the calcified deadfall inside the clear lake itself
Hanging_Lake_250_04182017 - Context of Bridal Veil Falls and the main viewing section of the boardwalk
Hanging_Lake_254_04182017 - Another look across Hanging Lake towards Bridal Veil Falls beneath some deep blue skies
Hanging_Lake_265_04182017 - Tahia and Julie now headed back to the signposted trail junction leading up to Spouting Rock
Hanging_Lake_266_04182017 - Julie and Tahia hiking alongside towering cliffs on the way to Spouting Rock
Hanging_Lake_267_04182017 - Julie and Tahia approaching the Spouting Rock at the end of the trail
Hanging_Lake_272_04182017 - Getting tantalizingly close to the impressive Spouting Rock Waterfall
Hanging_Lake_288_04182017 - Looking out from behind Spouting Rock
Hanging_Lake_310_04182017 - More frontal look at the Spouting Rock
Hanging_Lake_315_04182017 - Context of Tahia enjoying her little nook while backed by the Spouting Rock Waterfall
Hanging_Lake_333_04182017 - Julie and Tahia starting the hike back from Spouting Rock
Hanging_Lake_335_04182017 - Looking towards where the stream from Spouting Rock rushed towards Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_344_04182017 - Looking back down at the context of Hanging Lake as we were leaving Spouting Rock
Hanging_Lake_360_04182017 - Before leaving for good, Julie and Tahia made one last look at Hanging Lake and Bridal Veil Falls
Hanging_Lake_364_04182017 - Last look at Hanging Lake and Bridal Veil Falls. Note the people to the far right of this picture for a sense of scale of the size of this waterfall
Hanging_Lake_370_04182017 - Julie and Tahia slowly descending the steep steps as we started the return hike down the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_374_04182017 - During the descent from Hanging Lake, we got this look into the canyon carved out by the West Fork Dead Horse Creek
Hanging_Lake_380_04182017 - Looking down at the rest of the cliff-hugging final section of the Hanging Lake Trail as we made our long hike back to the trailhead
Hanging_Lake_387_04182017 - Another look at some of the intermediate cascades on Dead Horse Creek as we continued our descent to the trailhead from Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_394_04182017 - Looking over another cascade on Dead Horse Creek backed by tall cliffs during our descent from Hanging Lake
Hanging_Lake_405_04182017 - Context of Tahia and Julie descending switchbacks on the return hike along Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_418_04182017 - It was definitely a lot easier going down than it was going up the Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging_Lake_419_04182017 - The nice thing about our return hike from Hanging Lake was that the tall cliffs now provided a good amount of shade
Hanging_Lake_429_04182017 - Looking ahead at the man-made lake on the Colorado River as we were about to rejoin the concrete path thereby ending the Hanging Lake Trail part of the hike
Hanging_Lake_440_04182017 - Julie and Tahia finally back on the concrete path
Hanging_Lake_452_04182017 - The lighting at the Hanging Lake Rest Area at the end of our hike was considerably different from when we had gotten started on the hike up to Hanging Lake

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We happened to drive to the Hanging Lake Rest Area from Grand Junction even though the nearest major town was Glenwood Springs.

So we’ll describe the driving directions from Grand Junction since that was how we did it.

We’ll also describe the driving directions coming from Denver.

Driving from Grand Junction to Hanging Lake Rest Area

So from Grand Junction, we continued driving east on the I-70.

We pretty much followed this high-speed interstate for about 94 miles.

Note that the Rifle exit was about 59 miles east of Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs was about 85 miles east of Grand Junction.

Hanging_Lake_014_04182017 - Looking back at the parking lot for the Hanging Lake Rest Area, which was where we started the hike to get up to Hanging Lake
Looking back at the parking lot for the Hanging Lake Rest Area, which was where we started the hike to get up to Hanging Lake

We then took the exit 125 for Hanging Lake on the right (just before the I-70 entered a tunnel).

The off-ramp pretty much took us right past a dam and onto the parking lot for Hanging Lake.

Overall, this drive would take about 90 minutes without stops.

Driving from Denver to Hanging Lake Rest Area

Coming from Denver, we would drive west on the I-70 for roughly 140 miles to the exit 121 for the Grizzly Creek Rest Area.

This exit was actually past the Hanging Lake exit, but there’s no such exit for westbound lanes on the I-70.

Hanging_Lake_460_04182017 - Back at the parking lot for Hanging Lake, we took advantage of a picnic table here to have a much-needed picnic lunch when we finished our hike
Back at the parking lot for Hanging Lake, we took advantage of a picnic table here to have a much-needed picnic lunch when we finished our hike

That’s why the signage would have us exit, then go under the freeway and get back on the I-70 going east before finally taking the exit 125 for Hanging Lake.

Overall, this drive would take about 2.5 hours without stops.

For context, Grand Junction was 243 miles (under 4 hours drive) west of Denver, 167 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Durango, 113 miles (under 2 hours drive) east of Moab, Utah, and 284 miles (4.5 hours drive) southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah. It would be 775 miles (12 hour drive) from Los Angeles.

Long video starting from the far right side of the boardwalk before slowly walking all the way over to the far left side of the boardwalk all the while examining the falls and the colorful lake


Long video showing the approach to the Spouting Rock and then examining the surrounding cliffs as well as the falls before the video ends behind the falls


Checking out an intermediate cascade that was just downstream of Hanging Lake

Tagged with: glenwood springs, glenwood canyon, hanging lake, garfield county, colorado, waterfalls, colorful lake



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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