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Hanging Valley: A Respite From the Crowds

fall colors in hanging valley

  • Distance: About 12 miles RT
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Trailhead: South Fork Eagle River
  • Notes: The first half of this trail is the same as the Eagle/Symphony Lakes trail; if that trail gets too crowded, heading up into the hanging valley makes a nice escape.

This 12-mile round trip hike is a welcome escape from the crowds that usually pack the trail to Eagle and Symphony Lakes. The hanging valley is a great destination for a dayhike, and a blissful backpacking destination because it feels so quiet and remote. In the fall, you can catch some truly stunning colors in the tundra.

From the South Fork Eagle River trailhead, follow the Eagle and Symphony Lakes trail until it crosses the river on a sturdy bridge (about 3 miles). Shortly after, look for a well-beaten but narrow and sometimes grassy trail veering off to the left, just as the main trail hooks sharply to the right.

The trail makes a steep but brief ascent into the obvious hanging valley. From there it’s another 2 miles across the valley floor to the first lake:

First Lake in hanging valley

…but don’t stop there! Walk past the lake and follow a clear footpath up and to the right into the tundra bowl above you; the path ascends just to the right of a tumbling creek. Once in the bowl, you’ll find a second tarn. This is a beautiful place to camp (although there are plenty of good sites down in the hanging valley too), or have a nice picnic before heading back down the valley to the hustle and bustle of the main trail.

hanging valley upper tarn

Above: The second, higher tarn in the hanging valley.