Visiting Hanging Lake? You may need to plan ahead

The U.S. Forest Service has released a draft of the environmental assessment of its proposed plan for visitor management of the popular Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs.

An iconic Colorado landmark, the lake in the White River National Forest is both a popular destination for hikers and photographers, along with being a spur-of-the-moment stop for people passing by on I-70 as it winds through Glenwood Canyon. The site has seen tremendous increases in visitors over the last several years — 2017 brought 184,000 visitors, a 23-percent increase over 2016.

The increase has brought with it a host of problems, the biggest being parking at the trailhead, which is now too small for the number of cars that stop there, especially during the busiest times of the year. During recent peak seasons, signboards on I-70 warned that the lot was full and the area closed, and the forest service and CDOT worked to restrict access, but problems persisted with cars parked in no parking zones and backed up onto I-70.

And all those cars brought hikers, which increased the wear and tear on the narrow, steep trail that was designed for far less use. With that and graffiti and people misusing the lake and trail, the forest service has not been able keep up with maintenance of the trail or curb the environmental damage.

In its plan, the forest service has proposed a number of measures to decrease the usage of the trail to get control of the situation. The plan calls for restricting the number of visitors to 615 per day, year round. From May to October, when usage peaks, there will be no public parking at the trailhead — visitors will be required to take a shuttle to and from the site, the details of which are still to be determined. All visitors will also be required to purchase a pass in advance, meaning that the days of the spontaneous hike to the lake will be no longer.



If you can’t get on the trail at Hanging Lake, here are other Colorado hiking locations that may appeal to you.

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