Anyone planning to visit Hanging Lake this summer will again have to cross their fingers as they approach the perpetually packed lot at the trailhead outside Glenwood Springs.

In an attempt to preserve one of Colorado’s more famous nature zones, the U.S. Forest Service had hoped to enforce a fee-based permit system and shuttle service for hikers visiting the emerald pond and waterfall in Glenwood Canyon.

Photo Credit: Stephen Martin, OutThere Colorado.

But that management plan has been pushed to next year, as land managers continue to work out details.

“We really want to do this right,” Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville told The Gazette. “We recognized here in the next couple months we could’ve rushed and got it out this year, but that’s not what the public really wants or deserves. That’s why we’re now looking at May of next year.”

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He said an environmental review had been finalized but not signed, and that the Forest Service is trying to find a provider to run the shuttle and reservation system. That system would cap daily hikers at 615 per day in the summer, as outlined in the plan released last year.

Mayville said next steps will determine permit cost and the shuttle route.

Rising fears of the National Natural Landmark being “loved to death” prompted action after multiple seasons of analysis. Trail counters reported 184,000 visitors in 2017, a 23 percent increase from 2016.

Photo Credit: Stephen Martin, OutThere Colorado

Mayville said he expects another record year for visitation.

“The more people you get, unfortunately, the more bad apples you get,” he said.

The Forest Service will again station staffers at the lot to wave cars away when it’s full. Others will patrol the nearly mile-long trail and the viewing deck at the water.

If Hanging Lake is on your list this summer, heed this advice from the agency:

– Go in the early morning or late afternoon for the best chance at a parking spot.

– Go midweek.

– Be prepared to turn around or wait in line to park.

– Your vehicle could be towed if you park along Interstate 70.

– No dogs on the trail, and no swimming or fishing. Don’t cut switchbacks, resulting in erosion.

– Maintenance days will close the trail May 16 and Sept. 17-22.

RELATED: 6 Things to Know About Preserving Colorado

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