After years of being loved to death, Hanging Lake will limit visitors, require reservations and charge a fee starting May 1, the U.S. Forest Service said Friday in a press release.
“The reservation system and shuttle service that (Glenwood Springs) and (shuttle operator) H2O Ventures have put together will be a great step toward relieving the significant pressure that Hanging Lake has felt over the years,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville.
Visitors will be capped at 615 per day, the press release said.
Between May 1 and Oct. 31, permits will cost $12. The parking lot will be closed, and transportation via shuttle will be included in the permit price. Hikers will have three hours to venture around the natural landmark before returning to Glenwood Springs.
During the off-season — Nov. 1 through April 30 — visitors can drive to the site, but a reservation and $10 fee will be required.
Five percent of the revenue will fund the partnership with H2O Ventures as well as the long-term stewardship and operations of the emerald pond and waterfall in Glenwood Canyon.
In 2018, Hanging Lake counted 186,000 people on the trail, Mayville said. That’s more than double the count of 91,000 in 2013 and an average of 504 people a day. Some days in June and July saw upwards of 1,200 hikers, Mayville said.
The volume of people disrupted the fragile ecosystem of the travertine lake and trampled on vegetation adjacent to the trail. Long queues for one of the 100 parking spots to free up also led to fights and unsafe backups on Interstate 70.
The plan to curb the chaos has been in the works since a stakeholder group was formed with the Forest Service, the city of Glenwood Springs, Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation in 2012.
The Forest Service and Glenwood Springs tried to enforce such a system in 2018, but land managers did not want to rush the details of the plan.
“We really want to do this right,” Mayville told The Gazette last May. “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.”
Now that the plan is ratified, it can be adjusted if the Forest Service finds it can increase the visitor cap or downsize it.
“If when we monitor the visitation, we find we want to tweak the plan, we’re open to do so,” said Mayville, pointing to the adaptive nature of the agreement with Glenwood Springs.
The online reservation system for Hanging Lake will go live April 1 here.
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