Hanging Lake Permit System Launches in Attempt to Reduce Overcrowding

Apr 1, 2019

A new reservation system to limit the human impact on the enormously popular lake in Glenwood Canyon begins April 1. The new system puts an end to years of unregulated access and caps daily visitors at 615 year-round.

Hanging Lake was formed by a geologic fault which caused the lake bed to drop away from the valley floor above. Water flows into the lake over Bridal Veil Falls. The lake edge is built up from dissolved carbonates which are deposited on the shore as the water flows over.
Credit U.S. Forest Service

From May to October, the only access to the parking area will be by shuttle bus from Glenwood Springs, or by bicycle on the path. (It's worth noting that bike riders will still have to reserve access to the lake.) The parking lot will be open in the winter, but permits will still be required to access the lake trail.

The new reservation and shuttle system, similar to others at popular natural attractions in the United States, is the culmination of a years-long effort to study the human impact on Hanging Lake, and create a management plan that reduces it.

White River National Forest officials say as many as 1,200 people visited the lake on busy summer days last year.

The result was an over-abundance of trash and an under-abundance of parking.

The fragile ecology of the area was also suffering. In its Environmental Assessment released in late 2017, the U.S. Forest Service noted that a management plan that reduces over-crowding at the lake will help protect both soil and stream health and wildlife habitat.

“This type of management is something we're going to need to look at as land managers a lot more frequently in the future,” said Aaron Mayville, District Ranger with the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest, which manages the lake.

“Hanging Lake is a great example of a place that's beautiful, a huge attractor for people. But too many people are coming to see it all at once.”