The popular trail east of Glenwood Springs is now only accessible by permit and shuttle bus from Glenwood Springs. The new reservation system follows years of preparation and research.
In between bursts of snow and sunshine, officials with the White River National Forest and Glenwood Springs held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at the town ice rink, which will also serve as the Hanging Lake visitor center and shuttle bus terminal.
It was certainly an occasion to celebrate. The Hanging Lake Management Plan is designed to limit the number of visitors to the delicate eco-system and has been in the works for years. It was prompted by overcrowding, trash, even graffiti. On a hot summer day, hundreds of people would be arrayed along the 1.2-mile long trail and around the shores of the small lake.
Now, from May 1 to October 31, hikers must reserve a permit to hike the lake. Only 615 permits will be issued per day and visitors will take a 25-minute shuttle bus ride to the lake parking lot, which will be closed to private vehicles in the summer. Visitors will be able park at the trailhead during the off-season months, but will still need to reserve and pay for a permit.
As evidence of the lake's enduring popularity, more than 11,000 people had booked reservations to hike it this summer, some from as far away as Australia and India. The reservation system started just one month ago.
According to Aaron Mayville, District Ranger with the White River National Forest, visitation has more than doubled in the past five years. That number could either decrease or increase in the future.
Hanging Lake Reservation System Facts:
- A total of 615 permits will be issued each day, year-round.
- Shuttle buses (seating 44) will leave the new Hanging Lake Welcome Center (next to the Glenwood Springs Rec Center) every 45 minutes from 6:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The last bus will return from Hanging Lake at 8:00 pm each evening.
- Permits will still be required in the winter, but visitors in the off-season will be able to park at the trailhead.
- Cyclists can access the Hanging Lake trailhead via the Glenwood Canyon Trail, but still need a permit to hike to the lake.