Donations rolling in for Hanging Lake Trail restoration
White River National Forest officials hopeful for final trail completion by 2023-2024
Glenwood Canyon’s healing was on full display Friday.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr chugged freely eastward past road workers busy either mitigating damages inflicted by colossal mudslides in Glenwood Canyon or taking a little break fishing the Colorado River.
And while the trail leading to the iconic Hanging Lake remains closed for now, Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said there’s much to be optimistic about.
“I think it’s a beloved asset to our community,” he said. “The locals love it. People have been hiking it for generations here locally and throughout the state. And I think that the nation as well knows what a gem Hanging Lake is.”
Gathered Friday at the Hanging Lake rest area, which is still closed off to the general public, White River National Forest officials and local business people joined Godes in celebrating the significant funds already donated toward restoring the renowned Hanging Lake Trail.
As Godes spoke of the daily average of 615 visitors, a giant check to the tune of $150,000 sat only a few feet away. The check represented numerous donations from local patrons to the National Forest Foundation.
The donation joins a $50,000 contribution made by the city of Glenwood Springs as well as a $25,000 allocation from the Glenwood Canyon Restoration Alliance.
Additional community efforts to raise funds for the restoration of Hanging Lake Trail have so far come from Sunlight Mountain Resort’s guest donation program, live performances, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and other grassroots organizations, Godes said.
Finally, at least 6,000 people who made reservations to traverse the trail but couldn’t due to its closure still opted to donate their money for the effort.
“If anybody else wants to continue to contribute, please do,” Godes said. “The race is not over and we need the help.”
In 2020, the Grizzly Creek Fire raged through Glenwood Canyon, eventually consuming more than 33,000 acres of White River National Forest land. This summer, torrential rains poured over the burn scar.
Catastrophic debris flows followed, depositing more than 16 million pounds of rocks, mud and loose earth onto Interstate 70 and throughout the canyon.
Meanwhile, the debris flows left Hanging Lake Trail in shambles.
It remains closed indefinitely.
Since then, forest service officials have been devising plans to restore the trail.
Forest Service Recreation Staff Officer Roger Poirier said the first plan of action is to establish a primitive trail to Hanging Lake by summer 2022. This essentially can be accomplished by infusing parts of the original trail into a new temporary trail.
Once the forest service pins down a suitable route, ideally less vulnerable to damage in the future, a new official Hanging Lake Trail is expected to be fully operational between 2023-2024.
“It’s an iconic, natural landmark that people want to see,” Poirier said. “And the cost, it won’t be cheap. But when you talk about a trail that’s going to last 50 to 100 years, that’s going to give an experience for hundreds of thousands of guests? The costs are gonna work themselves out.”
It’s been quite the year for everyone involved in mitigating the substantial damage done to Glenwood Canyon and all of its natural and man-made amenities. Yet a bright new chapter awaits Hanging Lake, Poirier said.
“There’s something to be said about taking an iconic trail and having the opportunity to rebuild it in a way that you rarely get access to,” he said. “So we’re excited about it.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org