Extensive trail damage from recent slides will keep Hanging Lake area closed into next year
Hanging Lake, one of the most popular hiking destinations in Colorado, will be closed to visitors for the remainder of this year and likely well into 2022 due to extensive trail damage caused by the recent debris slides in Glenwood Canyon.
The good news, White River National Forest Service Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said during a Wednesday morning video news conference, is that the lake itself is already clearing up.
Until this week, U.S. Forest Service crews had not had a chance to go in and inspect the trail, Fitzwilliams said.
When they did, they found extensive rocks, tree limbs and mud over parts of the trail, major damage to several of the seven bridges that cross the creek and one bridge completely washed out.
“This will not be a minor trail repair,” Fitzwilliams said. “It will have to be completely rerouted.”
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The lake itself is already returning to its usual emerald green color. And the boardwalk and other infrastructure immediately adjacent to the lake are not severely damaged, he said.
“The lake is clearing up from the chocolate milk color you saw in some of the photos,” Fitzwilliams said of aerial photos that emerged following a series of major rain events July 29, 31 and Aug. 1.
Fish are still swimming in the lake, he said, and the unique Spouting Rock feature behind the lake “is still spouting,” Fitzwilliams said.
As for repairs and redesign of the roughly 1.2-mile long trail that will need to happen, “We don’t have contingency funds to repair this,” Fitzwilliams said. “But we are committed to doing what it takes to get the trail open again. It’s just not going to be a quick situation.”
It was tough news for Glenwood Springs tourism officials and Ken Murphy, owner of H2O Ventures which runs the hiking permit reservation system for Hanging Lake.
Murphy also joined the morning news conference and said that over 15,000 reservation holders will be allowed to go online and cancel their reservations.
“Up to this point today, we didn’t know if we would be able to open back up or not,” Murphy said.
Hanging Lake has been closed since July 29, when Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon also closed for 15 days due to what National Weather Service meterologists called a 500-year event over parts of the 2020 Grizzly Creek burn scar.
Hanging Lake also was closed for an extended period of time after the fire in late 2020 and until May 1 of this year due to concerns about safety along the trail.
A shuttle that normally takes hikers to and from the trailhead from Glenwood Springs did not run this year, due to concerns about expediting evacuations during flash flood warnings, which have been frequent all summer long.
Murphy said reservation holders who do not cancel will have their $12 per person permit fee donated to the Hanging Lake restoration fund that will be established.
In the meantime, Murphy’s staff is still directing visitors to the many other attractions in the Glenwood Springs area, including other hiking options.
Added Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa, who also joined the news conference, “Please, still come to Glenwood. We are still very much open, and there are other trails and things to do. We are looking forward to you continuing to vacation in our town.”
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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