Ground Truth: Dispatch

Visitation Limits Announced for Hanging Lake

One of the primary attractions on the most visited national forest in the country will be subjected to a quota system beginning next spring, Forest Service officials announced earlier this month.

Hanging Lake, White River National Forest. U.S. Forest Service photo.

Hanging Lake, turquoise-tinted and fed by waterfalls, is accessed by a 1.5-mile trail that starts next to busy Interstate 70 in Colorado. Between May and September, the lake attracts an average of 1,000 visitors per day.

In 2017, a total of 184,000 people hiked to the lake, according to White River National Forest officials—an increase of 23 percent in just one year.

Under the new management plan, a maximum of 615 hikers a day will be allowed to visit Hanging Lake. The Forest Service is working with municipal officials from the nearby city of Glenwood Springs to develop a fee-based reservation system.

The increasing throngs visiting the lake have led to a bevy of problems, ranging from a lack of sufficient parking at the trailhead to a degradation of the lake’s fragile ecosystem. The lake’s shores are comprised of travertine, a form of limestone.

The new plan calls for implementing a shuttle system between May 1 and October 31.

Forest Service officials have worked with Glenwood Springs officials and a wide range of local residents and interest groups for several years in developing the management plan.

“I am pleased that the United States Forest Service and the City of Glenwood Springs are able to work together to protect Hanging Lake, while continuing to provide access to our residents and visitors,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba said in a Forest Service news release. “I look forward to a successful partnership.”