Paying $12 for a reservation to hike Hanging Lake has proved popular since the permits became available at the beginning of the month, with 6,180 released through an online system.
The permit-and-fee system kicks off on May 1. From then until Oct. 31, visitors will be required to catch a shuttle in Glenwood Springs that will run to and from the trailhead daily from 6:45 a.m to 8 p.m. The shuttles pick up starting at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center on 110 Wulfsohn Road, near the Glenwood Springs Community Center. Bikers and walkers on the Glenwood Springs bike path can still access the trailhead, but they, too, need to secure the permit and pay the fee to hike up.
Winter-season Hanging Lake hikes, starting Nov. 1 and running through April 2020, will still require a permit, but users can drive to the site, and the rate is reduced to $10.
The response so far can be “attributed to the successful launch of the online reservation system and responsive visitor information services, a key focus of partner efforts over the past few weeks,” according to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service, the city of Glenwood Springs and the Visit Glenwood Springs tourism agency.
The entities partnered on the permit-and-fee system due to the explosive popularity of the 2.4-mile out-and-back hike that steeply climbs the walls of Glenwood Canyon before reaching the picturesque emerald lake. The site saw 186,000 visitors in 2018, up from about 90,000 in 2013, according to the Forest Service.
The proliferation of visitors was clogging the parking lot and impacting the ecological health of the trail and the lake.
New guidelines call for a limit of 615 visitors daily. So far, July is the most popular month to reserve a permit, according to the press release, which is a trend reflected in prior years’ visitation numbers. While no days are sold out yet, some times slots on certain days are full, according to Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion for Visit Glenwood Springs.
To make a reservation or for more information, go to visitglenwood.com/hanginglake. In addition, reservations may be made in-person starting on May 1, at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center.
“The 615 people per day is in accordance with the Hanging Lake Management Plan,” Kate Jerman, public information officer for the White River National Forest, wrote in an email. “The 615 daily capacity will help us reach our goals of continuing to support local tourism and provide a high-quality visitor experience, while also protecting the fragile Hanging Lake ecosystem and managing congestion on the trail.”
Data indicate the majority of people making reservations are coming from the Front Range; however, hundreds of out-of-state visitors have also reserved permits to visit this treasured Colorado location. The Hanging Lake Express shuttle will officially begin to deliver hikers to the trailhead for the season on May 1.
“Once again, people are proving just how much they love Hanging Lake, and we’ve been overjoyed with the public response to the reservation system,” said Aaron Mayville, district ranger on the White River National Forest’s Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. “We look forward to the shuttle launching in May and to the positive changes that we’ve worked hard to put in place.”