The popular trail in Glenwood Canyon is now only accessible by permit and shuttle bus from Glenwood Springs. It’s part of a new reservation system that was years in the making.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba, current Mayor Jonathan Godes, White River National Forest District Ranger Aaron Mayville and other forest officials cut the ribbon at a ceremony for the new Hanging Lake reservation system. (Credit: Mark Duggan)

In between bursts of snow and sunshine, officials with the White River National Forest and Glenwood Springs held a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 1 at the town ice rink. The facility will also serve as the new Hanging Lake Visitor Center and terminal for the shuttle buses.

It was an occasion to celebrate. The Hanging Lake Management Plan, finally implemented after years of research and planning, is meant to limit the number of visitors to the delicate eco-system.

The need for a plan was prompted by years of overcrowding, trash, graffiti, even fights in the parking lot. 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, a year-round reservation system is in place. Only 615 permits will be issued per day and visitors will take a 25-minute shuttle bus ride to the trailhead parking lot, which will be closed to private vehicles in the summer.

Hikers 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 on May 1.

(Credit: Mark Duggan)

According to Aaron Mayville, District Ranger with the White River National Forest, visitation has more than doubled in the past five years.

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 Recreation 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.

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