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 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 commemorate the new Hanging Lake reservation system. (Credit: Mark Duggan)

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.

Years of overcrowding, trash, graffiti, and even fights in the parking lot prompted the need for a plan. 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 are issued each 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 park at the trailhead during off-season months but 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.

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

(Credit: Mark Duggan)

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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