$4.5 million reconstruction project on Hanging Lake hike aims to preserve trail for the next 100 years

From an explosion in the number of visitors to natural disasters in the area, Hanging Lake has faced a number of challenges for the last decade.
$4.5 million reconstruction project on Hanging Lake hike meant to preserve trail for the next 100 years
Posted at 8:51 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 09:30:57-04

GLENWOOD CANYON, Colo. — Nestled in Glenwood Canyon, Hanging Lake is one of the most iconic sights in Colorado. However, planning a trip to the trailhead has faced countless challenges over the past decade.

A $4.5 million reconstruction project kicked off on Thursday in hopes of preserving and protecting the trail for the next 100 years.

“It's truly a one-of-a-kind gem that is treasured throughout the state, the nation, and internationally, as well," said Leann Veldhuis, the Eagle-Holy Cross District ranger. “We have been on a journey with Hanging Lake over the past few years. Today marks what is hopefully the homestretch of our journey and highlights our story of conquering challenges through close partnerships.”

The issues encountered at Hanging Lake that led to this project started with an exploding number of visitors, which was addressed through a reservation system in 2019.

In August 2020, the Grizzly Creek Fire sparked near Hanging Lake, somehow sparing the actual bright green lake. The fire caused a closure of the hiking trail until May 2021. As a result of the fire, debris flows tore through the trail and the bridges along it in July 2021.

"The trail and associated bridges suffered significant damage following the July 2021 debris flows in Glenwood Canyon, forcing another trail closure. A temporary trail was completed and open to the public in June 2022," said Veldhuis. “We knew that trail was a temporary fix, but we wanted to get people back up to Hanging Lake. And indeed, the temporary trail had to be closed intermittently in spring 2023 during the high runoff that we had that occurred that year, flooding significant parts of the trail and debris flows affecting the access road. So, here we are today.”

Improvements include replacing all seven bridges along the trail, building a boardwalk at Spouting Rock, constructing an improved trailhead, and completing rock work along the trail. While the work is happening, visitors can only make reservations on a weekly basis.

“We are working with our contractor on site — weekly check-ins, the whole deal — on figuring out when we'll be able to keep the trail open despite the work going on while acknowledging and understanding that there will be days where significant work is occurring, where the trail will be closed," said Veldhuis.

The latest on the Hanging Lake Trail construction

Colleen Pennington is the Glenwood Canyon manager for the White River National Forest. She hopes visitors will be flexible during this construction, which is expected to be completed this fall.

“When they're able to come back and see the trail fully finished the way that we've imagined it with our partners, I think it's going to be worth the wait for them," said Pennington.

Several different agencies have partnered to make this improvement a reality, including Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the City of Glenwood Springs, the National Forest Foundation, and the White River National Forest. The largest sum of money is coming from Great Outdoors Colorado, which takes a portion of proceeds from the Colorado lottery and supports outdoor recreation.

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