The spectacular Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon will reopen to hikers on June 1, but with new permit procedures due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Last year, officials instituted a permit system with shuttles from Glenwood Springs to reduce crowding that was damaging the fragile ecosystem, and it was widely regarded as successful. But the shuttle has been eliminated because of the need for social distancing, and the number of permits will be greatly reduced.
Hikers will now drive to the Hanging Lake rest area, where parking was not allowed last year, and they must have reservations to pass through a new gated entrance to the trail. Under the temporary restrictions put in place because of the pandemic, no more than 128 people will be allowed to hike the trail per day, and they will be spread out over eight time slots. Each time slot will allow a maximum of 16 hikers, who will be given 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the round-trip hike. Permits cost $12.
“The preferred system would be the shuttle service that was wildly successful last year,” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism for Glenwood Springs. “This is a wonderful alternative. We’re just thrilled that the forest service and the city and the county and the state have accepted the plan. We feel people will have a wonderful, relaxing hike, and they will even have fewer people than they did last year with the 615 people (per day). We did not want to have a situation where Hanging Lake was closed.”
Glenwood Springs has been a resort destination for more than 130 years and is highly dependent on tourism, so the shutdown of the economy and restrictions on travel have been hard on the community. Officials there are still waiting for word on when Glenwood’s other attractions — including the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Iron Mountain Hot Springs and the Glenwood Adventure Park — might be able to open. They all have submitted plans to the county for reopening with social distancing and limited crowds, Langer said, and the county has submitted them to the state for variances.
“We are very grateful that Hanging Lake will be able to open by June 1 … but other things may take awhile to open, and open gradually,” Langer said. “At least we’ve got this one great attraction that … should really boost our tourism numbers.”