Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs now has some limitations set to keep the number of visitors to 615 people per day and will implement fee-based reservations.

The U.S. Forest Service announced on Tuesday, August 22, its proposed management plan for the popular Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs. The plan includes limiting the amount of visitors each day to 615, which will rely on a fee-based reservation, permit, and mandatory shuttle system. Hanging Lake was formed by a geologic fault that caused the lake bed to drop away from the valley above it. The lake sits at an elevation of 7,323 feet, while the trailhead starts at 6,387 feet above sea level and soars 963 feet over a single mile. In 2011, it was named a National Natural Landmark. You can read more about Hanging Lake here. This proposed plan has been a long time coming as the Forest Service has struggled with the increasing crowds at both Hanging Lake and its 1.2-mile trail. Over the years, the crowds have only gotten worse. During the summer, the amount of visitors can top 1,200 per day. That then leads to overcrowding along the trail and in the parking lots. In 2012, there were roughly 78,118 visitors. By 2016, that number doubled and has been steadily increasing with each passing year. Below is a table that shows the average daily traffic Hanging Lake saw from 2014 to 2016 (Table 1), as well as how those numbers change depending on the day of the week (Table 2) and time of the year (Table 3). [caption id="attachment_21900" align="aligncenter" width="675"]hanging lake 2016 saw nearly 150,000 visitors (Table 1). Saturdays average 1,000 visitors per day (Table 2). 545 visitors per day during the fall (Table 3).[/caption] With such an increase in the amount of visitors, there seems to be a lack of respect. Visitors have no regard for the regulations that are meant to keep them (and the area) safe. They are blatantly ignoring all of the signs that are placed throughout the lake and along the trail, like the examples below. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="21898,21897"] By getting in the water, bringing dogs on the trail, parking where they shouldn't be, and vandalizing the rocks among other areas, the integrity of the lake is diminishing. Because of this, park officials had even considered closing off the trails to the public at one point. The Forest Service said,
Situated in the narrow, rugged and scenic Glenwood Springs Canyon, this 'bucket list' site and hike has gained so much popularity to the point of creating congestion, overcapacity, and safety issues. The area has continued to experience growing visitor dissatisfaction due to crowding, disrespectful behavior and most importantly environmental and facility degradation."

Five Major Objectives of the Plan:

Protect Natural Resources The site's natural resources are fading away. According to the proposed plan, the entire area "cannot continue to thrive under the current level of human use." When individuals go into the water, they are compromising the overall chemistry and structure of the water supply. In fact, there are even some irreversible impacts to both the natural and historic resources, including drainage issues, wildlife disturbance, and wear and tear on the infrastructure. Not to mention the graffiti, litter, and other waste that's not only harmful to the area, but can also inappropriate and offensive to the other guests. [caption id="attachment_21895" align="aligncenter" width="620"]hanging lake photo courtesy of PostIndependent[/caption] Improve Visitor Experience Due to the lack of respect for Hanging Lake (i.e., vandalism, over parking, crowded trails, etc.), it's causing many guests to feel frustrated with their experience. Manage Congestion With the overcrowding problems, there's tons of congestion and illegal parking that occurs. Most of the time there are backups on the on- and off-ramps of I-70. There simply is not enough space for the amount of people wanting to visit each day. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="21893,21894"] Enhance Public Safety Between the congestion and large crowds, it's leading to some areas of concern for the public's safety. If there is illegal parking and congestion happening, then there's a greater chance for emergency vehicles to not have access. Not to mention the damage that the vehicles and foot traffic are doing to the infrastructure, whether that be the railings, bridges, trail features, and more.   Support Local Tourism Commercial websites and brochures at hotels, restaurants, resorts, and other tourist areas feature Hanging Lake in their marketing. It is a huge tourist attraction, and the Forest Service wants to keep it that way. Plus, the attraction of the lake entices tourists from across the country, and this helps bring economic benefits to the local Glenwood Springs area. The plan is subject to a 30-day public comment period, allowing the Forest Service to gain feedback from the public and to help refine the plan moving forward.
So, next time you go to Hanging Lake, please follow the rules. It's fairly simple. Do this, and everyone will be able to enjoy the lake's natural beauty. What do you think of the proposed plan? Do you agree with it? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Photos courtesy of the Hanging Lake Colorado Facebook page, if not otherwise indicated.

Enjoy these great Colorado waterfall hikes.