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Extreme trail damage to close Hanging Lake at least into 2022

Officials announced that while Hanging Lake was spared from the mudslides, the trail will need to be reconstructed.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Officials announced on Wednesday that Hanging Lake will remain closed for the foreseeable future and at least into 2022.

Located in Glenwood Canyon at the site of last summer's Grizzly Creek Fire, Hanging Lake is one of Colorado's most popular tourist destinations. Hanging Lake was closed following multiple mudslides that also closed Interstate 70 for two weeks.

Officials said Wednesday the hiking trail up to Hanging Lake has extreme damage and will need to be rebuilt.

While the trail had seven bridges, many were washed out from mudslide debris flows from high above the trail. In many places the trail has been completely washed away.

Forest officials emphasized the repairs will not be a minor re-route, but a complete rebuild with complete reconstruction needed.

Large, loose debris flows will make repairs difficult and dangerous for workers. The site is also difficult to access with no road access, so getting equipment to the trail will call for planning and analysis, forest officials said.

"The debris flows we saw in July are probably not the last we will see, so there could be additional damage in the weeks and months ahead," said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.

"The Hanging Lake Trail is not safe and impassable in some areas," added Fitzwilliams.

The cost to reconstruct the trail to Hanging Lake will be significant, officials said. The hiking trail will need to be redesigned to meet the "new landscape" created by the mudslides.

Officials said the 15,000 reservations that have been made to hike Hanging Lake this year will be refunded. Customers can access their confirmation email and cancel their reservations for an immediate refund.

Hanging Lake officials expected an additional 20,000 reservations to be made this year. Proceeds from the reservations go to support Hanging Lake and the trail, so the mudslide's financial impact will be felt greatly.

Credit: U.S. Forest Service
Officials say the color of Hanging Lake is improving following mudslides.

As for Hanging Lake itself, officials said the lake is in great shape and the boardwalk around the lake is a good condition as well.

Officials said the fish in Hanging Lake are still alive and the water quality is improving.

Glenwood Springs officials are encouraging visitors to still visit the area even with Hanging Lake remaining closed. Maroon Bells is open for reservations into the fall and Glenwood Springs has other hiking options as well.

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) said repairs on Interstate 70 are ongoing and one traffic lane is open in each direction. CDOT will accept bids from contractors with the aim of opening two lanes in each direction by Thanksgiving.

CDOT also said the bike trail in Glenwood Canyon suffered extreme damage. The bike trail is "gone" in several places and still underwater in other areas.

White River Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, City of Glenwood Springs Manager Debra Figueroa, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Deputy Chief Engineer Keith Stefanik, Ken Murphy from H2O and Colleen Coleman from the National Forest Foundation spoke during Wednesday's press conference.

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