GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — The new shuttle service to provide access to the very popular Hanging Lake during the peak season will cost $12 per person, the Forest Service and the City of Glenwood Springs announced Friday morning.
Reservations are available for purchase online at visitglenwood.com/hanginglake or in-person at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center. The online Hanging Lake reservation system is scheduled to go live April 1. The Hanging Lake Welcome Center, which will open May 1, will be located at 110 Wulfsohn Rd. in Glenwood Springs.
The new system caps the number of visitors to Hanging Lake at 616 people per day -- a departure from the overcrowding that was present before that, when rangers said there could be 616 people at a time.
"It won't be so crowded on the trail," said Aaron Mayville, the District Ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District.
Mayville said discussions about charging a fee at Hanging Lake began in 2011. Due to overcrowding, he said fights would break out in the parking lot as people vied for space, and the 18-inch trail grew to be up to 20 feet wide in spots.
Graffiti and vandalism were also rampant, Mayville said.
He conceded that the fee and reservation system could act as a deterrent, but in a conference call with the media, didn't go as far as to say that was necessarily a bad thing.
The Hanging Lake parking area in Glenwood Canyon will be closed to personal vehicles during the peak season, May 1 to Oct. 31, when the shuttle service is in operation. Those wishing to bike to the trailhead and hike to Hanging Lake still need to secure a reservation in advance.
The cost of the reservation includes guaranteed free parking and access to the Hanging Lake Welcome Center and the presence of a ranger to provide visitors with environmental education and interpretation.
The Forest Service and City of Glenwood Springs entered into a partnership in fall 2018 to develop and manage the Hanging Lake experience under the new Hanging Lake Management Plan.
The goal of the partnership is to enact management actions that balance the preservation of Hanging Lake’s natural resources for future generations to enjoy, while also supporting local tourism and improving the recreational experience.
The new reservation and shuttle system will provide a sustainable visitor experience that protects the fragile Hanging Lake ecosystem and continues to support local tourism, the release said. The U.S. Forest Service said the contract for the service was awarded to H2O Ventures.
Colorado Department of Transportation, a key partner in the Hanging Lake Shuttle planning and operational efforts, is working on signs, automatic gates, and other on-site details to help direct visitors during the peak season. Automatic gates along the eastbound off-ramp to Hanging Lake will only allow shuttles, emergency and authorized vehicle access during the peak season.
Visitors can find more information about Hanging Lake trip planning at www.visitglenwood.com/hanginglake or by calling the Hanging Lake information line at 970-384-6309.
During the off-peak season, November 1 to April 30, visitors will still need to make a reservation for $10 to visit Hanging Lake. Visitors will be able to drive their own vehicles and park at the Hanging Lake parking lot during that time.
The price of the reservation supports the Hanging Lake visitor experience, with 5 percent of revenue going back toward the partnership and the long-term stewardship and operations of Hanging Lake, the news release said.
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