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US Forest Service works to reopen Hanging Lake this year

U.S. Forest Service officials are still assessing the impacts of the Grizzly Creek Fire on the iconic hiking destination.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — The U.S. Forest Service is not sure when the hike up to Hanging Lake will be safe for the public to explore again. But officials hope it will be sometime this year.

The iconic lake got caught in the Grizzly Creek Fire last year. That fire burned nearly 51 square miles before it was contained in December. While the lake itself was spared, the areas around Hanging Lake in the White River National Forest were burned. 

David Boyd with the U.S. Forest Service said workers are spending the winter assessing the burn area. They're worried the damage could lead to falling rocks and debris flow along the trail.

"There are hazard trees and things like that we can remove," Boyd said. "So trees that might eventually be falling across the trail that might pose a risk. And just some more stabilization of the trail. It's not so much that it's damaged now but what we anticipate with increased erosion."

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Boyd explained there is also concern of debris flows in Glenwood Canyon where the parking lot for the trailhead is located. The Forest Service is working with CDOT on those safety assessments.

Boyd said the Forest Service will not have a concrete date of when Hanging Lake will reopen until those assessments are done. Crews will then have to wait until the snow melts to work on most of the mitigation and trail maintenance. Boyd was still optimistic the hike to the lake will reopen in 2021.

"We certainly want to open it as soon as we can," Boyd said. "It's an iconic Colorado location. As soon as it's safe to do so, with our partners, we'll get it open."

The Forest Service said they will continue assessing the lake itself through the year. Boyd said there could be some side effects because of Hanging Lake's unique hydrology.

"The lake itself wasn't burned, it wasn't burned around the lake but above the lake was burned," Boyd explained. "We don't know what impacts that will have in terms of sedimentation, or erosion, or the color of the lake. Short term or long term."

Credit: US Forest Service

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The city of Glenwood Springs will also be involved in deciding on an opening date. The city helps run the permit system to visit Hanging Lake along with the White River National Forest.


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