Hanging Lake now accepting reservations for peak season

Colorado Springs residents Colleen Withus and Joseph Murray return to the rest area after hiking Hanging Lake in February.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

As more than a foot of snow pummeled Glenwood Springs last week, Ken Murphy fielded emails and phone calls from people already planning to visit Hanging Lake later this year.

“I just spoke to a lady, literally from California, that was booking for a trip that she’s coming out here for in May,” Murphy, who co-owns H20 Ventures, said. 

Last year, H20 Ventures – a partnership between Glenwood Adventure Co., Adventure Office and Peak 1 Express – was awarded the contract to run the Hanging Lake shuttle service, which launched May 1, 2019. 

The service was instituted as part of a larger effort to cap the number of daily visitors to the National Natural Landmark just east of Glenwood Springs to no more than 615 hikers per day. 

Visitors also had to purchase a $12 permit in order to hike to Hanging Lake during the peak season from May 1 to Oct. 31.

The $12 cost includes shuttle service from the Hanging Lake Welcome Center at 110 Wulfsohn Road to the trailhead and back.  

Murphy said the rollout of the shuttle service and permit system went well last year, but that there are areas to improve upon.   

In 2019, the online reservation system for Hanging Lake’s peak season went live April 1 – just one month before the first shuttle was set to depart. 

“Because of that, we also had kind of like a mad rush to buy permits,” Murphy said.

This year, the online reservation system for the summer peak season went live Feb. 1.

“It’s a 90-day window for people to think about the permits and what dates they want to go,” Murphy said. “The first day was very smooth.”

Visitors may purchase permits past the 90-day window, so long as their desired date hasn’t reached capacity.

According to Murphy, over 75,000 people hiked to Hanging Lake during the 2019 peak season.

Throughout June and July the trail came somewhat close to reaching capacity, as those summer months averaged over 500 hikers daily.

However, during the months of May, August, September and October, Hanging Lake welcomed fewer users. In October, an average of 217 people hiked daily to Hanging Lake. 

According to Murphy, H20 Ventures – in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service and the city of Glenwood Springs – was looking at possibly offering a discounted rate for classes wanting to go to Hanging Lake for a field trip or other learning opportunities.

The discounted rate would not apply to individual students but rather classes as a whole. 

“It’s for the middle school teacher, the CMC professor, the high school lecturer,” Murphy said. 

No official decision concerning the discounted rate – including its amount – has been made but is expected to go before Glenwood Springs City Council at its regularly scheduled Feb. 20 meeting. 

A CDOT employee shovels snow outside of the Hanging Lake rest stop on Monday morning.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Additionally, since the public-private partnership took effect last year, marketing surrounding Hanging Lake has evolved from ‘what not to do’ at the trail to ‘what else can be done in Glenwood.’ 

According to Director of Tourism Promotion Lisa Langer, now, when individuals purchase their permits on, they can also explore dining, lodging, shopping and other trail options throughout the city. 

“It’s just a win-win for everybody,” Langer said.

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