More rangers to patrol popular Hanging Lake area
The ever-popular Hanging Lake area in Glenwood Canyon is likely have more people patrolling the parking lot and trailhead this summer in an effort to control parking and trail use violations.
Garfield County commissioners have agreed to contribute $15,000 to hire a seasonal ranger to help keep things under control at the popular, but often crowded natural attraction.
The Glenwood Springs Tourism Promotion Board is also recommending that the city renew its $15,000 contribution, which is awaiting City Council approval.
In addition, the White River National Forest is springing for a third ranger to help with the situation, according to Kay Hopkins, outdoor recreation planner for the local forest supervisor’s office.
Last summer, at times two rangers patrolled the parking lot and trailhead, but that wasn’t nearly enough, Hopkins said.
“Just having one person at the parking lot is not feasible,” she said during this week’s commissioners’ meeting, adding there were frequent confrontations with people vying for limited spaces and wanting to take their dogs on the trail, which is prohibited.
The parking situation and on-trail violations are just part of the problem, Hopkins said.
Extra rangers are needed to enforce the rules at the unique lake and waterfall feature, where swimming, wading and fishing are strictly prohibited in order to protect the fragile ecosystem, she said.
Hanging Lake sees upwards of 1,000 visitors per day during the peak late spring through early fall season, especially on weekends and holidays. However, the parking lot can hold only up to 110 vehicles at a time, resulting in some people being turned away or parking illegally along the Interstate 70 on and off ramps.
The area is listed as a National Natural Landmark. More recently, the fairly rigorous, 2.5-mile round-trip hike was also listed on the Huffington Post as one of the American West’s “9 Most Spectacular Waterfall Hikes.”
All of that is fine, but only increases the number of people drawn to the area, Hopkins said.
Last fall, national forest and Colorado Department of Transportation officials put together several short-, medium- and long-term recommendations to address the overcrowding concerns.
Among the long-range solutions may be to charge a visitor fee, issue a limited number of day passes, run a shuttle to the trailhead from Glenwood Springs, and prohibit larger recreational vehicles and semi-trucks in the parking lot.
Some of those solutions would require coordination and certain agreements between agencies, because the parking lot and trailhead are owned by CDOT, rather than the Forest Service, Hopkins said.
A land exchange involving CDOT, the Forest Service and Xcel Energy, which also owns land in the area, would be needed in order to impose a fee system, she said.
For the upcoming season, the Forest Service plans to do regular pH sampling at the lake, Hopkins said.
The agency will also work with CDOT to add striping in the parking lot for a safer turnaround area, and will install a staffed kiosk to turn motorists around when the parking lot is full. The electronic message board just before the Hanging Lake Tunnels on I-70 will also indicate when the parking lot is full.
Hopkins said city tourism officials are working as well to provide more information about alternative hiking opportunities in the canyon, including Grizzly Creek and No Name Creek, and elsewhere in the Glenwood Springs area.
Visitors are also encouraged to visit the Hanging Lake area during non-peak times, including weekdays and earlier in the morning, she said.
“The majority of people will have a good experience if they don’t have a problem parking,” she said. “We want to be able to sustain people’s experience without killing the place.”
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