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Colorado gem being prepped for 100 more years of visitors

Nationally popularized, local gem Hanging Lake will be receiving some much-needed updates this summer. KDNK asked people hiking along the trail when the last time was that they had hiked Hanging Lake.

"Last winter?"

"Man, when I was like, eighteen."

"It was probably ten years ago with my two kids."

"It's been a few years, you know, before the fire. We had family in town and we got one of the reservations and headed up."

"On Monday!"

"Last Friday."

 Many of those responses are from Forest Service staff and others involved in the maintenance and upcoming restoration of the Hanging Lake area. Although some locals have reported visiting the trail much less recently after the social media boom increased tourist traffic to the site, the last five years have seen significant change for the area around Hanging Lake and Spouting Rock. Surges of visitation of the site, nearby wildfires, and storms in recent years have created the need for a considerable restoration plan. Between damage to vegetation, trail boundaries, fallen timber, and debris, due to last year’s mudslides, there are no shortage of obstacles that teams will have to conquer in the process.

A total of six organizations are partnering for the project, including: the City of Glenwood Springs, White River National Forest, and the National Forest Foundation. Ken Murphy is the CEO of H2O Ventures, the company that has been managing reservations for Hanging Lake. He says that his staff will be working closely with the other groups on the reconstruction.

"Working with the contractor and the Forest Service and the stakeholders about when we can open up Hanging Lake intermittently during the construction, which is a wonderful opportunity. People are going to be able to hike and see progress and then I think getting ready for the hype of, wow, we've got this beautiful trail and then opening it up for the general public, you know, hopefully this fall or next spring."

Over 2-million dollars from the total 4.5-million allocated funds for the improvements come from the Colorado Lottery, via a partnership with Great Outdoors Colorado.

At a recent informational event on the reconstruction efforts, White River National Forest Engineering Staff Officer Stephen Ellsperman gave an overview of the project while standing at the base of the trail, next to a rendering of the new trailhead design. 

"So, the trail construction project is quite a technical undertaking. It requires a lot of bridge replacement and trail rerouting, as well as some debris flow removal from some of the storms and some of the debris flow that occurred. And then a big part of the trail is this reconfigured trailhead where we're standing right now. And that trailhead is going to be repurposed from what today is, um, a kind of a, A little offshoot off the main trail, not super well described or incorporated into the setting. But this new system will be a very specifically designed dwell space, with interpretation about the cultural, natural resource, and heritage resources, as well as the hydrology and the geology of not just Hanging Lake, but the entire canyon and the entire system that we are in with today."

David Lewis is the owner of DML Stone and Trail, specializing in trail work with nearly two decades of trail construction and drystone masonry experience. Tasks for his company will include adding retaining walls to areas which often flood over during spring run-off, adjusting rock features to reduce hazards, and adding in new segments of boardwalk in areas that are currently dangerous when wet.

"Initially I was, thought I was just going to be doing the steep ramp section. But now I'm just going to be working on the whole project, so I'm a lucky guy. Yeah, as soon as I got to town, I came up here. I came up here again yesterday, did some more looking around. Just to have a plan. I'm ready to hit the ground running, so, you know, it's like I want to know where I'm going."

Reservations are still available this summer to hike Hanging Lake, but will be released on a weekly basis every Tuesday at 8am to assist with streamlining access for crews during the reconstruction project. Some dates will be fully unavailable due to trail work. 

Copyright 2024 KDNK

Hattison Rensberry