Hanging Lake Trail, a popular destination in Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon, has been closed for the rest of the summer due to significant damage stemming from a massive debris flow after heavy rain. Forest Service officials suspect the closure may well extend beyond the summer.
“Hanging Lake Trail is not safe and is impassable in some areas — and will remain closed for the foreseeable future,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “Unfortunately, when our crews surveyed the trail, we found significant damage. Bridges have been completely destroyed or severely damaged and there are mudslides blocking large sections of the trail.”
Fitzwilliams stressed that a more detailed survey of the trail needs to be completed so the Forest Service can determine how to begin repairs and reconstruction. However, he went on to add that the debris flows in July “are probably not the last we will see, so there could be additional damage in the weeks and months ahead.”
A Wilderness Gem
Hanging Lake is approximately 1,000 feet up a side canyon of Glenwood Canyon in the White River National Forest.
The 2.3 million-acre forest is about 2 miles north of Aspen, 16 miles from Vail, and 75 miles from Denver. It has 11 ski resorts, eight wilderness areas, 10 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet, and 2,500 miles of trails, making it what the Forest Service calls a place for “adventure and inspiration!”
It’s no surprise then that White River is exceedingly popular. Indeed, the Forest Service says White River draws more than 10 million visitors each year — making it the most-visited recreation forest in the country.
The Reason For The Damage
The Grizzly Creek Fire last summer had a significant impact on the White River National Forest. By the time the fire was extinguished, it left a 32,421-acre scar, The National Forest Foundation explains.
The problem is that burn scars are especially vulnerable to flash flooding because they lack vegetation to absorb moisture and tree roots to hold soil together. When the area experienced heavy rain on July 29, it created a massive debris flow that deposited more than 16 million pounds of rocks, mud, and debris on Interstate 70, The National Forest Foundation reports.
While the highway was closed for 2 weeks, Hanging Lake Trail won’t be opening again anytime soon.
“While the trail had seven bridges, many were washed out from mudslide debris flows from high above the trail,” a Coloradoan article reports. “In many places the trail has been completely washed away.”
“We know this is difficult news for the many people who cherish Hanging Lake,” Fitzwilliams said. “It’s also tough for the community and those of us who have worked to protect this iconic Colorado destination. We are committed to doing everything we can to reconstruct the trail as soon as funds become available.”
The National Forest Foundation is also working to assist those efforts to restore Glenwood Canyon and the Hanging Lake Trail system.
“Together, we will identify priority projects to address urgent, on-the-ground needs through investments from the White River National Forest Restoration Fund,” the Foundation explained in a statement.
If you are interested in helping with those efforts, you can learn more about making donations here.
For more about the area, check out all of our Colorado coverage, coverage of Aspen, Vail, and Denver. And for even more on the area, you can read about “Colorado’s own Grand Canyon,” in our Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park coverage.