Jewel of Glenwood Canyon to reopen today

The trail to Hanging Lake tentatively is scheduled to reopen today after being closed for repair and improvements since May 1. The Glenwood Canyon attraction draws 80,000 visitors a year. See a photo gallery at

As Ed Carlson headed up the Hanging Lake Trail last week, hiking poles in hand, he said something few people ever have said about this Glenwood Canyon attraction.

“The nice part of this is it’s always very, very quiet up here,” Carlson mused.

That’s not normally the case for a 1.5-mile trail, which draws upward of 80,000 visitors a year, making it one of the top attractions for tourists visiting the Glenwood Springs area. But the trail has been closed since May 1 for work at the lake, which included replacement of a boardwalk and rails and installation of structures to control the flow of debris.

The shutdown of the trail hasn’t applied to Carlson, who as the U.S. Forest Service manager of the project has enjoyed dozens of peaceful hikes to the lake to monitor the contractors’ work.

But he and others involved with the $1.1 million project are anxious to again share the beauty of this jewel of Glenwood Canyon with the public. They had hoped to be able to reopen the trail by the start of August, but now are tentatively planning to do so today, assuming helicopter work to remove construction-related materials from the lake area has been completed.

Even after the reopening, contractors will continue working to place fencing, logs and other structures designed to keep debris in a rockslide area from reaching the lake. The fencing also is intended to keep people from being able to hike up the dangerous slope, which a boy once used to access an upper cliff where he fell to his death.

The trail also will be closed Sept. 17-19 to allow Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado to repair and rebuild eroding parts of the trail.

When completed, the various projects will further enhance what already is a memorable experience for hikers who visit the pristine, turquoise lake perched some 1,000 feet up a tributary of the Colorado River.

“I think morning is the best time to be here,” Forest Service spokesman Pat Thrasher said Wednesday as he watched sunlight illuminate water slipping over the wide falls from the lake’s moss-covered upper rim.

More than a million people have visited the lake since the last boardwalk project, by the Glenwood Springs Kiwanis, in 1992. Those visitors’ footsteps have helped polish some of the rocks along the trail. Their hands did the same to the old pipe railing near the lake. That railing has been replaced by new rails colored with brown powder coating.

“It will be interesting to see the powder coating, how long it lasts. Remember the old shiny steel (from people gripping the rail)?” Carlson said as he approached the lake.

At the lake, several loads of remaining materials awaited removal by helicopter Wednesday. By the time the entire project is done, about 50 helicopter trips will have been made to ferry construction items, compressors and generators to and from the site.

Everything during the 1992 project was packed up and down the trail. That work followed yet another boardwalk project in 1972 by Glenwood Springs Boy Scouts, as attested to by a plaque uncovered beneath an observation platform along the boardwalk.

This is an area with a long history.

For a while, Hanging Lake was a Glenwood Springs city park.

The Civilian Conservation Corps once built a corral and stable up the trail when its use wasn’t limited to hiking. Logs from that work later were used to build a shelter that remains today.

Now the next chapter in this premier Colorado attraction’s history is about to begin, and Thrasher is happy that people soon will be able to get back on the trail to Hanging Lake.

“There are people literally champing at the bit to come up here,” he said.

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