Hanging Lake trail ‘not safe,’ will close through 2021 and possibly into next season

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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — If you had plans to hike Hanging Lake this year, you will have to cancel them.

U.S. Forest Service officials had been unable to access the trail since mudslides damaged Interstate 70 last month. On Sunday, a team of rangers surveyed the damage on foot for the first time.

“Frankly, I was really surprised to see the level of damage that had occurred,” David Boyd, with White River National Forest, told FOX31.

The lake itself became contaminated with mud and sediment. According to Boyd, the fish have survived and the water is starting to clear up. The boardwalk remains intact.

‘It’s not safe to be up there’

However, photos show significant damage to the mile-long trail leading to the lake, including large rock falls and damage to seven bridges. It is currently impassable and will remain closed until at least next year.

Trail damage is pictured at Hanging Lake on Aug. 18, 2021, after heavy rains impacted the trail, causing it to close through 2021 and possibly into next summer. (Credit: U.S. Forest Service)

“Until we can get this trail fixed, we’re keeping it closed, because it’s not safe to be up there,” Boyd said.

This comes just three months after Hanging Lake reopened after an eight-month closure following the Grizzly Creek Fire. While the trail and lake were largely spared, dozens of charred logs fell onto the path and had to be cleared.

Rangers knew debris flows and sedimentation were possible following the Grizzly Creek fire. The fire line came right up to the trail in spots. Trees directly above Hanging Lake are charred.

“Of course, no one anticipated a 500-year rain event and the level of rain we got those three days at the end of July there,” Boyd said.

Rerouting, rebuilding Hanging Lake trail

Cleanup this time around will take a lot more time and effort.

“We’re probably going to be looking at completely rerouting the trail in some places and rebuilding bridges,” Boyd said.

It is unclear how long the work will take or when it could begin. According to Boyd, crews must wait to begin restoration efforts until after this season’s threat of mudslides is over.

“We’ve got to get through this year and really just take a step back and really take a look at what it is we need to do and make sure it is sustainable and last,” he said. “Very frustrating that we’re looking at certainly into next season before we would have trail back open.”

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