Leave No Trace: Colorado’s Hanging Lake Now Requires a Permit


The world of social media has brought attention to many beautiful places around the world. It’s not uncommon for people to start planning their next vacation thanks to “#travelinspiration” and as technology continues to play a pivotal role in our lives, I am not opposed to this convenience. The growth of tourism is a positive change on several levels. Increased tourism means more money for local businesses and as travelers, we get an opportunity to explore new places that were once unknown.

But with every positive change comes a downside. Overtourism and the lack of responsible tourism have brought problems to many destinations. The most recent example was the super bloom of poppies in Southern California. The small town where the poppies bloomed saw 50,000 to 100,000 visitors on both days of a single weekend. In addition to the traffic and gridlock it created in this small community, several tourists were found walking off the trails and stomping on the poppies to get that perfect picture. 

Beautiful views before getting on the trail

As a local resident of a picturesque mountain town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, I could emphasize with the locals of this small California town. Tourism can get out of hand and cause damage to nature and wildlife. Recently here in Colorado, the significant increase in tourism has brought changes to Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs.

Hanging Lake, located right off Interstate 70 inside Glenwood Canyon, is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places I have ever seen. It’s a short hike, about 1.2 miles but consists of a significant incline at about 1000 feet. It’s definitely a heart-pumping trail even for the most experienced hikers but is attainable for novice hikers with several places to rest along the way.

When hikers reach Hanging Lake, it’s an unbelievable view. The water with its bright green tint is also crystal clear and the vegetation along the small waterfalls make it feel like you have stumbled across a secret and pristine jungle.

“Hanging Lake is a unique example within the Southern Rocky Mountains biophysiographic province of a lake formed by travertine deposition. It is one of the larger and least altered travertine systems in the province, where natural geologic and hydrologic processes continue to operate as they have done throughout the history of the lake. The site also supports one of the best and largest examples of a hanging garden plant community in the province.” – NPS.gov

This year, due to the significant amount of tourists and the constant inability for people to comply with the rules, Hanging Lake will now require visitors to obtain a permit. What was once an easy stopover for hiking and sightseeing will now require months of planning. Although this makes a trip here less convenient, I completely agree with this decision from the Forest Service.

Stay on the boardwalk!

In 2017, a Brazilian sports company did a photo shoot at Hanging Lake and posted it on Instagram. When the photo was posted, it was quickly deleted due to public uproar regarding the models swimming around in the lake. Hanging Lake is a protected area due to the fragile ecosystem plus there are literally signs posted on the trail and at the boardwalk educating visitors on how fragile the lake is. The act of swimming was detrimental to this environment and it was shocking how blatantly disrespectful the company was.

Spouting Rock

During my visit, I witnessed a group of teenagers standing underneath the Spouting Rock waterfall  (about 100 yards above Hanging Lake) in their swimsuits then climbing above the limestone wall at Hanging Lake while they screamed and yelled at the visitors below. They were obviously not supposed to be up there plus the noise they were making was disruptive and obnoxious. Everyone around me was upset by their behavior but unfortunately, none of us could call the ranger because there was no cell reception.

Beginning May 1, 2019, a permit will be required to visit Hanging Lake and reservations became available on April 1st. As of the second week of April, over 6,000 permits have already been issued.

Reservations cost: $12/person (May 1 – October 31), $10/person (November 1- April 30).

Other information:

  • No dogs.
  • No fishing.
  • No swimming or bodily contact with water at Hanging Lake.
  • Parking at Hanging Lake parking area is only allowed Nov. 1-April 30 with a reservation. Parking is NOT allowed along entrance or exit ramps of I-70 at any time. A shuttle is provided during Peak Season.
  • Drones are PROHIBITED.

For more information visit www.visitglenwood.com/hanginglake or call (970) 384-6309. Remember, educate yourself prior to visiting a location and always LEAVE NO TRACE!

Take only pictures and leave only footprints, right?! Have fun!




4 comments on “Leave No Trace: Colorado’s Hanging Lake Now Requires a Permit”

  1. You’re right on both counts, it is so unfortunate but it is also so necessary. It is unbelievable to me how irresponsible and obnoxious some people can be, and with the growth of instagram, people just can’t help themselves. They HAVE to get those likes and if that means wrecking the place, no problem. It’s so frustrating that they ruin it for everyone else. Good for the government for at least trying to put a stop to some of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m hoping it’s just a lack of education rather than apathy as to why people are incredibly irresponsible while visiting these sites. It is unfortunate, but regulation from the government seems like the only way to protect these places and bring awareness to visitors about their behavior. It is strange how the motivation from getting those “likes” on social media is so strong… I just wish more of these “influencers” would educate their followers on how to be more respectful when visiting. Hopefully behaviors will change in the future!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We just visited Hanging Lake the other day! After leaving Breckenridge we headed to Glenwood Springs. They had just started the new reservation and shuttle system. We didn’t mind at all because it helped with crowd control which I imagine used to be awful. Anyway, we loved it and are thankful for what they are doing to preserve it. What an amazingly beautiful place!


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