Safety Concerns Lead to Parking Changes at Hanging Lake
KREX News Room
GARFIELD COUNTY, Colo.- Over the past several years, the number of people visiting one of Colorado's most unique attractions has increased substantially.
Hanging Lake, located just off Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, is a unique tourist attraction that draws hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts on a daily basis during the summer months.
However, the parking lot at the Hanging Lake Rest Area can hold just over 100 vehicles, which is not nearly enough during busy summer days.
When the parking lot fills up, visitors have resorted to parking anywhere close such as on the sidewalks, grass islands, the I-70 exit ramp, and even along the shoulder of I-70.
"Anytime that we're outside having folks park all the way up onto the interstate, blocking, access for emergency vehicles, that creates a significant public safety concern," said Matthew McCombs, Deputy District Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.
This summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol, and U.S. Forest Service are working together to help reduce the parking congestion.
Colorado State Patrol Sergeant David Evridge estimates one dozen accidents per year occur at this rest stop due to illegal parking.
Even worse, these vehicles prevent ambulances and firetrucks from entering the rest area during emergency situations.
"We're trying to strike a balance between public safety, managing the resource, and keeping traffic flowing down a major interstate," said Evridge.
Members of the State Patrol will be present at Hanging Lake every weekend this summer to turn away vehicles once the parking lot fills up.
Visitors can access Hanging Lake by parking at nearby rest stops and using the Glenwood Canyon Recreational Path.
In an effort to control the amount of people that visit the site at a given time, officials do not plan to expand the parking lot.
"It ensures that the users at any one time are having a positive experience and that they're not experiencing a significant amount of congestion in the trails," said McCombs.
Keeping the foot traffic low also helps protect the environment of the hike trail and the lake.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, over 130,000 people hike the trail annually, and most of those occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
On the busiest days, nearly 1,000 visitors hike the trail.
To avoid heavy crowds, visit the attraction on weekdays, early in the morning, or later in the afternoon.