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Hanging Lake Trail Could Reopen As 'Primitive Trail' For Now

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) - The trail to Glenwood Canyon's popular Hanging Lake is covered in feet of debris in many areas after destructive mudslides at the end of July. While the lake itself is on the mend, U.S. Forest Service officials say it may be until 2023 before the trail is restored.

"That long term effort's going to take a couple years to get through. We need to do assessments this fall. We need to do some trail design, and we need to get crews up here and really figure out where is the best location for that," said Roger Poirier, Recreation Staff Officer for the White River National Forest.

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Fortunately, the lake is already rebounding and teeming with life. The USFS is working hard to find ways to get the public back there as soon as possible.

"It's important for us. It's important for the communities that we live in and that we serve to get Hanging Lake open again as soon as we can," said Poirer.

The trail will be closed for the season, but Poirer has reached out to some of the top trail builders in the region to come up with solutions in the meantime. There is a short-term plan in the works.

"We're looking at maybe primitive trail options for the public who still want to get up here, who are willing to rough it a little bit."

Picnic tables are buried along with several of the trail's seven bridges. Signs taller than most people have been wiped out and, in some spots, the trail is completely missing, covered in up to 20 feet of debris, leaving hikers to scramble, route find and cross drainages.

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A primitive trail would not provide full public access, but it would be the best option for a near-term solution.

The Forest Service says Hanging Lake is one part of a much larger picture for Glenwood Canyon.

"We anticipate more sediment, possibly more debris flows. It's somewhat dependent on the rain we see, but it's reasonable to expect we'll be dealing with this for years to come," said Justin Anderson a hydrologist with the White River National Forest.

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Anderson had the opportunity to take a helicopter tour of the widespread damage last week. While there doesn't appear to be any major debris flows above Hanging Lake at this point, what's occurred in the canyon has inspired more early warning technology for future events.

"What we've seen is there's been a very effective partnership between the National Weather Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation, where the National Weather Service is able to alert CDOT to oncoming storms which allows CDOT to close (Interstate 70) in order to keep people out of harm's way," Anderson said. "That depends on rain gauges and also radar and other equipment that the National Weather Service uses. We've seen that that's been effective, so we anticipate that we may want to improve the early warning system by installing additional rain gauges or other equipment that's going to help the National Weather Service predict the weather and alert CDOT to the need for a closure."

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