GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — The water at Hanging Lake is no longer murky brown in color, and the blue-ish hue is slowly returning.
The lake is continuing to recover after mudslides ravaged the area in late July, shutting down I-70 and damaging the Hanging Lake trail in multiple places. Although the trail remains closed to the general public, the U.S. Forest Service invited members of the media to tour Hanging Lake and observe current trail conditions.
PHOTO GALLERY: Hanging lake recovering after damage from mudslides
"We don’t have a lot of answers yet about exactly what we’re going to be doing to get it open, when we’re going to open it," said David Boyd, the public affairs officer for the White River National Forest.
The damage is apparent as soon as you exit I-70 on the way to the trailhead parking lot. A debris flow is visible right after exiting the highway, and the guardrails are still caked in mud. There's also a large boulder that landed right by a sign near the I-70 westbound on-ramp.
A pile of debris is also visible above the sidewalk leading up the the trail. The picnic tables at the trailhead are nearly buried in layers of mud and rocks. Forest Service officials say it will take a massive effort to remove all of the material that was brought down in the slide.
"It was hard to see the lake muddy and then to see the damage to the trail. We were hoping we wouldn’t see anything like that," Boyd said.
Boyd said the Forest Service will explore several options over the next couple of months with the goal of getting people up to Hanging Lake as soon as it's safe to do so. One of the ideas is to create a more rugged or primitive trail.
"You could be looking at stream crossings and hiking over debris flows. We don’t know for sure, but it will not be the same experience as a very well engineered developed trail," Boyd said.
The ultimate goal is to build a new trail but that will be a years-long project, according to Boyd.
“What we’re going to be looking at for a long-term solution is a trail that will be there for 50 years or a 100 years and can withstand the use that it gets," Boyd said. "Even with the permit system, it’s a very, very busy trail."