Saving Hanging Lake, By Any Means Necessary


via Reddit

Arguably one of Colorado’s most breathtaking sites, Hanging Lake is located at the top of a steep uphill hike a few miles outside of Glenwood Springs. The lake is an extremely rare geological wonder with amazing views and jaw-dropping waterfalls that trickle over thriving greenery in the summer, then freeze into a wall of ice for winter. A single log lays across the surface of the still, crystal-clear water, an immortal picture of paradise.

Unfortunately, due to the combination of a booming number of visitors and a rampant disregard for rules, Hanging Lake is in real danger.

Year round, hikers make the climb to the lake, and upon reaching it, their first instinct is to walk out onto the fallen tree. They make their way to its base and are met with a sign: “Please keep off the log.”

Whether it’s a lack of knowledge, the desire for a great picture on Instagram, or just pure neglect, many ignore the warning. Some even go as far as swimming in the lake, leaving behind body-oils and lotions and disrupting the fragile minerals that give the lake its unique turquoise color. And early this month, numerous rocks and trees were covered with graffiti along the trail.

Image via Picasa

No national or state park should be subject to desecration, but Hanging Lake’s extremely delicate ecosystem is permanently damaged by unnatural elements. The lake can’t handle the constant abuse, and if it continues, a natural beauty will be lost forever.

While US Forrest Service officials are considering closing the park temporarily, an additional effort to #SaveHangingLake is being made on social media: Trail shaming.

The Instagram account, Trail Trash of Colorado, scans the site for photos or videos of hikers disregarding park rules, vandalism, etc. Trail Trash calls them out by name, degrading and humiliating them.

One user, @luisbeteta28, posted a photo standing far out on the log, with the sign in the forefront of the photo. The caption read: “Life is short, break the rules. Sometimes they were meant to be broken.” Trail Trash reposted and replied: “@luisbeteta28 Actually, they were made to protect [the] sensitive ecosystem, you insensitive f**khead.”

Other posts are not quite so hostile, but forceful nonetheless. The account degrades more than just Hanging Lake visitors too, with doses of shame dealt out to delinquent hikers all across the state, from graffiti on a trail in Boulder, to trash at Castlewood Canyon near Parker.

Business major, Eric Tucker, is another die-hard Hanging Lake devotee. For a more comprehensive look at the park and its fragile ecosystem, check out his video.

Maybe trail shaming isn’t the right approach to this problem, maybe it is. Either way, it’s getting a message out, reminding us that our beautiful parks are a privilege to enjoy, and they deserve to be protected.