The hike to Hanging Lake, just east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is short and steep, rising more than 1,000 feet in just over 1 mile. The payoff vista — an idyllic turquoise pool fed by waterfalls, ringed in evergreens and seemingly hanging off the edge of a cliff — has been known to attract up to 1,500 hikers on a busy day.

It's too many for the fragile ecosystem. To regulate traffic, the U.S. Forest Service, with the city of Glenwood Springs, this year implemented a permit requirement ($21), limiting visitors to 600 a day between May 1 and Oct.

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