Historic Fairy Cave Tour
The Historic Fairy Cave Tour is a 40-minute guided walking tour that is appropriate for most fitness levels. This tour leads you on a quarter-mile-long underground stroll through narrow, winding passages, to natural water features and includes a stop at Exclamation Point—a viewing balcony with magnificent panoramas.
What to expect. While there is no need to bend or stoop on this tour, some visitors may feel claustrophobic by the narrowness and low ceiling in places. Though tempting, visitors may not touch the walls or cave formations. This is to protect the living cave environment. Also, there are 19 steps, with a stop at the half-way point. Once the tour has started, plan to follow your guide to the end as the lights behind you are turned off as you progress through the tour. See more details below.
A little history. Named by C.W. Darrow who began giving tours in April 1896, the Fairy Caves was one of the first caves in the U.S. to have electric lighting installed. Today’s cave tour includes a historic lighting section called History Lane, which is illuminated with replica Edison and Marconi-style light bulbs. On your tour, you will experience a portion of the Fairy Cave just as a visitor would have viewed it over 100 years ago.
Darrow had hoped his venture would be a huge commercial success, drawing visitors from nearby Glenwood Springs. To reach the cave entrance, customers had to climb a steep trail to the mountaintop. Ahead of his time, Darrow proposed an electric tram to take people more efficiently to the attraction. Unfortunately, the town leaders were not as enthusiastic and refused to fund it; his project floundered and tours ceased in the mid-1910s.
With special permission from the Darrow family, caving groups continued exploring and mapping the extensive caverns. Over the years, new discoveries were made including areas not previously accessible except to a few hardy cavers willing to crawl and wiggle through them. The property remained in the Darrow family until 1961 when Peter Prebble and his partners bought it.
The current route of the Historic Fairy Cave Tour was two years in the making with close to 1,000 tons of rocky debris removed by hand with buckets and in wheelbarrows. Thankfully visitors don’t have to inch their way through tight spots anymore to appreciate the beauty of the caverns.
Highlights of the tour include:
- The Cloud Room with a subaqueous calcite ceiling.
- 40-minute walking cave tour. Cave tour times are posted at the Glenwood Gondola ticket counter and the customer service gazebo in the Plaza.
- A souvenir snapshot of your group in the cave right at the beginning of the tour, available to purchase afterwards.
- The Head Office, where deeply penetrating tree roots are visible.
- The Eternal Towers underground canyon.
- A trip through the Darrow Tunnel, which took three years to build, starting in 1897.
- Briefly exit the tunnel to visit Exclamation Point, with panoramic views of Glenwood Springs, Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River.
- The Pendant Room with its bulbous formations, carved by air and water.
- History Lane historical lighting section, with lighting design based upon Glenwood Springs Historical Society archival photographs.
- A candle-lit side trip into the Back Passage Room.
- The magnificent Register Room with it’s brilliantly-rich saturated colors created by interaction with hot springs waters.
- The Reflection Room with formation-reflecting pools reflecting stalactites, stalagmites and soda straw formations.
- Views of Jam Crack Passage with rich colors, popcorn-covered stalactites, and beautiful flowstone.
- This is a walking tour designed for persons wearing regular street clothing and street shoes. As in our other cave tour, flip-flops are not recommended
- The packed fine pea-gravel floors are generally level, though there is one very gradual short slope with a handrail
- There is one short section containing two sets of 9 steps with a connecting level platform
- Passageways between cave rooms average approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide
- There are three narrow sections (smallest = 25 inch or 63 centimeters, only at shoulder height) which take only a brief second to step through
- There is one reduced headroom of 5.5 feet (1.7 meters) portion which is well-lit and requires briefly ducking your head underneath it
- 80+ year old visitors with canes have walked this tour without difficulties
- Our apologies, this cave tour is not wheelchair accessible.