Caves and coasters are a combination you don’t expect to find on top of a mountain. The unusual location makes a visit to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park all the more thrilling!Continue reading
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is thrilled to be celebrating National Caves and Karst Day on Sunday, June 6. We have fun activities for kids planned and prize giveaways worth big bucks, but most of all we are excited to share our beautiful caves with visitors who may not know what lies beneath their feet.Continue reading
For knock-your-socks off vistas, there’s no place in town like the Viewing Deck at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.Continue reading
Rocky Mountain PBS “Colorado Experience” Viewers’ Choice Episode about the Fairy Caves airs Thursday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m.; viewers outside of Colorado can watch at https://www.rmpbs.org/schedule/ at the same time.
Fairy Caves Wins Viewers’ Choice
This time last year, Colorado residents voted for “Fairy Caves” to be the 2020 Rocky Mountain PBS “Colorado Experience” Viewers’ Choice.
Every year, Colorado Experience conducts a Viewers’ Choice Award contest to let viewers decide what episode Rocky Mountain PBS will produce. According to producer Eric Hernandez, “For a few weeks, typically in March, there is a call for submissions when anyone can suggest episode ideas; we always get a long list of interesting and important topics. This year we had 360 submissions! We narrowed that down to six finalists from different regions and timeframes and opened the contest for voting.”
Getting the Vote Out
The team at Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves, which is part of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, pulled out all the stops to encourage people to vote. An initial email was sent to managers and supervisors asking them to share with their employees, friends and family members. A social media and email newsletter campaign started, and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association asked for support from the business community. It all came together with reminder emails and Facebook posts.
History in the Spotlight
“This show is so special to us as it chronicles the history of the Fairy Caves as well as Glenwood Springs, and the timing is wonderful because this year marks the 125th anniversary of the discovery of the cave. We got a sneak preview and it brought tears to my eyes,” admitted Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park co-owner Jeanne Beckley. “Although our local premiere has been postponed, we hope our community can tune in Thursday night.”
Episode Airs March 26
The Fairy Caves episode airs Thursday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m.; viewers outside of Colorado can watch at https://www.rmpbs.org/schedule/ at the same time. Filming primarily took place last May. Jeanne and husband and co-owner Steve Beckley are featured in the show along with general manager Nancy Heard, natural attractions manager Kathy Miller, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society Bill Knight, and cave historian and author of “Colorado Caves” Richard Rhinehart.
Learn the Fascinating Story of the Fairy Caves
“Colorado Experience: Fairy Caves” explores the magical Fairy Caves—once dubbed “The 8th Wonder of the World.” Hidden inside Glenwood Springs’ Iron Mountain, this living cave network inspires awe. But the caverns were nearly lost to time and were closed for more than 80 years—until an engineer who also happened to be a caver had a vision of how to return the magic to this fantastical place.
Enjoy Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park year-round at a discounted rate when you purchase your Annual Thrill Pass by January 1, 2020.
With only a couple of weeks left, now’s the time to take advantage of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Annual Thrill Pass sale. Through January 1, 2020, annual passes are just $90 for adults (regularly $128) and $78 for kids ages 3 to 12 (regularly $116). That’s a $38 savings, an amount equal to the value of an annual Gondola Pass. In other words, the Adventure Park will throw in a Glenwood Gondola Pass to anyone who purchases an Annual Thrill Pass by Jan. 1!
A Perfect Last-minute Gift for Kids and Families
If you’re still looking for the perfect gift for your children or an activity-oriented gift that you can enjoy together both now and later, a Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Annual Thrill Pass is an easy choice for high-flying, family-friendly fun all year round. This special is available online only and the offer ends Jan. 1, 2020. To purchase, go here—Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park—use the promo code ALLYEARFUN and follow the prompts to complete your transaction.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Annual Thrill Park Passes include:
- Unlimited rides on the Glenwood Gondola to take you to the Adventure Park anytime you want to enjoy the mountain-top setting for a fun-filled day that includes action-packed activities, dining with a view, live musical entertainment and more.
- Unlimited turns on Adventure Park rides and attractions, including favorite thrill rides like the Alpine Coaster and the Giant Canyon Swing. Passes also include family attractions like kid-friendly rides, the laser tag arena and 4-D Theater shows.
- Enjoy unlimited cave tours. Take guided cave tours through King’s Row and the Historic Fairy Caves with our expert guides whenever you feel like it. These beautiful underground landscapes never cease to amaze.
- Free event admission is also included. With the exception of special ticketed events, your Pass provides access to mountain-top events such as Kick-off celebrations, Music on the Mountain, Friday Afternoon Club (FAC), Octoberfest and Winter on the Mountain.
- Get 10 percent off at mountain-top dining and retail venues. Just show your Thrill Pass at the Lookout Grille or the General Store Gift Shop to trim a cool ten percent off the top of your purchase.
Glenwood Caverns gave its first cave tour in May 1999, more than 82 years after the Fairy Caves closed to the public during World War I. The mountain-top Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is throwing a Party Like it’s 1999 celebration on Saturday, May 18, 2019.
A Dream Realized
Twenty years ago, Steve and Jeanne Beckley were putting the final touches on the substantial improvement projects that made it possible to open the Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves to the public for the first time in 82 years. They’d spent the previous months working with volunteers to grade and gravel a road to the cave entrance, clear debris that had collected for decades, rewire and install lighting, carve a new tunnel into the mountain and install two airtight doors to form an airlock that protects the temperature and humidity inside the cave. Their first tour was during Memorial Weekend in 1999, the realization of dream 18 years in the making.
A Look Back at Glenwood Caverns’ Beginnings
Steve Beckley, a petroleum engineer and graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, read about the Fairy Caves in 1982 in an out-of-print book about Colorado caves. He wrote to Pete Prebble, the owner at that time, and expressed his interest in visiting the closed cave for 11 years before he and then-girlfriend Jeanne were allowed in. It was such a remarkable experience that they spent the next six years persuading him to lease the property and then, after quitting their jobs in Denver and moving to Glenwood Springs with their newborn son, spent a year preparing to open.
“I remember telling Jeanne at the time that we’d give cave tours during the summer and then relax, ski and play the rest of the year,” Steve Beckley, who co-owns Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with his wife Jeanne, explains. “Well, that’s not exactly how it went. Jeanne knows ‘I have an idea’ is probably my favorite phrase and that I say it a lot.”
Glenwood Caverns Becomes America’s Only Mountain-top Theme Park
More than 33,000 people toured the caved in five months that year. The company had to close during the rest of the year due to the winding road that was impassible in the winter and spring months. Steve began working on a new transportation system to keep the tours open year-round; in 2003 the Iron Mountain Tramway opened, and the company changed its name to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Since then, it has grown to include thrill rides, family-friendly attractions, live music, shopping, dining and, as of this year, the new high-speed Glenwood Gondola that can transport 1,000 people per hour up and down the mountain.
“We never imagined that 20 years later that we’d be operating the only mountain-top theme park in America, with roller coasters and a giant swing and concerts under the stars,” co-owner Jeanne Beckley said. “It’s been such an incredible process. Our boys have grown up here, and the park has become this special place where families can have fun, learn about nature, experience this spectacular cave and create memories together.”
Premier Prince Tribute Band to Highlight 20th Anniversary Celebration
To celebrate this 20th anniversary, the Adventure Park is throwing a Party Like It’s 1999 celebration on Saturday, May 18, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Paizley Park, a costumed and choreographed Prince tribute act, will rock the stage from 7 – 9 p.m. The audience will fall under the purple spell of Phillip Lamar Jordan as Prince during this high-energy show featuring the music of Prince, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Sheila E. and more. Guests who wear purple to the event can get a free drink at the Lookout Grille, a purple Icee for kids and a special “Purple Rain” adult beverage. The Airi Photo Booth will be set up to the right of the stage with props to help guests create free souvenir photos to take home as well.
Learn About Spelunking and Formations in Cave Simulator
CaveSim, a crawl-through electronic cave simulator with 60 feet of passage to explore, will be at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s decorated with artful reproductions of real cave formations. Each formation is electronically sensed to count the number of times it gets hit by cavers. This information is saved in a central computer, and cavers can compare their scores and times.
Education was a primary goal of the Beckleys when they first opened the cave in 1999. According to Steve, “We were, and still are, so overwhelmed by the beauty of this world beneath our feet that we wanted to share it with as many people as possible while still protecting the natural resource. Teaching our guests about the history and geology of the area, the life forms within the cave and the importance of conservation has always been at the forefront of our business.”
Since that first tour, more than a million people have toured Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves. The park offers affordable field trips for thousands of students every year, providing the opportunity to share the science and experience of exploring to even more young people, many of whom might not have the chance to do so otherwise.
Event Admission Details
Regular admission rates apply for this event. A ride on the Glenwood Gondola costs $19 for adults and $14 for kids 3 to 12. The Gondola/Cave Tour combination is $32 for adults and $27 for kids. An inclusive Funday Pass is $58 for adults, $53 for kids, and includes the gondola ride, two walking cave tours and unlimited access to all rides. Annual Gondola and Thrill Pass holders can attend free. Those who have vouchers for the Locals’ Gondola Pass from earlier this year are encouraged to redeem them prior to this event, preferably on weekdays prior to 4:30 p.m.
Even while closed for the winter season for the installation of its new, highly anticipated Glenwood Gondola which is scheduled to open to the public on March 16, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park continues to fascinate all kinds of people from natural history buffs to thrill-seeking daredevils.
Fairy Caves Edge Out Powell Expedition by a Slim Margin
First, Rocky Mountain PBS sponsored a contest asking viewers to choose a topic for an episode of Colorado Experience, a documentary show dedicated to preserving and celebrating the people, events and places that shaped Colorado. In a hotly contested vote-off, viewers chose the Historic Fairy Caves in Glenwood Springs. Out of 4,700 votes cast, a record-breaking number, the Fairy Caves came out on top, beating out six other episodes with 1,646 votes and inching by second place finisher the Powell Expedition by a mere six votes!
The Fairy Caves are the historic portion of Glenwood Caverns; the newer section is called Kings Row and the Park offers tours of both. Loaded with fantastical cave formations, the Fairy Caves have dazzled visitors to Glenwood Springs since they opened to the public in 1897. In fact, children today are as charmed as the tots from a century ago when they receive a “cave fairy kiss”— a drop of water falling from the cave ceiling. A highlight of the Fairy Cave tour is the historic lighting section called History Lane, which is illuminated with replica Edison and Marconi-style light bulbs. There are ticketing options that include just a gondola pass and cave tour or a complete FunDay Pass, the best-value, which bundles the Glenwood Gondola, cave tours and admission to all of the Park’s rides and attractions.
Update: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park & Glenwood Gondola Now Open!
After being closed for four and a half months for the construction of the new Glenwood Gondola, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park reopened just in time for spring break visitors. Beginning Saturday, March 16, the park’s winter attractions will be open—the Alpine Coaster, both walking cave tours, the laser tag arena and 4D Motion Theater. The Lookout Grille and General Store gift shop will be open as well. An exciting ride on its own, the opening of the state-of-the-art Glenwood Gondola, ushers in a new era for Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Stay tuned for more information about it in upcoming posts.
Glenwood Caverns is temporarily closed until March while we install our new high-capacity tram. In the meantime, we’ve been busy housekeeping our treasured caves.
Most caves including Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park have a stable year-round temperature of about 55°F (13°C). Even when the outside temps dip to freezing or below, the interior of the caves remains comfortable for working—and that’s just what we’ve been doing since the Park temporarily closed in the fall.
Improving the cave experience for visitors
“The closure gives us time to work on some projects. We were able to eliminate eight steps on the King’s Row tour. It will be the same fun and informative cave tour, but now guests will be able to walk amongst some of the rocks instead of above them on a walkway,” said Kathy Miller, Natural Attractions Manager at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. “Visitors will feel more a part of the cave and get a sense of what it might have felt like for the first people who discovered this room in 1960.” In place of the raised walkway, Miller and her team installed a new path with switchbacks that meander through the rockfall. The location of the new walking surface is in the Barn, the second largest cave room in Colorado. It’s what’s known as a breakdown room where the floor is covered with rocks that dislodged from the ceiling when the cave was formed. Extreme care was taken to ensure that no living cave formations were damaged in the process of building the pathway.
Yes, we dust our cave formations
Just like homes, caves are not maintenance free. Miller and her staff spend a significant amount of time housekeeping. Even though visitors leave backpacks, food and other items outside of the caves before taking a tour, they still track debris inside that must be tidied up periodically. “We regularly clean lint and hair from the cave walkways and formations, and we dust the formations as well,” Miller explained. During the closure the team is doing an extensive deep clean that includes removing dust with small shop vacs fitted with an attachment typically used to clean computer keyboards. After the dust is removed the formations also get a gentle washing. “When spring comes the cave will rinse itself but we want to get the dust gone before the thaw,” Miller added.
Checking, replacing and installing
At any given time there are two to four staff members working in the caves as well as a welder who is constructing new handrails for guest safety and convenience. The maintenance checklist includes checking the airlock seals on the doors, replacing burned out bulbs and resetting lights for the new pathway. Building the pathway necessitated pouring concrete for a smooth and stable pedestrian-friendly surface. Because of its location inside a cave and the need for the airlock doors to remain sealed at all times, pouring concrete is done the old fashioned way. “We put up a double tent to contain the dust. Instead of using a cement truck, portable mixers and bagged concrete are hauled in. Our contractor does it the hard way—in small batches, by hand,” Miller said. Other tasks taking place include installing a new phone line in the event of an emergency and “scaling” work which is poking areas prone to loose rock.
Open or closed, high-season or off-season, we are always concerned about the health and wellness of our cave. It’s our baby! Caves are extremely fragile environments with perceptible growth occurring incrementally over long periods of time. To assess its condition, the staff takes the cave’s temperature and measures humidity. It is an ongoing project that to date has spanned 20 years. Every three months a group of cavers from Denver check the evaporometers and data loggers that are placed throughout the cave. Evaporometers are devices that measure the rate of evaporation. Your cave guide can point them out to you on a cave tour. The data loggers take the temperature of the cave every 15 minutes. The information then gets downloaded and evaluated by experts four times per year.
While the Park may seem dormant this winter, there is a lot happening behind the scenes. Special thanks to Kathy Miller for providing information and photographs. Miller was recently appointed to the board of directors for the National Caves Association as regional director for member caves in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. She joined Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in March 2006 and was promoted to natural attractions manager in October 2014. Miller has lived in the area for 28 years.
The Guinness Book of World Records holder, Bakken in Kampenborg, Denmark, opened in 1583 near popular fresh-water springs as a pleasure garden with live entertainment, fireworks, dancing, games and some early rides. That was common in European cities then, but most had closed by the 18th century. Bakken, “The Hill,” is short for Dyrehavsbakken, “The Animal Park’s Hill,” and was a private royal hunting ground until 1756. Its first roller coaster, built in 1932, is still operating.
The second-oldest, Wurstelprater, also known as Prater, in Leopoldstadt, Austria, was also a hunting ground before it opened to the public in 1766. Its top attraction now is Wiener Riesenrad, a Ferris wheel, a Vienna landmark.
The third-oldest, Tivoli Gardens, opened in Copenhagen in 1843 and became so famous that it inspired Walt Disney’s design of Disneyland in 1955. Today, it operates one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters, the Rutschebanen, built in 1914, among its 31 attractions.
The oldest amusement park in the United States, Lake Compounce in Bristol, Conn., opened on Oct. 6, 1846, when the public was invited to witness a scientist’s experiments in electricity. It was a picnic ground before attractions were added two years later. Lake Compounce now has 44 rides, including five roller coasters.
Other historic amusement parks ranked by age are:
- Hanayashiki in Tokyo, which was a flower park in 1853 and added amusements in 1872. It now has 20 rides and a popular Ninja training class.
- Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, opened in 1870 as a public bathing beach and added its first roller coaster in 1892, the start of its reputation as Roller Coaster Capital of the World. It now has 16 roller coasters, including five above 200 feet, among its 72 rides.
- Idlewild and Soak Zone, opened as a public campground in 1878 in Ligonier, Pa. It now has 40 rides and a special section inspired by Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
- Gröna Lund in Stockholm still operates the Circus Carousel and Fun House from its opening in 1883 among its 31 rides. It is also famous for concerts headlined by such celebrities as Jimi Hendrix, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Bob Marley and ABBA.
A mountain is ideal for many things – hiking, skiing, hang gliding, but it’s not the most logical location for a theme park. Yet, situated 7, 100 feet above sea level in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is America’s only mountain-top theme park. How exactly did Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park end up there?
Well, follow the path of curiosity long enough, as Steve and Jeanne Beckley did and you might find yourself in some interesting and unexpected places. What started out as a spelunking hobby in college became a quest to explore the private and nearly forgotten Fairy Caves, the closed-to-the-public Colorado cave fiercely protected by its then owner, Pete Prebble.
Inspired by photos he saw in caving books, Beckley began writing to Prebble in 1982, in the hopes of gaining access to the caves, but almost all of his letters came back unopened, stamped “Return to Sender.” Disappointed but not deterred, Beckley kept up the letter writing campaign. After a decade Prebble relented and in 1992, granted Beckley permission to explore the caves.
As spectacular as the images in the caving books were, nothing could prepare Steve and Jeanne for what they were about to see. After struggling though Jam Crack, a claustrophobically narrow opening only nine inches wide in spots, they emerged into The Barn, a huge chamber with fiery red walls. It was here, that Steve’s dream of sharing the beauty and wonder of the Fairy Caves with the public was born.
The Beckleys acquired the property from Prebble in 1998. On Memorial Day weekend a year later, 500 visitors showed up for a tour of the newly renamed Glenwood Caverns. By 2003, the “little” cave tour operation was accommodating 100,000 visitors a year. To transport the burgeoning number of guests to the mountain-top cave entrance, the Beckleys installed a Poma gondola and dubbed it the Iron Mountain Tramway.
Read the whole story in Roaring Fork Lifestyle Magazine’s Movers & Shakers edition
Though interest in the caves was booming, the wait for a tour was breaching three hours. “We started putting in rides to give people something to do while they were waiting for the caves,” said Steve. The idea took off and launched the business in a new and unexpected direction – the planning of a mountain-top theme park with a Western history slant officially got underway. The first rides were installed in 2005, including the Alpine Coaster which is still a visitor favorite. Since then, a slew of thrill rides and attractions have been added to the Colorado theme park.
What began over two decades ago as nagging curiosity to explore a little known cave in Glenwood Springs has become America’s only mountain-top theme park, a place where the thrills run deep and the sky’s the limit!
Hard work pays off. Check out a small sampling of accolades the Beckleys and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park have received over the years!
- The State of Colorado awarded the Beckleys the 2001 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Community Tourism Initiative
- Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association named them Citizens of the Year for 2002
- Glenwood Caverns was named one of the “10 Best Caves”, USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards
- Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park ranked in the top 4 for “Best Family Fun” in Sunset magazine Travel Awards