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, which visitors will need to be able to climb. 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 1897, 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 mountain-top. 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.