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.
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 including the newest, the Haunted Mine Drop, which opened during the summer of 2017.
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 Haunted Mine Drop was voted the Best New Theme Park Attraction of 2017 by USA TODAY readers
- The Alpine Coaster was named one of the 10 Best Roller-coaster Rides of Your Life by USA TODAY and Park World Magazine
- 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
- The Haunted Mine Drop was named one of the 12 Most Anticipated Thrill Rides of 2017 by USA Today
- The Giant Canyon Swing was named one of the 10 Most Extreme Theme Park Rides in the USA by USA TODAY
- Glenwood Caverns was named one of the 10 Best Caves in the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards
- Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park ranked in the top 4 for Best Family Fun in Sunset magazine Travel Awards