The Journey and the Destination

View of Glenwood Springs

Ride the Iron Mountain Tramway for the best views in Glenwood Springs.

For a scenic and relaxing getaway to the top of Iron Mountain and a casual meal at The Lookout Grille, half the fun is getting there.

Your ride in a safe, comfortable, fully-enclosed gondola on the Iron Mountain Tramway begins at 6,000 feet and gently lifts you to 7,100 feet on the trip that is 4,300 feet long. The tram is a modern European pulse design by Leitner-Poma of America, with slowdowns on the way as other visitors enter and exit at the ends.

High above the trees, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Storm King Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Mount Sopris and the Elk Range in the distance, Red Mountain, the Flattops Wilderness, the Colorado River, an active limestone quarry and Glenwood Springs.

Adding to the ambiance, from November through February, during Winter on the Mountain, the Park is adorned with over a half million lights. Rides and attractions, outdoor fire pits, a warming tent decorated as the North Pole and events like FAC with live music and food and drink specials offer visitors lots of options for things to do at the mountain-top theme park.

No matter when you visit, you can take in the spectacular views and recharge your batteries with a meal at the family-friendly Lookout Grille restaurant, with burgers, sandwiches, wraps, vegetarian options, a kids’ menu and beverage choices including beer and wine.

You’ll descend via the tram with another pleasant ride and go home with treasured memories to recall for years from the excursion of just a few hours.

Plan Ahead for Fun: Glenwood Caverns Annual Passes are on Sale Now

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park’s Annual Thrill Passes and Tram-only Passes are on sale now, buy yours before rates increase on Jan 2, 2018.

Winter is a long season in Colorado and the best way to enjoy it is make a plan to get outdoors. A tram ride to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park during snow season is the perfect way to get a healthy dose of fresh air and have a great time along the way – whether you ride the Alpine Coaster or other rides, come for dinner and events, or to enjoy the views and our season-spanning Winter on the Mountain, which kicks off on November 18.

Annual Thrill Passes include unlimited tram rides, cave tours and attractions all year long. Thrill Pass holders also receive a ten percent discount at the Lookout Grille, the Snack Shack and the General Store gift shop. Tram-only pass holders have unlimited access to the ride the tram whenever they please.

Current pass holders can also cash in on the savings before rates go up. Even if your pass isn’t expiring soon, you can upgrade it to take advantage of the discounted, lower rates and enjoy the Park this winter and every season.

After Jan. 1, Annual Thrill and Tram-only pass prices will increase, so get them now to save big!  Passes are currently on sale and can be purchased online or at the tram base all days except Monday when the Park is closed. To receive annual pass discounts online, click on the links below and select your annual pass option, then enter promo code THRILL2018  for annual Thrill Passes or TRAM2018 for Tram-only passes.

Now:  Adult Thrill Pass $79, Child $69       After Jan 1:  Adult Thrill Pass $119, Child $109

Now:  Adult or Child Tram Pass $28          After Jan 1:  Adult or Child Tram Pass $32

You can also order you annual passes by phoning  Glenwood Caverns at 970-945-4228. After ordering, your annual passes will be available for pickup at the tram base.

Glenwood Caverns’ annual passes also make great holiday gifts that can easily be slipped into a card or stocking. The best part is even after winter snows have receded, you can still catch a ride to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park for all your favorite rides, events and activities.

It’s Fright Season at US Theme Parks

Count on theme parks, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park included, for a screaming good time at Halloween and year-round. 

Many amusement parks across the United States dress up for Halloween – some for tricks, some for treats. There’s the frightful transformation of Pittsburgh-area Kennywood’s Raging Rapids into the Voodoo Bayou, Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream Blood Asylum, in
Williamsburg and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Pumpkin Eater, Voodoo Maze, Ghost Town Streets, and 13 haunted mazes. More kid-friendly choices range from the Sweet Trick or Treat Trail at Hersheypark to pumpkin decorating and the Not-Too-Spooky Howl-O-Ween Radio Show at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa.

Other theme parks stay haunted all year – the scary installations are called “dark rides” in the industry. There’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood studio, a drop tower that goes on to a “fifth dimension” star field where you hurtle toward doom. Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando and Hollywood includes a ride through Hogwarts Castle with threating spiders, dragons, Dementors, and Death Eaters. For a more classic fright, check out the Spook-A-Rama at Coney Island in New York or the Haunted Mansion at Knoebels in Elysburg, Pa. Curse of DarKastle at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., combines the traditional scares with 3-D CGI animation and other modern features.

Check out USA Today’s Readers’ Choice 2017 selections for seasonal spooky them parks to find one near you this month, or TripSavvy’s list for a scary treat any time.

Family-owned Theme Parks are a Rarity

Cliffhanger Roller Coaster Glenwood Caverns

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is one of just a few family-held theme parks in the U.S.

Changing tastes in entertainment and strong competition from new diversions mean family-owned theme parks must find innovative ways to attract people to their playgrounds. While mega-parks like Disneyland and Cedar Point cater to corporate investors for more and more roller coasters, smaller parks like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park carve our niche with unique locations – like a the top of a mountain or inside a cave  – responsive service and often a dose of the old days.

Fewer than half of the Top Ten parks recommended by Grandparents.com are corporate-owned. Family-owned playgrounds on the list include Knoebels in Pennsylvania, Holiday World in Indiana (sometimes considered the oldest U.S. theme park), Adventureland in Iowa and Morgan’s Wonderland in Texas.

Our closest cousin in the family of family-owned theme parks is Herschend Family Entertainment that started with Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and now has 23 locations in six states, including Dollywood – known as Silver Dollar City Tennessee until Dolly Parton partnered.

Like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Silver Dollar City in the Ozarks started with a cave originally explored in the 19th century that eventually became a tourist attraction. (It was originally called Marble Cave but changed to Marvel Cave when the smooth rock turned out to be limestone rather than marble.) They still give tours, and they’ve added thrill rides, restaurants and other amusements over the years.

Silver Doller City has a Giant Barn Swing designed, like our Giant Canyon Swing, by S&S Worldwide, which also has installations at Cedar Point and Dollywood as well as in Russia, Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom. Silver Dollar City also has an eight-story drop tower, FireFall.

We’re proud to be among the family-owned theme parks that are there for your family.

10 Oktoberfest Celebrations in Colorado and Nearby

Oktoberfest at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is coming up soon in October; in the meantime embrace your inner German with these other celebrations that start in September.

We started our Oktoberfest tradition at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park two years ago with extra activities for families, including a pumpkin patch, face painting, and hayrides. Last year, we added an Oktoberfest band for a weekend, and it was such a hit we’re doing two weekends this year – stay tuned for all the details. Our rides will continue to be open this fall, and we’ll have plenty of beer, brats, and other food and drink specials.

Most Oktoberfests in the Rocky Mountains get moved to September, but in Glenwood Springs, October weather is perfect for us at the Park on top of Iron Mountain. If you want to get ready for our celebration, here are our Top Ten suggestions for events in Colorado and nearby.

  1. The Denver Oktoberfest, September 22-23 and 29-30

Denver will host the 48th Annual Stein Hoisting National Championships, the Keg Bowling National Championships, the 12th Annual Long Dog (Dachshund Derby), and a bratwurst-eating contest. There will be music on a downtown German stage.

  1. The 23rd Annual Breckenridge Oktoberfest, September 8-10

Breckenridge lays claim to the largest Oktoberfest street party in the Rocky Mountains. More than three dozen vendors will sell genuine German cuisine and brew. German-themed games include Hammerschlagan, a nail-driving contest. There will be Bavarian lederhosen, oompah music, polka dancing, a 5K run, and a ceremonial keg tapping.

  1. Oktoberfest at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Sandy, Utah, August 12-October 15 (Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day)

This event started in 1973 and now draws a total of more than 60,000 visitors. The biergarten has more than 50 varieties of beer, both traditional German and local brews. Authentic German food and music, handmade arts and crafts, and children’s activities are on tap.

  1. Vail Oktoberfest, September 8-10 and 15-17, 2017

Vail’s admission-free event includes traditional food and Paulaner beer, Bavarian music, dancing, yodeling, and contests for bratwurst eating, keg bowling, stein lifting, and best Oktoberfest costume. Free concerts are on Saturday nights. Children’s events include crafts, entertainers, and a 1K fun run.

  1. Ninth Annual Steamboat OktoberWest, September 15-16

Steamboat’s Friday Beer Stroll among participating restaurants features Colorado, not German, beer. Saturday’s event in Gondola Square at the Steamboat Mountain Village includes live music, all the Colorado beef you can taste at an “I Love Beef Cook Off” from local restaurants, and 45 Rocky Mountain brewers, each sampling two beers, in the beer garden.

  1. Keystone’s Oktoberfest, River Run Village, September 2

The Das Bier Burner 5K initiates the events at noon, with a pint of craft beer for any adult who crosses the finish line. New Belgium Brewery will bring Colorado craft beers with German roots. Concerts and kids events are free.

  1. FORToberfest, Fort Collins, September 16

The last music festival in Old Town Square includes 10-plus hours of live music – funk, bluegrass, rock, indie, and more – seasonal beer from more than six local breweries, and bicycle booths. Costumes are encouraged. Admission is free.

  1. Red River Oktoberfest, New Mexico, October 6-8

At the annual Oktoberfest in Brandenburg Park, you can vote for the best brews from local microbreweries, eat German food, buy crafts from local vendors, and listen to German oompah music. There will be a Miss Oktoberfest contest, competitive stein holding, chicken yodeling, and brat-eating, as well as activities for kids.

  1. Art & Oktoberfest, Boulder, September 29-October 1

This event in Boulder’s Band Shell Central Park includes arts and crafts, music, German food, polka, and a German beer garden. Dancing and polka lessons will be held in front of the bandshell.

  1. Grand Targhee’s 2nd Annual Oktoberfest, Alta, Wyoming, September 16.

This festival includes brats, sausages, pretzels, music, and beers from local microbreweries. Events for children include face painting, potato sack races, and a pumpkin toss.

Music on the Mountain Returns August 19

Music on the Mountain, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park’s mountain-top concerts begin again and run through September.

Music on the Mountain resumes Saturday, August 19. After a brief summer hiatus the popular Glenwood Springs concert series takes to the stage once again for six evenings of musical entertainment. A different band entertains the crowd each week through September 23. Come for the live music and stay for an evening of dancing, delicious food, drink specials, and spectacular views. Even the breaks between sets are fun-filled – with prize drawings for t-shirts, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Funday passes, and Iron Mountain Hot Springs day passes.

In addition to providing six weeks of late summer entertainment, Music on the Mountain also helps to serve the community. Guests can ride the tram or an adventure vehicle and enjoy the concerts free with the donation of a canned food item for the Lift-Up community food pantry. At last count, Music on the Mountain attendees had donated over 64,000 cans of food!

For Saturday shows, rides to the mountain-top start at 4 p.m., with music from 6 – 10 p.m.; on Sunday, Sept. 10, rides to the park begin at 2 p.m. The band plays from 4 – 8 p.m.

During the concerts the park is fully operational with outdoor rides open until dusk. The Laser Tag arena and 4D Motion Theater are open until the park closes. For the best value, we recommend purchasing the Funday Pass at the walkup window for just $38 with the free tram ride.

Come and listen to all your favorites from roadhouse blues and southern rock to modern renditions at America’s only mountain-top theme park. The lineup features award-winning artists with a heavy focus on rock classics.

Saturday, August 19 — Fifty50 (classic, modern and original rock) sponsored by Swire Coca-Cola

Saturday, August 26 — The Gerry Goodman Band (Stevie Ray Vaughan cover tunes, classic rock) sponsored by Young Services

Saturday, September 9 — Already Gone (American resort rock) sponsored by Community Banks of Colorado

Sunday, September 10 — Christian Music on the Mountain (The Orchard from Carbondale) sponsored by Glenwood TV

Saturday, September 16 — Poser (classic rock) sponsored by Bighorn Toyota

Saturday, September 23 — Emotional Rescue (Rolling Stones cover band) sponsored by Glenwood Insurance Agency

Scream Time vs. Screen Time

Vaccine is good news for travel industry

A family excursion to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park could be just what the doctor ordered for digital excess.

Parents, psychologists, and medical and educational professionals are increasingly concerned about the amount of time children are spending on digital media. Studies show that excess screen time can hamper the development of vital life qualities from social interaction and homework preparation to exercise and sleep.

One recent study in the United Kingdom even found a correlation between screen time and mental illness. The American Academy of Pediatrics last year issued new guidelines urging a Family Media Use Plan that puts consistent limits on media use for children older than 6 (younger children should spend at most an hour a day on the screen).

Rules and limits are important to curb the excess, but experts also advise real-life excursions that are irresistibly more enjoyable than all-day web surfing, video gaming, or texting. “Start with fun,” says Dr. Ann Steel, a video game and internet addiction specialist in Bellevue, Washington. “It can be more fun to add new activities into your children’s lives than limiting or taking away their technology. Often kids view their screens as the most pleasurable activity in their life, so we should start by offering healthy yet enticing options.” Also, let’s face it, parents who want to promote more positive behavior in their kids need to watch their own levels of digital interaction. “Your kids aren’t the only ones who need to turn the devices off and stop to smell the roses,” says Anna Hughes, an author at Screen Time Labs.

With our combination of nature features, thrill rides, and other attractions, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park can immerse your whole family in the real world with plenty of time for curiosity, exploration, conversation, and relaxation without needing a keyboard or screen at your fingertips. It’s a break from the digital, and the shared experience will keep on stimulating social interaction as you remember the beauty and excitement of the great outdoors. You’ll probably want to come back for more!

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park: What Our Visitors Say

Alpine Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Few accolades could mean more than this recent headline by Jamie Swartzendruber on her WineGlasSlipper blog, also published in Denverkids.com: “Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park: It doesn’t get more Colorado than this!”

“Voted one of USA Today’s 10 Best Caves, Glenwood Caverns is a must for your family summer fun list,” Jamie wrote. “Three cave tours offer varying levels of difficulty to suit the whole family! I have a little dare devil, so this year, we opted for the Wild Cave Tour (10-year age requirement AND we finally made the cut). What is it? Only the most extreme caving expedition a kiddo is permitted on, an adventure for the true thrill seeker.”

Our Giant Canyon Swing was more thrill than she bargained for, Jamie said. “With a scratchy voice and trembling hands, I exited the swing of terror, a theme park walk of shame, through the line of sweet little girls waiting to get on,” she wrote.  Wide eyed, they kindly asked if I was going to be alright. I may still have the occasional nightmare, but hey, check that one off my list…. Though I struggled with the Giant Canyon Swing, the kids LOVED it! They rode several times, throwing their hands in the air or striking nonchalant poses. I may have felt theme park envy. The Alpine Coaster was another top-pick. Scary enough to cling to the breaks but enjoyable enough for mom to survive. I’m sure the views are fantastic, but I’ll admit, my eyes were steady on the tracks and my heart was still jumpy.”

Summer fun on the Giant Canyon Swing

We get that a lot. People love the mountaintop experience here – exploring inside the caverns, taking in the view from the summit, screaming over the edge. Here’s a sampling of our online reviews from visitors who have come from across Colorado and the country.

From Iowa, on TripAdvisor, where we have a Certificate of Excellence: “The Alpine Coaster was a lot of fun. It was extremely fast if you want it to be, and you can control (the speed of) the actual sled you are riding on. I had never been on one before and it was my favorite thing to do at the Adventure Park. I rode it numerous times. You don’t have to worry, at the end a lift takes your sled back to the start of the ride and that is cool.”

Take a cave tour at Glenwood Caverns for National Caves and Karst Day!

From Longmont, on TripAdvisor: “By far the easiest way to go caving. Both the original Fairy Caves and King’s Row are easily accessible. The guides are experienced cavers and are a lot of fun. There’s nothing like these caves anywhere else in the US. The tram makes it easy to get to from town.”

From Florida, on TripAdvisor: “This place was fun! We come from the land of Disney and Busch Gardens, but this place dared you! We had a blast riding the Alpine Coaster and the zip line shot! I wish I could say I tried the swing, but I chickened out. I loved the caverns tour and caves. All this was on top of a mountain that you reach by taking a gondola. That was an adventure by itself!”

From Littleton, on Yelp: “A fun day of adventure for the kids and adults alike. We did the combo pass with Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Glad we came here on a sunny day. Tram ride is a great way to go and very scenic. Alpine Coaster was worth going on again and again.”

From our own Facebook page: “We loved everything: the gondola ride up, the incredible views, the rides and cave tours! Everyone was really nice! The Caverns tour guide was SO excited to tell us about the caves! He had lots of fun scientific and historical information! Just a really fun place to spend the day with the family! We also got some amazing pictures.”

Come see for yourself. And thanks, Jamie (We’re proud that it doesn’t get any more Colorado than this.)

Seven Years of Screams

Giant Canyon Swing

Seven years after the Giant Canyon Swing opened at 1,300 feet above Colorado River, the thrill ride continues to attract international attention for its scenic beauty and sheer fright. As one French enthusiast posted with an online video of the experience: “Le Giant Canyon Swing du Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, dans le Colorado, est l’une des attractions les plus effrayantes au monde” – The Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, in Colorado, is one of the most scary attractions in the world.”

The swing has been featured in Sweden, Iran, Indonesia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, and other countries, listed among the top scare experiences anywhere. Imfromdenver.com ranked it No. 3 of 5 Of the Most Terrifying Things To Do In Colorado. Those who manage to open their eyes during the ride describe the lush green vistas below and Glenwood Springs in the distance as they travel a 112-degree arc back and forth across the cliff at up to 50 mph. The requirement of a signed waiver, the height minimum of four feet, and owner Steve Beckley’s refusal to ride his own creation more than once all enhance the appeal for extreme thrill-seekers.

Major news channels and travel networks have featured the attraction, with celebrity hosts sometimes even daring the swing like Good Morning America’s Sam Champion and the Travel Channel’s Bert the Conqueror. Others, like Crystal from Colorado Radio in April, admire from afar, posting about the swing but declining to ride after watching others’ videos. Business Insider posted a new video of the swing earlier this year.

EarthTripper named the Giant Canyon Swing one of the 10 Scariest Rides On The Planet. “One look at the Giant Canyon Swing in Colorado makes it easy to see why it made this list,” Simon Tingle wrote in a post updated in May. “The ride is precariously positioned right on the edge of a cliff and catapults passengers straight over the edge, with a 1,300 foot drop down to the Colorado River below!”

How a Colorado Theme Park Ended Up on Top of a Mountain

The Beckley's exploring the Fairy Caves in the 1990s

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 Beckley's exploring the Fairy Caves in the 1990s

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

Steve Beckley’s Dream: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Alpine Coaster is a top ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

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