Amaze your eyes, mind with walk through historic Fairy Caves
We hadn’t been in the Fairy Caves 10 minutes when Melinda Mawdsley turned to me and enthusiastically whispered, “I feel like I’m on an episode of ‘Planet Earth’!”
Features writers Melinda, Rachel Sauer and I, giddy with those sights, happily blamed the rain for sending us underground to follow a guide who was wearing boots covered with yellow Batman symbols and spouting off bits of cave lore and history.
We actually had planned to visit the high country last week in pursuit of the first signs of fall color. Then the rain began and didn’t really stop.
So we took to the caves in Glenwood Springs for two very different experiences at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and the vapor caves at Yampah Spa, The Hot Springs Vapor Caves. To read about the vapor caves, see Rachel’s story, which accompanies this.
Glenwood is famous for its hot springs. And its caves, which owe their existence to those waters, are no less amazing.
But of the options, the Glenwood Caverns’ Fairy Caves and King’s Row are by far the least smelly.
Glenwood Caverns offers all kinds of rides and thrills, but we focused on the cave tours, which cost $25 for adults and include the tram ride to and from the park that is at the top of a mountain north of Glenwood’s downtown.
The view of the Roaring Fork Valley from the tram and the park is beautiful, with the peaks becoming ever larger in the distance.
On this day, they were covered in gray-white, misty clouds, and Rachel, Melinda and I and the others gathered for the Historic Fairy Caves tour didn’t mind at all being led out of the drizzle and into the Cloud Room inside the mountain.
Our guide, Lorie Sheader, related history — the original fairy caves were discovered in 1895.
She talked about cave details and formations and a little science. She told stories about spelunking — she’s been to “Paradise” (someplace somewhere deep the mountain, I think?) seven times.
She turned out all the lights and let us try to see anything. We couldn’t. And she assured the two kids on our tour that there were no bats in the caves, at least right then.
She spoke of all the expansion work that was recently done — 1,000 tons of rock were taken out of the caves to lengthen the tour and increase the number of cave formations for visitors to see. But not to touch. Never touch.
She had a knack for seeing all kinds of faces and figures everywhere in the cave walls and formations: pig, fish, Lord Voldemort, gargoyle, dragon, Batman symbol, troll’s butt and more.
For an hour, we craned our necks, and said “wow” more times than I care to admit.
Then we were back out the cave door just in time to see a cloud float into the side of the mountain and block the valley from our view. We didn’t care. We were ready for the next tour, the King’s Row Tour, which goes through a large cavern below those we had just seen.
Named The Barn, the cavern is as long as a football field. We went from one end to the other while descending 127 steps (according to Glenwood Caverns’ brochure, I didn’t actually count). The Barn is amazing and interesting, but it’s nothing compared to what lies in another cavern behind a special door at its bottom: King’s Row.
One by one, Lorie turned on lights revealing white and pink stalactites and stalagmites and yellow and burnt orange formations filling the cave. It’s incredible!
We stared for a while and took pictures. Then the chill of the cave seeping into our rain-dampened clothing urged us back up the stairs and out of the cave.
It was still drizzling rain. But with what we had just seen and eagerly added to our adventure memories, we were close to if not on cloud nine.
Get going: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is in Glenwood Springs, nearly 90 miles east of Grand Junction on Interstate 70. It offers tours of its caves throughout the day. Expect to spend an hour on each tour. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for children, and include the tram ride that takes you to and from the park.
Take a light jacket or long-sleeved shirt. The caves aren’t cold, but if it’s chilly outside, you’ll be chilly inside. No water bottles are allowed inside the caves.
For information on the caves as well as Glenwood Caverns other offerings, go to glenwoodcaverns.com or call 800-530-1635, ext. 0.