Where can you hike to a lake, tour caves, fly down a mountain on a alpine coaster and then soak in the world’s largest mineral hot spring – all in one day?
That would be at Glenwood Springs.
We recently spent 24 hours in this quaint town in Colorado, staying at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge, maximising our time there by hiking, adventuring, exploring and relaxing – all in a day’s fun.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
I’m all about a grand entrance.
At our wedding, my dad’s Highland Pipe Band piped us in to the reception. It was loud but it was grand. Everyone was on their feet and you couldn’t wipe the smile from the face of Dave’s (Scottish) gran.
So you can bet I enjoyed the entrance to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Perched on the top of the mountain, you have to park your car at the bottom and ride a Godola up the escarpment to the adventure park.
Now that’s what I call a grand entrance.
King’s Row and Fairy Caves
The park’s main draw card is its caves and they are certainly some of the best Dave and I have seen.
Out of the two, our favourite was the Fairy Cave. The cave was discovered in 1896 and by 1897 the first tours were given. Explorers had to crawl through the small gaps to venture through the caves. But people came in the thousands.
The cave was the first in the US to have electric lighting and some people had never seen a light bulb before!
Today the tour lasts around 45 minutes and you no longer have to crawl through – it has been widened so you can walk. During the tour you explore many chambers and even step out onto a rock-carved balcony which has this view:
Our tour guide from the King’s Row Cave was extremely passionate about his job.
So passionate about it that he got married in the King’s Row Cave.
Having his bride come down the steps of the cave would’ve been a grand entrance indeed!
Our guide was also one of the original people who explored the cave and his photo hangs proudly in the gift shop. One of the books he’s written can also be found there, on the critters within the caves at Glenwood Caverns. Interestingly, about 20 new species of bugs were discovered in the caves, and they are the only caves in the world that have this particular species of pseudoscorpion living in them.
But you’re unlikely to spot the scorpions – they’re tiny. Instead, you can marvel at this spectacular underground cavern, pictured below.
Or enjoy these other cave views…
But the caves weren’t my favourite thing at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park – riding the Alpine Coaster was! Just listen to how much I’m giggling like a little school girl in the video below!
Unfortunately, many of the other activities were closed for the winter, including the canyon swing (not sure I’d be brave enough to do that anyway!) and the rollercoaster.
We did manage to play a game of laser tag in which Dave whopped my ass. I guess all that practise in the gun range didn’t really help me with my laser tag skills.
Hanging Lake hike
When staying in Glenwood Springs, we also got the opportunity to hike up to hanging lake.
Hanging Lake is a National Natural Landmark in the US and it’s easy to see why.
It’s spectacularly beautiful.
Just take a look at the image below!
The trailhead for the hike is about a 15 minute drive from Glenwood Springs along the I-70. The hike is beautiful from beginning to end, with Hanging Lake the highlight at the top.
We went as soon as the sun had come up and this was probably the best time of the day because we had the trail to ourselves.
The hike began next to the winding Colorado River and although the trail is quite steep in places, it’s easy enough to navigate.
You cross over a few picturesque bridges that are built over the cascading stream running down the mountain.
You also pass the hut below which looks a little creepy, but probably would be handy to shelter in if it’s raining.
And after about an hour of walking you’re embraced by the beautiful view overlooking the mountains.
Five minutes more up some steep steps your jaw will drop as you come face-to-face with Hanging Lake.
It reminded me a little of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.That’s the only other place I’ve been where I’ve seen water that clear green colour.
It really was a magical place.
Have you been to any of these places? What did you think?
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park gave us two complimentary tickets, but as always, our views are our own.
What you need to know:
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
How to get there: As I mentioned, you need to park at the bottom of the mountain and then get the gondola up to the park. The address of the parking lot is 51000 Two Rivers Plaza Rd, Glenwood Springs, CO.
The park encourages guests to get the bus to the gondola to reduce congestion in the area.
Cost: The price of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park varies depending on what time of the year you visit and how many activities you plan to do. For winter, they are doing a Funday pass which is US$37 per adult and includes entrance, cave tour, tram ride, unlimited alpine coaster rides, 4D motion theatre and laser tag. Check their website from more information.
When to go: We went in October but I think it’d be better to visit in the summertime because more of the rides are open. (Although it’s probably a lot busier.)
The park is open 10am-5pm Friday through Monday during the winter, with extended hours throughout the Christmas holidays. During the summer the park is open every day from 9am-9pm.
Hanging Lake hike
How to get there: You can only get off the I-70 to get to Hanging Lake if you’re heading eastbound. If you’re heading westbound, go past Hanging Lake, exit at the Grizzly Creek rest area and then turn immediately left so that you can get back on the I-70 heading eastbound. Then take the highway exit marked Hanging Lake.
You can also come by bike – there’s a bike path all the way from Glenwood Springs to the trailhead.
Cost: It’s free to hike Hanging Lake – you don’t need a park pass.
When to go: Summer is extremely busy on this trail, so come early if you want to get a parking spot. During winter the top part of the trail might be iced over, making it difficult to pass and get to Hanging Lake at the top.
Anything else? The trail is fairly steep in places so wear good hiking shoes and bring two litres of water per person.