Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Springs

The Tucker Family Vacation Home was looking a little lonely, so we decided to load it up and head out west… to the Western Slope of our home state of Colorado, that is!

Deciding where to go was easy after we learned Rand McNally and USA Today named Glenwood Springs, Colorado “Most Fun Town in America” boasting an extensive cave system, adventure park, hot springs pool, charming downtown and plenty of lodging and camping options.

Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Springs
Campgrounds are abundant in the Glenwood Springs area. We found the perfect spot for the Tucker Family Vacation Home

Glenwood Springs is 180 miles west of Denver and 40 miles north of Aspen. Our I-70 drive took us through ski resort towns and spectacular canyons. We were so awe-struck by scenery, we couldn’t believe how fast our 3.5 hour drive went by. Upon entering the town, we noticed two prominent features: the humongous hot springs pool situated next a beautiful historic building and the red tram heading up the side of a super tall mountain. We drove through an adorable bustling downtown and noted all the charming restaurants lining the streets.

TIP: Head off the beaten path to The Grind for amazing hamburgers hand-crafted from locally-farmed beef.

After finding the perfect campground, we set up the Tucker Family Vacation Home, dropped the Tucker Family Dog at doggie day care nearby at High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters, then headed out on our much anticipated adventure.

Two of my most favorite things in life are thrill rides and mountains. Imagine my excitement when I discovered there are rides on top of the main mountain in town (Iron Mountain) at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Lucky for me, most of my family shares this enthusiasm.

Our first ride of the day was in a cute little red, Swiss-made, gondola going up the side of the mountain. Yes, to even get to the adventure park, we got to go on a ride. During our seven-minutes on the tram, we enjoyed spectacular panoramic views of the Rocky Mountain scenery. For those of us (ahem, three year old) who may not particularly enjoy heights, you can sit facing the mountain and check out the treetops as you skim over them.

Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Springs by Susan Tucker
A Gondola ride to the top of a very tall mountain can be a little scary for a 3-yr old.

Exiting the tram put us smack-dab in the middle of the Old Wild West. Straight ahead was a little kid-sized Ferris-wheel-style Mine Ride, to the left was a mock town, and up ahead were Ma & Pa shouting out jokes in their respective “outhouses.”  Going back in time like that made me want to dust off my cowboy boots and saddle up a mare. I was feeling my inner cowgirl coming out.

However, the Alpine Coaster was calling my name.

You probably know what a roller coaster is and more than likely you’ve heard of an alpine slide. Put those two ideas together and you get a rip-roaring-good-time-flying-down-the-mountain via an Alpine Coaster.  In fact, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Alpine Coaster is the first one in the nation. Individual cars are affixed to a track that is affixed to the mountainside. The best part? You have total control of your speed. This ride was the big winner in my family and between us we rode it 19 times.

Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Springs by Susan Tucker
The Alpine Coaster was a big winner with my family.

Next up, the thrilliest of thrills… the Giant Canyon Swing. Seven words to describe this crazy swing: The. Scariest. Ride. I. Have. Ever. Done.

Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Springs by Susan Tucker
The Giant Swing swings out over the canyon. Scary ... but, oh so fun!

After my legs started working again, we headed over to the Wild West Express, a family roller coaster. Frankly, it was kind of boring after the swing, but the kids loved it, and that’s all that matters. I was happy to see that there will be a “real” roller coaster opening later this summer. The Cliffhanger Roller Coaster will be a full-size roller coaster “with heart-stopping drops and edge-of-the-cliff panoramic mountain views.” It was under construction during our visit.

Before we knew it, it was time for our Cave Tour. We met up with a group of twelve other spelunker-wannabes to head INTO the mountain. Our guide was a spunky spelunky (sorry, couldn’t help myself) retiree with a rolodex of jokes. We learned about stalactites and stalagmites, “carrots”, “bacon” and how the cave discoverers were amongst the first in America to string electricity inside (circa 1890’s).  At first the kids were a little scared, but the entire trek was well lit and roomy, so they loosened up quickly.

Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Springs by Susan Tucker
Roomy and well-lit, the caverns were another world.

After the Cave Tour, Hubby and our 6-year old checked out the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride, a 625-foot ride down the mountain in a seated zip ride. After the Giant Canyon Swing, this ride was a breeze!

It was starting to get hot outside, so we stopped off for soft serve ice cream before heading our way inside to play some Laser Tag in a – you guessed it! – Wild West themed glow-in-the-dark room. Even having a 3-year old on my team did not stop the tweener boys from yelling, “get the lady!”  It was great fun zapping those boys…. even though I totally lost. Oh well, maybe next time. It was still a blast!

Also at the park: Fort WhereamI Human Maze, the Giddy Up toddler ride, a climbing wall, bungee jumping, a 4-D theater, restaurant and gift shop.

We ended our day with a tram ride down the mountain and smiles on our faces. We’ll definitely be back!

Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Spring by Susan Tucker
Fun family times (if not a little tiring for the little one)

After all the excitement and running around from the day before, we thought it would be great to soak our achy muscles in the historic Glenwood Hot Springs.

Colorado Caves and Waves: Exploring Glenwood Springs by Susan Tucker
Built in 1890, the red sandstone bathhouse is a beautiful backdrop to the therapeutic waters.

The hot springs pool is massive, with a constant supply of 3.5 million gallons of naturally hot mineral water that rises from the source of the spring each day, and touted as the world’s largest. We were pleasantly surprised at the modern shower facilities that were juxtaposed in such an amazing historic building.

There are three pools: the kiddie pool, the therapy pool (straight from the source, at 104 degrees) and the main pool (tempered by city water, at 90 degrees). There are also two slides; a super-fast body slide and a super-fun tube slide.

We enjoyed a morning of lounging in the pool and taking turns on the slides and diving board. What I enjoyed most was how soft my skin was afterwards, there are over 15 different minerals found in this natural hot springs pool. Therapeutic? Indeed!

Needless to say, all slept well that evening in the Tucker Family Vacation Home.

After three fun-filled days in the Glenwood Springs area, we sadly packed up the boys, the dog and the vacation home and headed back to Boulder.  Leaving us to wonder, “where will we pull the vacation home to next?” We can’t wait for our next adventure.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is open year round. There are a la carte ticket options available, but the Day Pass is your best bet. $42 for adults and $38 for kids’ ages 3-12.

Glenwood Hot Springs is open year round. Daily rates for adults are $17.25 M-F and $18.74 on the weekends and for kids’ $11 M-F and $11.50 on the weekends. The water slides are open summer hours only and are an additional fee.

Special thanks to Peak Communications.

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  1. Do you remember the name of the campsite you stayed at and would you recommend it?

    1. Hi Roxie – we camped at the BRB Crystal River Resort in nearby Carbondale. The setting was beautiful, but I was a bit disappointed with the actual campground. They were in the middle of construction, and I found parts of the grounds to be rundown. There is a closer campground to Glenwood Springs called Glenwood Canyon Resort which I would like to check out next time (http://glenwoodcanyonresort.com/) If you try this one out or find another nice campground, let me know! Thank you, Susan

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