Caves in Colorado: From Spelunking to Fairy Cave Tours

Colorado is world-renowned for its seemingly endless majestic mountain range and other unique landscape features, making it a popular destination for all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts. But what’s equally as impressive is what you will find hidden beneath the ground. There’s quite the variety of caves in Colorado. 

Header photo: Cave of the Winds. Courtesy Visit Colorado Springs.

Colorado is home to grottos, caverns, and caves that offer breathtaking and beautiful sights that will utterly amaze you. Whether you’re looking for a good hike before you reach your destination, or you’re seeking a spot where you can simply unwind, each one of its caves has something different to offer you. These are caves in the state of Colorado that you’ll want to consider exploring.   

Cave of the Winds

Location: Manitou Springs

Difficulty: 3 tours that all have different levels of difficulty 

What to Expect 

Cave of the Winds is certainly rich when it comes to its history. It happens to be one of the oldest continuously operating attractions in all of Colorado, dating clear back to 1881. There’s also evidence that the Apaches nation once considered this location sacred for a number of centuries. Located in Manitou Springs, this cave has 3 tours for you to choose from, all of which offer you incredible views. 

After you’re finished, there are also a few attractions nearby that you may want to consider. They have the Wind Walker Challenge Course along with the Terror-Dactyl and the Bat-A-Pult, which both throw you over the canyon’s mouth while witnessing gorgeous landscapes. Eek! There are even a Frontier Zipline and a Via Ferrata climbing wall that may be up your alley.    

Insider Tip: If in the area, be sure to check out hikes in Colorado Springs.

Cave of the Winds. Photo courtesy Visit Colorado Springs.

Fault Cave 

Location: Just outside of Golden

Difficulty: Short, steep hike up the mountain 

What to Expect

If you consider yourself an experienced cave explorer and don’t mind a cave that’s a bit off the beaten path, then Fault Cave may be just what you are looking for. These caves were formed by a series of faults, hence creating a narrow, (sometimes claustrophobic) passageway. 

Because of this, you won’t think of this as your traditional cave visit, but who says that’s a bad thing? You’ll also want to do your research before you get there because the cave entrance can be difficult to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

Fulford Cave 

Location: White River National Forest (Near Eagle) 

Difficulty: Considered easy with a moderate hike (.9 mile hike there-and-back) 

What to Expect

If this is your first-time cave exploring, (and even if it’s not) Fulford Cave is an excellent one to explore for beginners. The cave only reaches a consistent year-round 42 degrees and is a bit on the wetter side in areas, so make sure that you prepare accordingly. Explorers especially enjoy visiting Fulford Cave after hiking during the summertime because it offers them a place to escape and cool off.  

Groaning Cave

Location: White River National Forest

Difficulty: Difficult

What to Expect

Groaning Cave holds the record as being the largest cave in the state of Colorado, stretching for a length of nearly 12 miles! Its limestone canyon is said to be awe-inspiring, but it’s in such a remote location and rated so difficult, that only a few of the most experienced spelunkers are able to ever witness it. The cave is only accessible from April 16th through August 14th, and you’ll need to sign a waiver because of the large bat colonies that live within the caves.    

Mollie Kathleen Goldmine

Location: Cripple Creek

Difficulty: Guided tour

What to Expect  

When you first arrive in Cripple Creek, it appears as if Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is a tourist trap, but rest assured; it’s not. When you’re first starting out you’ll take a rattle cage elevator down an old vertical mine shaft to a depth of nearly 1,000 feet. That’s taller than the height of the Eiffel Tower! The tour even gives you a hard hat to wear while you’re venturing beneath the surface.    

Rifle Mountain Park

Location: Rifle

Difficulty: Moderate

What to Expect

It’s been said that Rifle is where you will find some of the best limestone sport rock climbing in all of North America. Their caves are also worth visiting, where some of them are home to a huge population of bats. You’ll especially enjoy it if you visit during the winter because of the waterfall and canyon walls that freeze and forms a spectacular ice formation, including large icicles.     

Insider Tip: If visiting Rifle Mountain Park make a short trek over to Rifle Falls State Park to see a spectacular triple waterfall. Here there’s a hike with some small caves for the kiddos to explore.

A triple waterfall is the centerpiece of Rifle Falls State Park.
The base of the triple waterfalls at Rifle Falls State Park. An easy loop around makes this one of our favorite things to do with kids in Colorado.

Spring Cave

Location: White River National Forest (1.2 miles there and back trail close to Meeker) 

Difficulty: Difficult with a moderate hike

What to Expect

At Spring Cave you’ll come across extensive underground tunnels and “Thunder Road”, which happens to be one of the largest underground waterways in the state. The trail starts out around Meeker, in an isolated area that’s surrounded by aspen and blue spruce trees. Note that this adventure is for the more experienced cave explorer.  

Vapor Caves

Location: Glenwood Springs (Yampah Spa and Salon)

Difficulty: Relaxing 

What to Expect

Vapor Caves offers you something completely different from all the rest on our list. For some of you, you’ll be excited to find that there’s no hiking involved whatsoever. That’s because it’s a spa that has natural underground hot springs within the caves. 

It’s certainly therapeutic for those that are needing a good steam bath, as temperatures remain around 110 to 112 degrees. If it gets too much for you, there’s also colder water above the ground that you can soak in to cool you back off.  

Fairy cave tour at Glenwood Caverns, Colorado
Make sure to take one of the cave tours and learn about stalactites and stalagmites at Glenwood Caverns & Adventure Park.

Glenwood Caverns

Location: Glenwood Springs

Difficulty: Easy

What to Expect

Discovered in the 1950’s the Glenwood Caverns originally weren’t accessible except to a few hardy cavers. Cavers had to be willing to crawl and wiggle through tiny spaces to see the caves.

The Fairy Caves became a thriving tourist destination in the 1890s. This was thanks to Charles W. Darrow opening them to visitors. At that time the known extent of the cave was about 800 feet. Today Glenwood Caverns accesses more than 16,000 known feet of caves.

When the Fairy Caves first opened to the public, visitors could only get to the caves three ways: Hiking up a trail; Riding a horse or burro; Being transported in style in a horse-drawn carriage.

Today, visitors access the historic Fairy Caves via the scenic gondola on the Iron Mountain Tramway at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

No matter which caves on this list that you decide to visit, it will be a memory that you and your family will never forget. There’s plenty of interesting things to see. And some of them have other attractions that you’ll want to check out while you’re in the area. Have any of you already visited one of these magnificent caves? Tell us about your experience and what you thought.

Caves in Colorado: From Spelunking to Fairy Cave Tours

Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

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