Western Colorado's 'Fairy Caves' and the unique characteristics found within continue to intrigue visitors and researchers. Charles Darrow, modern discoverer of the caves in 1895, and his daughter first explored the area deep inside Glenwood Springs' Iron Mountain. Researchers say Darrow’s young daughter dubbed the rock cavity “Fairy Caves” after seeing fairies dance along the walls.

Unique features of the Fairy Caves include formations of flowstone that glisten when light hits the thin veils of water that glide down the rock walls. Researchers say the candle light glimmering off of the flowstone might have been what Darrow’s young daughter saw, mistaking it for fairies inside of the caves.

A combination of calcite and gypsum, called moonmilk, powder the cave’s interior walls, creating a mystical atmosphere roughly 70 feet beneath the earth's surface. The walking tours through the Fairy Caves, which Darrow started conducting 1896, are still offered today by Glenwood Caverns. This intimate experience is a great way to get a closer look at the narrow passages of the cave system.

Formations by Cole Newton 3_FairyCaves.jpg

Photo Credit: Cole Newton courtesy Glenwood Caverns.

Between 1897 and 1899, Darrow and a crew hand-chiseled rock to make a tunnel from the Fairy Caves to explore more of the underground. The tunnel ends at a cliffside balcony called Exclamation Point, where a panoramic view of Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River is revealed. At the time, this 'grand finale' viewing point is where Darrow's walking tours ended. Visitors today can still walk the oldest tunnel at Glenwood Caverns, but extensive expansions have been made in recent years.

Cave Bacon closeup by Cole Newton_FairyCaves.jpg

Photo Credit: Cole Newton courtesy Glenwood Caverns.

At one spot along the tour, an underground canyon called the Eternal Towers can be viewed from below, allowing visitors to look up 40 to 50 feet at the rock ceiling above. Many additional rooms of the cave system have been revealed by Glenwood Caverns in recent years, showing various rock formations and colors. The Pendent Room boasts bulbous formations that are carved by air and water and the Register Room gleams with rich, saturated colors created by interaction with hot springs water. A third area, deservingly named the Reflection Room, features pools that reflect the surrounding stalactites, stalagmites, and soda straw formations.

Caves (Photo) Credit CarbonBrain (iStock)

Photo Credit: CarbonBrain (iStock).

The Fairy Caves are a Colorado gem that allows visitors to feel like they've stepped into another world. Glenwood Caverns calls itself the “8th wonder of the world” because of the fantastical natural beauty it holds within.

Leslie James is all about Colorado when it comes to writing features, sharing adventures, and creating colorful galleries. She loves camping, hiking, mountain biking and snowboarding. Leslie joined OutThere Colorado in November 2020.


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(1) comment


I have been to the Glenwood Springs fairy caves. I wouldn't recommend going. They have a large population of bats, and zero interest in protecting them.

The U.S. is experiencing a problem with white nose, a deadly illness affecting bats.

The U.S. Park Service has taken precautions to try to protect their bat populations, in particular regarding visitors. All visitors must sign in. They must not wear the same clothing or shoes they have worn in other cave systems.

Obviously the focus between the two couldn't be starker.

U.S. Park Service has an investment in preserving not only the environment, but the ecology of the caves.

Glenwood Springs fairy caves crest only for money. When we asked about precautions taken to preserve the bat population, we were told that they aren't bothering as "all bats will get white nose and die from it anyway". They couldn't care less about the ecology and health of the caves. The fairy caves have turned into just another amusement park attraction aimed at squeezing out more money from visitors.

If you insist on seeing the amusement park, I would recommend sticking to the other attractions.

I say this as a person who not only cares about the caves, but the ecology and the unique denizens of caves.

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