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Glenwood Caverns: From Cavern Tours to Coasters There's Plenty of Fun
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According to general manager Nancy Heard, Glenwood Caverns fun starts underground and goes as high as the sky.

“The park originated with tours of Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves, and these tours remain the most-popular attraction. The Alpine Coaster, added in 2005, and the first in the U.S., is the second-most popular attraction and most popular ride,” she explains, noting that the park continues to grow and change. “In the past two years, we replaced our 15-year-old Iron Mountain Tramway with the new, high-efficiency Glenwood Gondola that can transport 1,000 people per hour up and down the mountain and added Halvor Flowstone, a 14’ troll that’s been a big hit with both kids and adults. In 2017, we added the Haunted Mine Drop, which is the world’s only underground drop ride. It won awards from IAAPA for best public relations program and theming and was named the #1 new theme park attraction by USA Today.”

The park also recently finished a major refurbishment on the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, including a new magnetic braking system that offers guests a smoother ride.

This year, Glenwood Caverns has already started construction on Smokehouse, a new restaurant with an outdoor grill. It will feature food items like pulled pork, smoked sausages and hamburgers, as well as a water bottle filling station, to help guests to stay hydrated at 7,100-feet above sea level. New restrooms and an additional covered outdoor seating will be part of this expansion in a 4,500-square-foot pavilion.

Food, Beverage, and Entertainment manager Bob Stepniewski says the park is “looking forward to stepping up our offerings with fresher foods, a smoker and making the guest experience a pleasant and memorable part of the time they spend here.” The new Smokehouse counter service will “more than double the number of cashier windows we had previously…to serve our guests faster so they can enjoy their meal and get back to the park’s attractions.” And he notes that the park’s annual Octoberfest celebration is “gaining momentum” and becoming a regional draw.
Heard notes that pandemic changes have been made and will continue as needed. “After being closed for nearly three months, we reopened last June with COVID-19 safety procedures in place. These included reduced capacity and online reservations for timed entry to help us control the flow of people into the park. Within the park, face coverings and social distancing are required and enforced; there is signage throughout the park reinforcing this rule. We added markers in queues to help guests maintain proper spacing.” The park also introduced limited seating within their Lookout Grille and added more hand sanitizing stations and instructions for hand washing. The park conducts health checks as employees enter the park, and installed sneeze guards at registers, and focused on touchless transactions whenever possible. “This has all worked out very well. We have been able to provide an enjoyable visit for guests and keep our employees protected,” she attests.

With a location on Iron Mountain overlooking, Heard says that “Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is the only mountain-top theme park in America. Its elevation and site on the edge of Glenwood Canyon—1,300’ above the Colorado River—provide it with unique opportunities to turn ordinary rides into one-of-a-kind thrill rides. For example, the Haunted Mine Drop is the only drop ride in the world that goes underground. The Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, at an elevation of 7,160’, is the highest-elevation, full-sized roller coaster in the U.S.  The Giant Canyon Swing, which might be a little scary on the ground in other theme parks, is a completely different experience when it launches you out 1,300’ above the Colorado River. The Canyon Flyer and Cliffhanger Roller Coaster are located on the edge of the cliff as well.”

All of this reflects great growth over the years, Heard explains. “In 1999, owners Steve and Jeanne Beckley reopened Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves to the public after it was closed for 82 years. At that point, guests purchased tickets in Glenwood Springs and rode a bus up a winding mountain road to tour the cave and then returned to town. It was so successful but limited to warm months when that road was open.” The pair added the Iron Mountain Tramway, plus a restaurant and gift shop in 2003. “This allowed for year-round operation. The downside was that because they were able to transport people up and down more quickly guests sometimes waited three or four hours for their cave tour. So, in 2005, the park added an alpine coaster, swing ride and zip ride. That was a win-win, and the park has continued to add attractions, more dining and shopping options, entertainment and events, turning it into one of the most popular attractions on the Western Slope of Colorado with pre-pandemic attendance at 250,000 or so each year. Not bad for a remote town of 10,000,” she enthuses.

Along the upcoming new dining and outdoor seating, the park has future plans that include a children’s tree-fort-style play area with rope bridges and is considering an additional coaster.

Entertainment events are another big factor in the park’s success. “The park was able to hold modified versions of its Octoberfest and Winter on the Mountain in 2020, and they were both extremely well-received. Our guests jumped at the chance to enjoy some outdoor, socially distant fun,” Heard relates. “Our planned 2020 Brew Fest had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, but we plan to kick it off as soon as regulations allow.”

In previous years, the park’s Music on the Mountain concert series was a guest favorite. “Admittance to the park and the concert were free with the donation of a canned food for the local food pantry. Over the years, these tens of thousands of food items helped our neighbors in need. It’s hard to predict what this year will bring, but we hope to be able to bring Music on the Mountain back in late summer or fall,” Heard says. “We also held a ticketed music event with a national act, John McEuen, thanks to the faster transportation to and from the concert on the new Glenwood Gondola. It is our hope, as it is with all music venues, to get back on track with this soon and become a recognized location for local as well as national musical acts.”
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