There are 13 caves near Denver that would make amazing day trips. Spelunking is one of the endless outdoor activities available in Colorado. It is hard to not be amazed by the underground beauty these caves have to offer. The best part is there is something for everyone! If you are trying to plan a family weekend there is cave of the winds and glenwood caverns. For the easy going relaxing crowd there is the vapor caves spa that let you soak in hot spring heated caves. If you are just getting into spelunking and want to see what the hype is about then Fulford cave is perfect for you. There are a bunch of other easy caves for the explorers and spelunkers. Of course there are the long and difficult spring cave and premonition cave for the more advanced spelunkers. Don’t think this is all that Colorado offers, this list is just for those easy reaches from Denver. Stay tuned for a bigger list of all of Colorado’s amazing caves!
|Cave||Drive time from Denver||Entrance Fee||Difficulty|
|Fault Cave||20 min||$0||Moderate|
|Mallory Cave||30 min||Closed off||Moderate|
|Cave of the Winds||1hour 15min||$25||Family Friendly|
|Mollie Kathleen Gold Min||2 hour||$25||Family Friendly|
|Vapor Caves||2hour 30min||$17||Spa|
|Spring Cave||2hour 30min||$0||Hard|
|Glenwood Caverns||2hour 45min||$34||Family Friendly|
|Groaning Cave||3hour 15min||$0||Hard|
|Fulford Cave||3hour 15min||$0||Easy|
|Rifle Falls State Park||3hour 30min||$5||Easy|
|Rifle Mountain Park||3hour 30min||$4||Easy|
The Golden Fault Caves are various openings in the mountain caused by fault lines. There are many openings and tunnels of all sizes. There are areas that are walkable and others that are a tight fit. Just take note that eagles tend to nest in the area so it is not uncommon for the caves to be closed from April to July.
- Directions: Just outside of Golden, CO the cave is about a half mile hike from Clear Creek Canyon Road. It is just past the first tunnel and there is no real parking. There is just a pull off. The trail head starts here. Continue up the trail for half a mile with some scrambling until you get to the cave entrance.
- Price: Free - being as there isn’t parking and barely a trail there is no cost.
- Difficulty: Moderate – some scrambling is required to get to the entrance and the cave descends steeply. Some recommend being an expert caver or accompanied by one to attempt this cave. I will give it a moderate rating, but regardless be careful.
Mallory cave has been fenced off but it still makes for a great hike. The hike is not too long but requires scrambling towards the end.
- Directions: Mallory Cave is near the NCAR Mesa Laboratory. The trail can be accessed by NCAR trail. The laboratory on NCAR Road has parking and is right next to the NCAR Trail Head. Take NCAR Trail ¾ a mile down to Mallory Cave Trail. There are a lot of intersections, but there are plenty of signs if you keep your head up.
- Price: Free
- Difficulty: The trail to the cave entrance is moderate. The total hike is 3.4 miles out and back with 800-foot elevation gain. The trail itself is easy, the difficult part is at the end. Near the cave entrance, some climbing/scrambling is required. In normal conditions it is not an issue, but when it gets wet and icy it can be difficult to scramble.
Cave of the Winds
Cave of the Winds is an impressive 500 million year old cave system in Manitou Springs just outside Colorado Springs. The area around it gives more of a theme park feel with all the various attractions around which makes it a great place for family activities. The park offers a bunch of activities for kids such as a challenge course, zip line, climbing wall and more. There are tours through the developed part of the cave and opportunities to explore undeveloped parts of the cave. For more information check out their cave tours.
- Directions: The Cave of the Winds is off highway 24 between Manitou Springs exits.
- Price: For ages 13 and up tours are $25. For kids and military there are special pricing options.
- Difficulty: Family friendly – the cave tours are all guided and there are developed parts of the cave. This makes it perfect for families!
Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine
This is the only vertical shaft gold mine tour. The gold mine descends 1,000 feet down with a guided tour. The tour has a underground tram air locomotive and requires a quarter mile of flat level walking. In all the tour is about an hour.
- Directions: The gold mine is just out side Cripple Creek. It is off highway 67 on the northeast end of town.
- Price: $25 for adults and reduced prices for kids. Pricing list
- Difficulty: Family friendly – The old gold mine is still developed and has guided tours.
The Yampah Spa Vapor Caves are natural underground hot mineral water steam baths. Hot springs water flows through the floor of the cave heating it to 111 degrees. The natural geothermal steam baths are open for repeated 10 to 12 minute visits.
- Directions: The steam caves are on the east end of Glenwood Springs off highway 6.
- Price: There is a base price of $17 with options available on their site.
- Difficulty: Spa – These caves are not for exploring but are for relaxing.
Spring cave is a large and not completely explored cave in White River National Forest. The cave formed from an underground river which makes for some awesome pictures. The cave is heavily used and there are restrooms on site. If you plan on entering the cave make sure you register, decontaminate, and follow the procedures. The entrance information is posted on their website. There are regulations in place to help protect the bats that call it home.
- Directions: Spring cave is 29 miles east of Meeker, CO. Take highway 13 east to Rio Blanco County Road 8 then turn on county road 10. This will bring you to South Fork Campground and trailhead. The cave is across the bridge and 0.6 miles from the campsite. The forest service has more specific instructions. Just note that the cave is closed from Aug 15th to April 15th every year.
- Price: Free – just make sure you fill out the registration information.
- Difficulty: Moderate – The hike is easy and there are large rooms in the cave on the way to the river, but there are more technical aspects to the cave.
Just like Cave of the Winds, Glenwood Caverns is a cave with an adventure park. This is Colorado’s largest show cave open to the public. There are varying tours of different rooms, developed parts of the cave and more technical tours for the more adventurous. Because of the developed nature of the cave it is perfect for families, and the more technical tours are great for the more adventurous.
- Directions: Glenwood Cavers is on the west side of down right off of highway 6.
- Price: There are different packages available based on the season and attractions. For a cave tour it is about $34 for adults. Full information is on their site.
- Difficulty: Family friendly – The park is designed to be family friendly but there are more technical tours that can be strenuous.
Premonition cave is a difficult cave with 1.19 miles of passageways. The cave requires a hike to get to but has everything from walking passages to squirm ways. There are also a massive amount chimneys to explore!
- Directions: Premonition is located in a buttress on the north rim of Deep Creek Canyon, 1 mile NNW of the Deep Creek Overlook on the south rim More information can be found at free arenas.
- Price: Free
- Difficulty: Hard – the cave requires proper gear and a buddy. It is over a mile of tight but crawlable spaces.
This is a heavily trafficked area near Aspen. There are waterfalls and lots of trails. The caves itself are paths cut into the rocks by the river and in the winter turn into ice caves. This place is great for families and picture taking. Because of how easy it is to access it is a great spot year round.
- Directions: The grottos are off highway 82 and about 8 miles east of Aspen. Just make sure you verify the road is open. Highway 82 may be closed from Oct to May.
- Price: Free
- Difficulty: Easy – The trail to the grottos is just over half a mile and is relatively flat. The grottos themselves aren’t very deep making them super easy to access.
Groaning cave is Colorado’s longest cave and is extremely remote. The cave is at 10,000 feet and over 15 miles (of documented tunnels) long. It is also home to a local bat colony. Because of the bats entrance to the cave is limited between April 16th and August 14th. Like some of the other caves mentioned a waiver will be required to ensure safety measures are taken to keep the bats safe. The groaning cave is definitely a must go to for experience spelunkers.
To protect the cave and the bats there is a two step process. First you need to go through the registration and authorization process on USDA’s website. Next you need to schedule a trip on Colorado Cave Survey’s website; this will give you the code to get past the gate and enter the cave.
- Directions: Access is regulated because of the difficulty, how fragile it is, and the bats that call it home. Because it is regulated it is not very widely known its exact location. It is in Garfield County in White River National Forest at 10,000 feet.
- Price: Free
- Difficulty: Hard. It is made very clear in multiple places this cave is not for beginners. It is not technically difficult, but a combination of altitude, temperature, confusing passages makes it a more dangerous cave.
Once again, in White River National Forest you’ll find one of colorado’s largest caves. The cave was formed by a still active underground river. Some of the caverns reach 80 foot ceilings.
Just like the other caves there is a reservation system in place. Because of the bats reservations must be made on the forest service’s website. The cave is also closed from Oct 15th to April 15th.
- Directions: The cave is 15 miles south east of Eagle Co. The cave is at the end of E Brush Creek Rd. Right by the entrance is the start of Fulford Cave Spring, and Fulford Cave Campground.
- Price: Free. Entrance is free unless the forest service implements a small registration fee.
- Difficulty: Easy to advanced. The great thing about Fulford Cave is that it has something for everyone. There are super easy passages to explore or more technical advanced caverns.
Rifle Mountain Park Ice Cave
The ice caves of Rifle Mountain Park are only available during the winter. The backside of these waterfalls are hide some caverns that turn into caves when the waterfall freezes over. Its a quick experience but the beauty makes it worth it.
- Directions: In under a mile along Koper’s trail there are a couple waterfalls. These are the falls that freeze in the winter that form the ice caves.
- Price: $5 per vehicle
- Difficulty: Easy. Koper’s trail is an easy trail and the ice caves are under a mile into the trail.
Rifle Falls State Park Caves
On top of the triple waterfalls are the two beautiful limestone caves.
- Directions: Rifle Falls State Park is north east of Rifle CO off of county road 325. Once in the park the caves are located off of the coyote trail.
- Price: $4 individual day pass. More information on their site
- Difficulty: Easy. The caves are extremely accessable.