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Kings Row Cavern

Glenwood Springs Attractions Named New U.S. National Natural Landmark

Glenwood Springs is home to the nation’s newest National Natural Landmark (NNL), Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which also happen to be two of the mountain town’s top visitor attractions.

Glenwood Springs is officially America’s newest national treasure! That’s saying a lot. U.S. Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, only named two new NNLs in Dec. 2023, one in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and the other in upstate New York. The newly minted NNL which includes both Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs joins Hanging Lake, named an NNL in 2011, as places of wonder, worthy of exploration and conservation.

Recognizing Nature’s Marvels in Glenwood Springs

The Secretary bestowed the two Glenwood Springs attractions with the NNL designation in December 2023, and in an early 2024 ceremony, Colorado Governor, Jared Polis added to the honor with a commemorative plaque which he presented to representatives of the Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

The National Natural Landmarks Program, which was founded in 1964, recognizes and encourages the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources. NNL sites are chosen, not based on their beauty, but on their condition, illustrative character, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education. The National Park Service administers the program and works cooperatively with landowners, managers and partners to promote conservation and appreciation of our nation’s natural heritage.

glenwood caverns reflecting pool

More Than A Pretty Picture

While locals and visitors have long been drawn to Glenwood Springs as a haven for stunning scenic beauty and geothermal relaxation, the NNL award goes beyond the surface of just what’s visually pleasing.

What clinched the NNL award for Glenwood Springs was the biodiversity evident at both sites. Glenwood Caverns and Iron Mountain Hot Springs feature unique or rare natural processes and ecosystems found in few if any, other places.

The Adventure Park’s central feature is an active living cave with remarkable cave formations and newly discovered microscopic lifeforms, while the high-temperature geothermal source waters of Iron Mountain Hot Springs support aquatic species that thrive in extreme environmental conditions. Both properties not only offer a glimpse into the geological wonders of the region but also provide opportunities for both adventure and relaxation.

Going Beneath the Surface at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a Glenwood Springs crowd-pleaser. After riding the Glenwood Gondola to the park entrance, visitors can take guided cave tours to King’s Row or the Historic Fairy Caves to marvel at the stunning subterranean formations and learn about the rich history and ecology of the underground world.

After returning to the surface, thrill-seekers will delight in the park’s adrenaline-pumping attractions, including a trio of roller coasters—Defiance, Cliffhanger and Alpine—as well as other gravity-defying rides like the Crystal Tower, a drop ride; and the Giant Canyon Swing, a hydraulic pendulum that launches riders out over Glenwood Canyon.

View of the Defiance Roller Coaster

The Geothermal Wonder of Iron Mountain Hot Springs

After the heart-thumping thrills, relax and recover in the rejuvenating waters of Iron Mountain Hot Springs and WorldSprings. Visit the original Legacy pools at Iron Mountain Hot Springs for a family-friendly experience where guests can soak in multiple geothermal pools and play with youngsters in the cooler, freshwater pool. The WorldSprings side of the resort is reserved for those over 21. A more exclusive experience, the mineral content of the pools at WorldSprings is inspired by some of the most famous aquatic-based health and wellness destinations in the world such as Vichy, France, the Dead Sea in Israel or the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

overview of Iron Mountain Hot Springs at nightChampions of Conservation

The NNL designation also acknowledges the stewardship of Steve and Jeanne Beckley, the founding owners of both properties. Monitoring environmental conditions in the Caverns has been a critical mission of the Beckley’s from the beginning. To protect the fragile ecosystem from damage, the owners installed airtight doors and evaporimeters to gauge the rate of evaporation within the caves. Their efforts have paid off; even with thousands of people visiting the caves annually, the relative humidity within has not changed.

Hanging Lake Glenwood’s Other NNL

While Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs may be the newest NNL, Hanging Lake has the honor of being the first. Another Glenwood Springs visitor favorite, Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon is a rare example of a lake formed by travertine deposition where the natural geologic and hydrologic processes continue to operate. The site is also noteworthy for its thriving hanging garden plant community. Because of these qualities, Hanging Lake was designated a National Natural Landmark in 2011. Before you go, purchase a hiking permit online and get the latest updates and information about Hanging Lake, including closures scheduled by the U.S. Forest Service which manages the site.

Hanging Lake in Winter

See All Three Glenwood Springs NNLs

Home to extraordinary national treasures, including the nation’s newest NNL, learn more about Glenwood Springs and all its natural wonders. Make plans to visit today!

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Visit Glenwood Springs

Reservations to hike Hanging Lake are released on a weekly basis every Tuesday at 8:00 am MDT. 

 Visit the Hanging Lake page HERE for more information and the booking portal.