Last updated March 14th, 2022 at 11:24 am

Do you know what town was named as “America’s Most Fun Small Town”? Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which also made it onto the list of stops for our summer road trip. I have a few more posts scheduled this month to show just what makes Glenwood Springs so fun, but the history buff in me had to share some fun facts to kick off the Glenwood Springs series. And now for your travel history lesson…

Glenwood Springs things to know

16 Things You May Not Know About Glenwood Springs

1. The town of Glenwood Springs was originally named “Defiance” in 1880. Somewhat fitting given it was home to miners, gamblers, gunslingers and brothels.

2. In 1885 the wife of the town’s founder was having a hard time adjusting to frontier life and in an attempt to make her environment somewhat more comfortable, persuaded the founders to change the name to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, after her beloved hometown of Glenwood, Iowa

3. Despite its mountain location, Glenwood Springs is one of the most walkable towns in America, a distinction that has been recognized by PBS and USA Today.

4. You can walk from Glenwood Springs to Aspen along the Rio Grande Trail, which links the two. It might take you a few days though given it’s 42 miles ONE WAY.

Glenwood Springs
Photo by Elaine Schoch

5. Glenwood Hot Springs is the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world. It measures over two blocks long with more than one million gallons of water.

6. In 1956, 22 local businessman joined forces to purchase the hot springs to maintain local ownership and prevent it from being purchased from out-of-state-investors and turned into a private spa. The families of these businessmen continue to operate them.

7. During World War II, from 1943 to 1946, the Glenwood Hot Springs resort was used exclusively as a U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital. This was the only time in history when it was closed to the public.

8. Doc Holliday, a famous gambling gun slinger died in Glenwood Springs. He moved to the city to try and cure tuberculosis in the healing waters of Glenwood’s hot springs.

Glenwood Hot Springs
Glenwood Hot Springs, Photo by Elaine Schoch

9. The Yampah Vapor Caves are the only natural steam cave in North America. For more than 121 years the cave has provided “cleansing vapors” to its visitors. Even before that, the cave was used by the Ute Indians who dubbed its name – “Yampah” or “Big Medicine”.

10. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is home to America’s highest elevation roller coaster. The Cliffhanger Roller Coaster is 7,100 feet in elevation.

11. The first alpine coaster in the United States is at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. The Alpine Coaster races visitors down 3,400 feet. Quite the ride!

Alpine Coaster in Glenwood Springs

12. Hanging Lake is a popular hiking destination in Glenwood Springs, it was listed as a National Natural Landmark in 2011.

13. Glenwood Springs was one of the first cities in the United States to have electric lights.

14. You can ski in Glenwood Springs. Sunlight Mountain Resort has 680 acres of skiable terrain and 67 trails with one of the steepest ski trails in the state, the Heathen.

15. If you’ve driven through Glenwood Canyon on I-70 you might just understand why this 16 mile section of highway has received multiple engineering awards – not to mention how costly it was to construct. The section of the highway was $490 million (equivalent to $800 million today) to construct, making it the most expensive roadway ever built and most expensive federally aided project .

16. The Historic Fairy Caves was named by USA Today as one of the “Top 10 Places to go Underground”. It is an attraction within Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park – a 50 minute guided Cave Tour that takes you into the Iron Mountain to view flow stone, stalagmites, rock cauliflower, and more. The Fairy Caves were a popular tourist destination in the 1890s up until America’s entry into World War I, when the owners closed the caves to the public – for 82 years. New owners opened the caves back to the public in 1999.

Have you been to Glenwood Springs?



  1. I love Glenwood! Some of my fondest memories as a child in Colorado was my dad pulling me out of school and taking me up to Glenwood for a few days. Had a chance to go back earlier this summer and did the alpine coaster. WOW! That’s a fun time.

  2. Brad Vierheller says:

    Not sure about the caves being the only natural steam caves in North America. What about the Indian Springs Resort in Idaho Springs. They have some really hot vapor caves as well.

  3. I remember seeing Glenwood Springs on Hotel Impossible. Nice to learn more about this FUN destination.

  4. Jeroen Thornton says:

    I grew up in this valley and spent a lot of time in Glenwood Springs. Now that I’ve moved away, I really miss it. You don’t realize how amazing a place is until you see it from an outsider’s point of view! See also: Rifle Mountain Park, Rifle, CO. Small town, WORLD RENOWNED rock climbing.

    1. Yes, it is a GREAT area. It must have been amazing to grow up around Glenwood Springs, there’s so much to see and do…

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