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Chevrolet invited us to road trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado and find adventure as part of its Find New Roads campaign. Our trip included a visit with Chevy representatives to see the family-oriented features of the Chevy crossovers, a scenic drive into the Rocky Mountains, a day at a mountain top adventure park, a dip in some natural mineral hot springs, and a scenic drive home through Northern Colorado and into Wyoming.
Road Trip in a Chevy Traverse
Our drive for this getaway was a 2018 Chevrolet Traverse in its (theme-appropriate) High Country trim. The Traverse has three rows of seating, lots of cargo space, and a comfortable ride. Perfect for a road trip like this. We packed our three kids into the crossover, piled in our stuff for the three-day weekend trip, and headed toward Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
The drive from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Aurora, Colorado on the outskirts of Denver is a familiar one to our family. Many an adventure has begun with a drive southwards to the Mile High City. In the city of Aurora, which houses a major Air Force base and access to the Denver International Airport, lies an old aircraft research and development center that’s now been remodeled into a large shopping center. The Stanley Marketplace includes shopping, dining, and more and for this Friday afternoon, it housed the Chevrolet #FindNewRoads congregation point for our trip.
Making a Mess With Chevrolet
Chevrolet representatives were on hand to check our child safety seats, measure the children for proper seat belt fit, and show us what’s new with the Traverse, Equinox, and Trax crossovers. The kids were not terribly thrilled when we arrived, assuming this was “just more of dad’s work,” but quickly got excited when Chevy communications rep Maureen Bender had them spilling soda onto interior upholstery materials.
Working the sheets like kids in a science lab, our three young ‘uns happily poured, manipulated, and marveled at the way the new interior materials from GM repelled the liquid without staining. For kids in the 7-9 age range, being allowed to make a mess at an adult’s behest is pretty cool stuff.
Then came the virtual reality simulation inside a Chevrolet Equinox, where VR goggles and headphones transported us to the General Motors’ proving grounds. A bevy of Chevrolet vehicles were used to take us through floods, over rocks, and onto a race track. The kids busied themselves trying to “unlock” features in the demonstration and replaying cool 360-degree tours of vehicles.
The kids then tried their hands at car designing with Play-Doh, putting groceries into the back of a Traverse, and more before we grabbed some lunch from a taco truck. On the way out the door to get back into our Traverse, we noted an important display highlighting why Chevrolet includes “Back Seat Reminder” tech in its family vehicles. The temperature outside at the Stanley Market was about 96 degrees (F). The temperature inside a Chevrolet Trax with the doors and windows closed in that parking lot? 164. A sobering reminder of child and pet safety.
To Glenwood Springs
Back on the road, we headed towards Glenwood Springs via Interstate 70. Here, a cool feature in Chevy’s new infotainment was highlighted. We wanted coffee and the kids needed juice for the road. Using the Marketplace app in the IntelliLink infotainment, we located a nearby Dunkin Donuts, placed an order on the go (selecting from preloaded favorites) and stopped to pick it up. The app pays for the transaction via a preloaded, secured card, and pickup is just a matter of pulling up to the drive-through or going inside to ask for it. Our coffees and juices were ready to go when we arrived.
The same app allows purchase of gasoline from Shell stations (others coming soon) and more. All without fear of a card being stolen or copied. Nice touch. There’s even access to audiobooks, provided the vehicle’s 4G connection is good.
The ride up the canyons through the Eisenhower tunnels and over the Rocky Mountains was beautiful, but crowded. Friday afternoon traffic out of Denver is never great and road construction, congestion, and even a wildfire in the median meant several delays in getting to Glenwood Springs. We arrived in time for dinner, though, and with daylight still left, so all was good. Parking at our hotel, we ate there and then took a short walk through a shopping center next door.
We then settled into our rooms for the night, anticipating a big day ahead.
An Adventure Park On Top of a Mountain
High up above and to the East of Glenwood Springs is the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. It sits a couple of thousand feet above Glenwood Springs on top of Iron Mountain and looks out over the narrow river valley the Colorado town occupies. There are three basic ways to get to the adventure park.
The most obvious is to ride the Iron Mountain Tram like every other tourist, going up the hill a hundred feet or so above the ground in a slow-moving, enclosed ski-lift-style, cable-pulled tram. That’s how we got up the mountain because, obviously, we were tourists. The tram ride is included in the basic park entrance price when you pay at the window next to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Resort at the bottom of the mountain. The resort is a hotel and hot springs that can be packaged in as a vacation deal.
Another way to get up the mountain to the park is to ride one of the “adventure vehicle” shuttles. These are big military-style trucks refitted with rows of seating. The big rig climbs the mountain up a wide, winding set of switchbacks that steadily progress up the mountainside. This was how we left the park to get back down to Glenwood Springs later that afternoon.
You Can Walk (But No One Did)
The third way to get up the mountain is to lace your shoes and start hiking. This was how the pioneers did it, I’m told, and they didn’t have the advantage of granola bars and good hi-tops from REI. They didn’t have Camelbacks either and in the near-100 temps of summer in Colorado, that’s probably a must. We observed nobody taking this route to get up the mountain. I guess modern life makes us lazy.
Our ride up in the tram included a local park denizen, Prospector Pete, who told us about the town, the park, and gave the kids shiny rocks he’d discovered on the hill. Once atop the mountain, we did the touristy picture requirements at the obligatory carved wooden stuff at the park entrance. We then started walking around to see what was what.
Most of the park’s shops and attractions had yet to open, as we were some of the first up the mountain. We stopped at the blacksmith’s shop to watch him get his fire lit and stoked after he’d meticulously broken up and sized his charcoal and coke. He explained the process as he went, showing us some of what he’d made recently as he waited for the coals to warm. We then went to one of the two caves accessible from the adventure park.
The Glenwood Caverns
The King’s Row cave is a largely vertical tour that spans almost 20 stories underground. The tour guides take groups through the caverns and up and down a lot (a LOT!) of stairs. But it’s worth the effort. The caves were discovered in the late 1800s and their primary explorer, early on, is credited with mapping most of what tourists are shown. He also married his fiance in the caves, at a spot designated by two stalactites that are connected on one side.
The tour includes a lot of references to what they call different formations. Cave “bacon,” for example, are strips of calcite deposits that look like wavy bacon. “Walmart bacon” is the lighter-colored (“fatty”) stuff while “good bacon” has iron deposits giving it a reddish hue. Other features have similarly food-themed names, which is understandable as cave explorers rarely pack much grub. The tour finishes in the lowest cavern where a spectacular display of stalactites and stalagmites cover the cavern with beauty. Lights are situated to showcase their qualities, including some brief glow-in-the-dark wonder.
Coming out of the Kings Row Cavern, we noted another wonderful feature of caves: they tend to keep the median temperature for the area, year-round. In Glenwood Springs, that’s about 52 F.
More Caves to Explore
Later in the day, we went on the second cave tour, Fairy Caves. This is a simpler tour that is more “cavern exploration” in feel. There are no stairs and the guide was more relaxed and less apt to tell stories about the place. Instead, the tour winds through rough-hewn and natural walkways where features are up close and personal. This cave tour also lasts about 40 minutes, but is less strenuous and culminates in a spectacular view of the valley from a natural shelf the cave opens up to.
This tour has a more historical bent, showing some of the infrastructure first placed in the caverns in the early 1900s and detailing how the Fairy Cave tour was the first documented use of electricity in that part of Colorado. The caves, in fact, had electric lighting before cities like Denver or even New York had proliferated it.
To demonstrate how the Fairy Caves got their names, our guide shut out all of the lights and used a replica of a caver’s lantern to showcase how the dancing candle light creates moving shadows on the cavern walls. An early cave explorer’s young daughter saw this effect and said it looked like fairies. The name stuck.
More Adventure Park Attractions
There are a lot of rides on top of the mountain. The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has an alpine coaster, which reaches out over the side of the mountain for thrilling curves and corners. It also has a cliff-side swing which swings riders out over the valley off a cliff near the mountain’s peak. The Mine Drop is a sled which drops vertically into a mine shaft. Best eat after that one. There’s a Ferris wheel, low-impact zip line, and more. Food on the mountain is good and fairly priced as well.
Lots of attractions include the blacksmith working the forge, a fun dress-up photo shop, and Prospector Pete talking about gold hunting back in the day. Kids can pan for shiny rocks at a panning station and an outdoor theater featuring old-style melodramatic comedies are fun places to stop and take a breather.
- Once on the mountain, go into the gift shop at the entrance and rent a locker. For three bucks, you can store your stuff at a central location and access it as many times as needed throughout the day.
- Get there early. Things fill up fast and lines get longer as the day progresses.
- Bring extra batteries for your phone or camera. You’ll need ‘em.
- Go up or down on the tram, but not both. If the weather permits, use the adventure vehicle drive on one of your trips. It’s scenic and you’ll see the other side of Iron Mountain.
- Bundle the Iron Mountain Springs with your park pass. It saves money and gets you access to the resort’s pools of natural hot spring water.
- Buy rides ala carte with little kids. If your kids are small or squeamish, don’t buy the ride passes at the gate. Buy tickets individually at the gift shop at the top as you’ll probably only be interested in one or two of the rides.
Hitting the Hot Springs
After a day on the mountain and several thousand steps on the pedometer, we needed to relax. We drove to downtown Glenwood Springs and ate dinner at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. A marvelous establishment with some of the best home-brewed root beer in the Rockies, we were glad to settle down to some good eats.
We walked through some of the older downtown Glenwood Springs as well, checking out the various shops and storefronts and scouting where the train arrives at the station. It’s worth considering the train as an alternative to the canyon traffic, especially on weekends.
Glenwood Hot Springs Resort
The next morning, we packed up and went to the Glenwood Hot Springs near downtown. This is a large resort with a hotel, spa, athletic club, and hot springs pools. The main pool spans a full two city blocks in size, with the bulk of it being about 4 to 4-1/2 feet deep. Water slides at the far end and a diving board separated from the rest of the pool by lap lanes are the only deep sections. Next to the big pool is a naturally hot, very large hot tub with water jets to one side and mineral soaking as its focus.
Because the water is naturally mineralized, it’s somewhat salty in feel and easy to float in. The kids had fun playing, as kids will do, while we adults relaxed by alternating between the hot tub and its soothing relaxation and the pool with its more ambient temperature and easy floatation. For the kids, this was all fun times and bounding about in the water. For the adults, it was extreme relaxation.
For those who don’t know, the Glenwood Springs are what gave the town its name. It’s why everyone from Native Americans to Doc Holliday called this place magical and soothing. For those interested, the grave of the latter is found near the edge of town on the southwest side of the river after a short hike from a community gardens plot.
A Scenic Drive Home
To get back to Wyoming, we left Glenwood Springs in the afternoon and headed down Interstate 70 towards Denver. We turned off I-70 at the town of Wolcott and I piloted the Traverse north on Colorado Highway 131. This scenic drive passes between Yarmony Mountain and Cottonwood Peak, heading northwest. It’s a beautifully scenic drive and helped us avoid weather that was hugging the mountains nearer to Denver.
At the town of Kremmling, we turned northwards onto U.S. Highway 40. This took us past the big, beautiful Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the plains and mountains around it. The smooth Traverse took us through the valleys and between Baker and Bear Mountains where the westbound Colorado Highway 14 twisted through, following a series of rivers before bearing due north as the mountains turned to high plains.
Nearing the Wyoming border, the highways changed again just before the town of Walden and the huge lake which bears the same name. This and Cowdry to its north are places that typify the beauty and grandeur that define the American west. At the junction of CO 125, we turned north onto 127 and entered the beautiful Medicine Bow National Forest before crossing into Wyoming.
The drive through Medicine Bow is spectacular as aspen and evergreens sprout straight upwards right up against the roadway. We stopped to make sandwiches in the middle of the forest, near a Boy Scout Camp turnoff, before proceeding on into the town of Laramie and back to the interstate and home.
This was a spectacular trip and a great weekend getaway. We appreciate Chevrolet for sponsoring us as we toured the Traverse crossover and Glenwood Springs, Colorado. We highly recommend that everyone occasionally go #FindNewRoads.