If you’re an adventurous person, caving might be the perfect activity for you. Caving involves exploring natural caves and caverns, and it can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. Denver is home to some of the best caving spots in the United States, making it an ideal destination for caving enthusiasts.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about caving in Denver. From the basics of caving to the best caving spots in the area, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to have a safe and enjoyable caving experience.
What is Caving?
Caving, also known as spelunking, is the activity of exploring natural underground caves and caverns. Cavers use specialized equipment and techniques to navigate through the cave system and discover the unique features that lie within. Caving can be a physically demanding activity that requires strength, agility, and endurance. However, it can also be a very rewarding experience that allows you to see the natural beauty of the underground world.
Caving can be dangerous, and it’s important to take precautions and follow safety guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Safety While Caving in Denver
Caving can be a dangerous activity, and it’s important to take the necessary safety precautions before embarking on a caving trip. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:
1. Never cave alone
Caving alone can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Always explore caves with at least one other person. If you are part of a group, make sure everyone knows each other’s limitations and experience levels.
2. Bring the necessary equipment
Make sure to bring all necessary gear and equipment and know how to use it properly. This includes:
- Helmet: A sturdy helmet is essential for protecting your head from falling rocks and other hazards.
- Headlamp or flashlight: A reliable headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries is necessary for seeing in the dark.
- Footwear: Appropriate footwear with good traction is important for navigating uneven terrain.
- Gloves: Gloves can help protect your hands from cuts and scrapes.
- Knee and elbow pads: Knee and elbow pads can help protect against bruises and other injuries.
- Harness or rope: A harness or rope is necessary for navigating steep drops or inclines.
3. Stay on designated paths
Stick to designated paths to avoid getting lost or injuring yourself. If there are no designated paths, take care to avoid stepping on fragile formations or disturbing wildlife. It’s also a good idea to mark your path as you go, either with chalk or reflective tape, to help you find your way back.
4. Follow the rules
Follow all rules and regulations set by the park or organization that manages the cave system. This includes any restrictions on gear or equipment, as well as guidelines on where and how to explore the cave. Some rules to keep in mind include:
- No littering: Leave the cave as you found it, taking all trash and belongings with you.
- No smoking or open flames: Caves can be flammable and smoking or using open flames can create a fire hazard.
- No touching or removing formations: Touching or removing formations can damage them and harm the delicate ecosystem of the cave.
- No loud noises: Loud noises can disturb wildlife and other cave explorers.
5. Check weather conditions
Check the weather conditions before you go caving. Heavy rain or snow can create dangerous conditions inside the cave system, including flash floods or collapses.
6. Check for hazards
Take the time to check for hazards before entering the cave. This includes checking for loose rocks, unstable terrain, and potential wildlife dangers.
7. Stay hydrated and fed
Caving can be physically demanding, so it’s important to stay hydrated and fed. Bring plenty of water and high-energy snacks to keep you fueled and hydrated throughout the excursion.
8. Know your limits
Know your limits and don’t push yourself beyond them. Caving can be physically and mentally demanding, so listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
9. Communicate with others
Communicate with your caving partners throughout the excursion. Make sure everyone is on the same page about the route, hazards, and any potential issues that may arise.
10. Be prepared for emergencies
Always be prepared for emergencies. Bring a first-aid kit and know how to use it. If someone is injured, stay calm and provide first aid while someone goes to get help.
Best Caving Spots in Denver
Denver is home to some of the best caving spots in the United States. Here are some of the top caving destinations in the area:
1. Cave of the Winds
Cave of the Winds is one of Colorado’s most popular cave systems, located just outside of Colorado Springs. The cave system offers a variety of tours, ranging from easy, family-friendly tours to more challenging adventures for experienced cavers.
One of the most popular tours is the Discovery Tour, which takes visitors on a guided walk through the cave system’s lower levels. This tour is suitable for all ages and offers plenty of opportunities to learn about the geology and history of the cave.
For those seeking a more adventurous experience, the Lantern Tour is a unique and exciting option. In this tour, visitors explore the cave by lantern light, just as early explorers did over a century ago. This tour is only available on select evenings and is best for older children and adults.
Cave of the Winds also offers a variety of outdoor attractions, including a zipline, a ropes course, and a bungee jump. These attractions provide a thrilling way to experience the beauty of the surrounding area.
2. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a unique theme park located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The park is situated on top of Iron Mountain and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The park’s main attraction is its cave system, which offers a variety of tours for visitors of all ages and experience levels. One of the most popular tours is the King’s Row Tour, which takes visitors on a guided walk through the cave system’s most spectacular formations.
In addition to the cave system, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park offers a variety of outdoor attractions, including a roller coaster, a giant swing, and a zip line. The park also has a restaurant and gift shop, making it a great place to spend a full day with family and friends.
3. Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Iron Mountain Hot Springs is a natural hot springs resort located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The resort offers 16 different pools of varying temperatures, ranging from 99°F to 108°F.
The pools are fed by a natural mineral spring, providing visitors with a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The pools are also situated in a beautiful location, with views of the surrounding mountains and Colorado River.
In addition to the pools, Iron Mountain Hot Springs also has a restaurant and a gift shop. The restaurant offers a variety of delicious food and drinks, and the gift shop offers a selection of souvenirs and other items.
Overall, Iron Mountain Hot Springs is a great place to relax and unwind after a day of caving or other outdoor activities. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a fun family outing, this natural hot springs resort is sure to delight you.
Preparing for a Caving Trip in Denver
Before embarking on a caving trip, it’s important to prepare properly. Here are some essential steps to take before your trip
1. Research the cave system
Before you head out on your caving trip, do some research on the cave system you’ll be exploring. Learn about the cave’s history, geology, and any potential hazards or challenges you may encounter. This information will help you better understand what to expect and how to prepare.
2. Dress appropriately
Caving can be a dirty and physically demanding activity, so it’s important to dress appropriately. Wear comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty, and sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support. You may also want to bring gloves and knee pads for added protection.
3. Bring the right equipment
Caving requires specialized equipment to ensure your safety and comfort. A helmet with a headlamp is essential, as are knee and elbow pads. You may also need a harness and rope system for certain cave systems, so check ahead to see what equipment is recommended for your specific trip.
4. Pack plenty of water and snacks
Caving can be a physically demanding activity, so it’s important to stay hydrated and fueled up. Pack plenty of water and high-energy snacks like trail mix or protein bars to keep you going throughout your trip.
5. Travel with a group
Caving is always best done with a group, both for safety and for the added fun of exploring with others. Make sure you have a group of experienced cavers with you, or consider hiring a guide if you’re new to caving.
6. Follow Leave No Trace principles
Caving is a delicate activity that can have a significant impact on the cave system if not done responsibly. Make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles, including packing out all of your trash and avoiding damaging any natural features.
By following these tips and doing your research ahead of time, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable caving trip. Remember to always put safety first and to respect the delicate ecosystems of the cave systems you explore.
What to Wear When Caving
Wearing the right clothing when caving is crucial for both safety and comfort. With the right gear, you can enjoy the unique challenges and rewards of caving in Denver.
Here are some tips on what to wear:
1. Moisture-Wicking Clothing
When caving, you’ll want to wear clothing that is moisture-wicking and quick-drying. Caving can be a sweaty activity, and damp clothing can lead to discomfort and even hypothermia in some cases. Choose lightweight and breathable fabrics like polyester or nylon.
2. Sturdy Shoes
Caving can be a slippery and rugged activity, so it’s important to wear sturdy shoes with good traction. Hiking boots with thick soles and good ankle support are ideal, and make sure they’re comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time.
3. Knee Pads and Gloves
Caving can involve crawling and scrambling over rough terrain, so knee pads and gloves can help protect your joints and hands from injury. Look for lightweight and durable knee pads that won’t restrict your movement, and gloves with good grip and dexterity.
Cave temperatures can be significantly cooler than the outside environment, so it’s important to wear layers that can be added or removed as needed. A moisture-wicking base layer, insulating mid-layer, and weather-resistant outer layer are all good options.
5. Helmet with Headlamp
A helmet with a headlamp is essential for caving, as you’ll need both hands free to navigate the cave system. Look for a helmet that fits snugly and securely, with a headlamp that provides bright and adjustable lighting.
6. Optional Equipment
Depending on the cave system you’re exploring, you may also need additional equipment like a harness and rope system. Check ahead to see what equipment is recommended for your specific trip.
By wearing the right clothing and equipment, you can ensure a safe and comfortable caving experience. Remember to choose lightweight and breathable fabrics, sturdy shoes with good traction, and to bring knee pads, gloves, and a helmet with a headlamp.
Caving Gear and Equipment for Denver
Caving requires specialized gear and equipment to ensure safety and success. Here are some essential pieces of caving gear:
- Helmet: A durable, well-fitting helmet is essential for protecting your head from bumps and falls.
- Headlamp: A headlamp provides hands-free lighting and is essential for navigating through the dark cave system.
- Ropes: Depending on the cave system, you may need ropes to rappel down steep drops or climb up inclines.
- Harness: A harness is necessary if you need to use ropes to navigate through the cave system.
- Carabiners: Carabiners are used to attach ropes to your harness.
- First aid kit: Bring a well-stocked first aid kit in case of injuries or emergencies.
Caving requires specialized techniques to navigate through the cave system safely and efficiently. Here are some essential caving techniques:
- Cave mapping: Mapping out the cave system as you go is essential for keeping track of where you’ve been and where you need to go next.
- Climbing and rappelling: If the cave system has steep inclines or drops, you may need to use ropes to climb up or rappel down.
- Crawling: In some parts of the cave system, you may need to crawl on your hands and knees or belly to navigate through tight spaces.
- Chimneying: Chimneying involves wedging your body between two walls and using your legs to push yourself up or down.
- Tyrolean traversing: Tyrolean traversing involves using ropes to cross a gap or chasm in the cave system.
When caving, it’s important to follow proper etiquette to ensure the safety of yourself and others, as well as to preserve the cave system for future explorers. Here are some essential caving etiquette guidelines:
- Leave no trace: Pack out all trash and waste and avoid disturbing any natural formations or wildlife.
- Follow the rules: Follow all rules and regulations set by the park or organization that manages the cave system.
- Respect other cavers: Be respectful of other cavers and their equipment. Avoid shining your headlamp in their eyes or bumping into them.
- Use caution: Use caution when navigating through the cave system and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
Cave conservation is important for preserving the unique ecosystem and geological formations found within cave systems. Here are some ways to practice cave conservation:
- Leave no trace: As mentioned earlier, it’s important to pack out all trash and waste and avoid disturbing natural formations or wildlife.
- Stay on designated paths: Stick to designated paths and avoid creating new ones to prevent erosion and damage to fragile formations.
- Avoid touching formations: Touching formations can leave oils and other substances on them that can damage their natural growth and appearance.
- Report any damage or vandalism: If you come across any damage or vandalism in the cave system, report it to the park or organization that manages the cave.
Caving can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening if proper safety precautions are not taken. Here are some essential cave safety guidelines:
- Never cave alone: Always explore caves with at least one other person.
- Bring necessary equipment: Make sure to bring all necessary gear and equipment and know how to use it properly.
- Stay on designated paths: As mentioned earlier, stick to designated paths to avoid getting lost or injuring yourself.
- Follow the rules: Follow all rules and regulations set by the park or organization that manages the cave system.
- Know your limits: Don’t push yourself beyond your physical or mental limits and always be prepared to turn back if necessary.
Potential Caving Hazards in Denver
Caving can be a thrilling and rewarding activity, but it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards involved. Here are some common hazards to watch out for when caving:
1. Physical Hazards
Caving involves navigating through tight spaces, over rough terrain, and in low light conditions. This can put a strain on your body, and you may encounter physical hazards like:
- Falling or slipping on slick surfaces
- Straining or spraining muscles or joints
- Scraping or cutting the skin on sharp rocks or cave formations
- Becoming trapped or stuck in tight spaces
To avoid physical hazards, it’s important to stay alert and focused on your surroundings and to follow proper safety protocols.
2. Environmental Hazards
Caves are complex and ever-changing environments, and you may encounter a variety of environmental hazards when caving, including:
- Flash floods or rising water levels
- Changes in air quality or gas buildup
- Rockfalls or cave-ins
- Extreme temperatures or humidity levels
- Poisonous or dangerous wildlife
To mitigate environmental hazards, it’s important to thoroughly research your cave system before your trip and to be prepared with the appropriate equipment and safety protocols.
3. Psychological Hazards
Caving can also present psychological challenges, such as:
- Claustrophobia or anxiety in tight spaces
- Fear of the dark or unknown
- Panic or disorientation in unfamiliar surroundings
To address psychological hazards, it’s important to take steps to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the experience and to work with a guide or partner who can provide support and guidance as needed.
4. Equipment Hazards
Finally, improper or faulty equipment can also present hazards when caving. Make sure you’re using properly maintained and calibrated equipment, and that you know how to use it effectively. Equipment hazards can include:
- Slipping or falling due to poor traction on shoes or boots
- Helmet or headlamp failure
- Rope or harness failure
- Inadequate or insufficient safety gear
To minimize equipment hazards, it’s important to invest in high-quality gear and to follow proper safety protocols for maintenance and use.
By understanding and preparing for the potential hazards of caving, you can enjoy a safe and rewarding experience. Be sure to stay alert, follow safety protocols, and work with an experienced guide or partner when exploring new cave systems.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Do I need previous caving experience to explore caves in Denver?
No, many of the cave systems in Denver are suitable for beginners, but it’s important to research the cave system beforehand and take necessary safety precautions.
- Are there any age restrictions for caving in Denver?
Age restrictions vary by cave system, but many allow children as young as 6 or 7 years old to explore with adult supervision.
- Can I bring my own caving gear, or do I need to rent it?
You can bring your own gear if it meets safety requirements, but some cave systems may require rented or approved gear.
- What should I do if I get lost in a cave system?
Stay calm, conserve your energy, and try to retrace your steps or follow any marked paths. If you are still lost, use a whistle or other signaling device to attract attention.
- What happens if there’s a medical emergency in the cave system?
Depending on the severity of the emergency, rescue personnel may need to be called in to assist. It’s important to have a well-stocked first aid kit and know basic first aid techniques.
Caving in Denver can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, but it’s important to take necessary safety precautions and follow proper etiquette and conservation practices. By doing so, you can enjoy the unique beauty and wonder of these cave systems while also protecting them for future generations to enjoy.