Discovered in 1869 and opened to public tours in 1881, Cave of the Winds has been a place for visitors to explore the underground world for more than 130 years. But the history of the caves goes back even further – it’s millions of years old!
Early legends of the Jicarilla Apaches, who migrated through the Pikes Peak region around 1000 AD, told of a cave in the Manitou Springs area where the Great Spirit of the Wind resided.
In 1869, a recent settler to Williams Canyon named Arthur B. Love became intrigued by a cleft in the canyon’s western wall. When he investigated the opening, he discovered a large limestone archway and a cave entrance that would later become Cave of the Winds.
The modern era of Cave of the Winds began when two brothers, John and George Pickett, went looking for new caves on a scouting trip in Williams Canyon in 1880. They discovered a small shelter cave near the limestone archway. When they lit their candles, they noticed the flames flickered in the wind blowing from a nearby crevice. When they crawled through the passageway, they emerged into a large chamber that promised a world of exploration.
That world of exploration was opened up by George Washington Snider, a stonecutter from Ohio who traveled to Colorado seeking fame and fortune. In the fall of 1880, Snider excavated passages from the Williams Canyon caves and discovered Canopy Hall. “It was as though Aladdin with his wonderful lamp had effected the magic result,” Snider wrote. Snider continued to excavate and began preparations for guided tours. Cave of the Winds has been in continuous operation since February 1881 – making it one of Colorado’s original visitor attractions! Electrical lights were switched on in the caves on July 4, 1907, and visitors began traveling to Cave of the Winds in even great numbers – first by carriage and railroad, and now by car and SUV!