Timpanogos Cave National Monument was a real treat to visit. Not only were the cave formations spectacular to look at, the tough walk up was a great workout. The caves and visitor center are open between May and October depending on weather conditions. Four hours are recommended for the hike up and down and the cave tour.
We booked our tickets online the day before for a ranger guided tour through the cave. Admission is US$8 for adults as of August 2016. We took the short but scenic drive from Salt Lake City through American Fork Canyon to the visitor center. There was a toll booth along the way but visitors heading only to the cave don’t have to pay it. It costs US$6 for a three day pass for those driving the entire length of the Alpine Loop Scenic Drive through the canyon. The drive is 20 miles long through the canyon, which is part of the Uinta National Forest.
When we arrived at the visitor center, Gönül decided not to do the tour because she injured her ankle a few days earlier. She found a picnic area across the street and relaxed while Martin and I hiked the steep 1 ½ miles up to the cave’s entrance
The path up Mount Timpanogos is the only way up to the cave. There are no elevators or cable cars, and going up can get exhausting. The ranger at the visitor center recommended lots of water and at least an hour and a half to walk up. It took us roughly 45 minutes.
There are plenty of places to stop and sit on the way up and to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Touring the Cave
Once we reached the entrance to the cave, we met with a very nice ranger named Nancy who chatted with us while we waited for our tour to begin. Once inside, we were told the story of the discovery of the first cave by Martin Hansen in 1887. Two other caves were discovered in 1913 (Timpanogos Cave) and 1921 (Middle Cave).
Cave tours lasting just over an hour begin near the original entrance found by Martin Hansen, continue through Middle Cave, and finish in Timpanogos Cave before exiting. The most fascinating features and the fragile helictites, but cave bacon, cave popcorn, stalactites, and stalagmites can also be found.
Getting through the cave was easy. There were a few slippery spots along the way and some places we had to watch our heads. Nobody in the group felt claustrophobic although there were some tight spots to navigate.
Overall the tour was excellent and our guide, Nancy, had a contagious enthusiasm. We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the cave. The views on the hike are also worth the trip.