Timpanogos Cave National Monument is a favorite destination for both locals and tourists. It offers visitors unforgettable views, both inside and outside the cave, and is conveniently located just 35 miles south of downtown Salt Lake City in American Fork Canyon.
Cave tours are only offered during the summer
Guided cave tours and the visitor center are open from late May to late September each year. Snow may be present early in the fall and late in the spring at the cave's entrance. Visitors cannot enter the cave without a tour ticket.
Tour sizes are limited to 16 people and tours can fill quickly. We visited on a Wednesday in August. Tours for the day were still open when we started, but sold out around noon. You will definitely need a reservation for weekends and holidays.
Reserve your tickets online or call (877) 444-6777 to make reservations.
Reserve the earliest tour that makes sense for your schedule. Even in the mountains, summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees (F). The earlier you start hiking, the more comfortable you will be.
Visitors must hike 1.5 miles uphill to reach the cave. It's a steep, strenuous hike. Your reservation time is the time you start the hike, and you'll be given an hour and a half to hike to the top before your tour starts. There are benches along the way and at the top of the trail. Bring plenty of drinking water.
The adults in our group varied in ages and levels of fitness, and everyone made it to the top, some of us with only minutes to spare. The girls thought the hike was tough, but none had trouble completing it.
A video of the cave tour is available at the visitor center for those who cannot or do not want to hike to the cave.
The views are spectacular
The wonders of the cave are not the only payoff for the challenging hike. The views of the canyon almost make the hike worthwhile on their own. By the time we were halfway up, we could see the mouth of the canyon and the cities beyond it. We were also lucky enough to spot a family of mountain goats near the top of the trail.
The trail is family friendly
We saw a number of families with young children on the trail to Timpanogos Cave. There are drop-offs and rock slide areas along the way, but the trail is wide and paved. The temptation to run down the trail after the cave tour is definitely more dangerous than the walk to the top. The Junior Ranger program is available here.
Strollers and wheelchairs are not allowed on the trail because of its steepness. Pets are not allowed on the trail or in the cave.
Bring a jacket
The inside of the cave is 45 degrees (F) year-round. After the hike, it felt great, but most of our group eventually put on their jackets.
Beware of bringing large backpacks or backpacks with frames. Hard-frame baby carriers and large backpacks must be left outside the cave. There is a rack for storing these packs near the top of the trail. All other backpacks must be carried on your front while in the cave. There are many narrow passages, and this helps preserve the cave's delicate features.
Do not wear any clothing or carry any gear that has ever been inside any cave or mine. This will help prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, which is killing huge numbers of bats in North America.
Expect to be amazed
Timpanogos Cave is not nearly as large as some of the other caves I've seen, but it is home to an impressive number of fascinating cave features such as stalagmites, stalactites, cave bacon, frostwork, and the swirly straws that Timpanogos Cave is especially known for, helictites.
At the end of a week, our girls had enjoyed a zip line, a ropes course, canoeing, crafts, and plenty of late-night silliness, but for many of them, Timpanogos Cave (the cave tour, not the hike) was their favorite part of Girls' Camp. If you have the chance to visit Timpanogos Cave, don't miss it.
Good to Know
Where: American Fork Canyon, Utah. On Highway 92, about 10 miles east of Interstate 15 in Utah County.
When: Late May through late September, weather permitting.
How Much: $6 per vehicle to enter American Fork Canyon. Each visitor to the cave must also purchase a ticket. Here are the rates as of July 2015:
- Adults (ages 16+) – $8
- Junior (ages 6-15) – $6
- Child (ages 3-5) – $4
- Infant (ages 0-2) – FREE, but still requires a tour ticket
How Long: 4 hours. Visitors are given 1.5 hours to reach the top of the trail. The cave tour is 45-60 minutes long. There are exhibits at the visitor center and at the top of the trail.
Amenities: Restrooms at the top and bottom of the trail. Snack bar, gift shop picnic areas and a visitor center at the bottom of the trail.