Timpanogos Cave National Monument sits high in the Wasatch Mountains, on the north slope of Mt. Timpanogos. Timpanogos Cave is comprised of three limestone caverns connected by man-made tunnels. A short but strenuous hike of 1.5 miles is required to reach the cave, located 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. As visitors climb to the Timpanogos Cave entrance they are offered incredible views of American Fork Canyon. Temperatures inside the caves are about 45-degrees Fahrenheit, so a light jacket is advised.
Timpanogos Caves’ formations – stalactites, stalagmites, dripstone, and flowstone are the result of calcium carbonate and other minerals seeping into the groundwater of the cave. Timpanogos Cave National Monument is open mid-May to mid-Oct., (funding and weather permitting). Tickets must be purchased at the visitor center before hiking to the Timpanogos Cave. You may purchase tickets in advance or the “day of” with a credit card by calling the Timpanogos Cave National Monument on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Advance tickets may be wise for weekends and/or holidays.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument was established in 1922 to protect and provide public access to a series of exotic caves in American Fork Canyon. The interior of the caves is decorated with a colorful variety of dripstone, flowstone, and rimstone formed by minerals in the ground water that enters the caves.
The monument consists of three caves connected by manmade tunnels. Hansen Cave was the first to be discovered, in 1887, followed by Timpanogos Cave in 1915 and Middle Cave in 1921. During the 1890s Hansen Cave was stripped of most of its onyx and other mineral deposits by crews working for a Chicago onyx company. After the other two caves were discovered, local groups and the Forest Service were determined to protect them from the same fate. Designation of the site as a national monument provided the necessary protection.
A number of improvements have been made over the years to make the cave more accessible to the public. A trail was constructed and electric lights were installed in the cave in 1921, and a campground, parking area, and ranger’s residence were built in 1922. These facilities have been upgraded periodically, and new improvements were made as well, such as the installation in 1923 of a telephone system between the base and the cave entrance in order to better coordinate tour groups and guides. The three separate caves were joined by short tunnels in the 1930s, allowing a more efficient, one-way flow of visitors.
Though the cave originally was under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service from 1922 to 1934, and then the National Park Service from 1934 on, it was actually operated for twenty-four years by the Timpanogos Outdoor Committee, a group of local businessmen. Under this unique arrangement, the cave superintendent was not officially an employee of the government, although he wore an official uniform and lived in a house provided by the federal government. The committee operated the cave as a not-for-profit enterprise, using the proceeds from cave admissions to maintain and upgrade the site. In 1947 the National Park Service assumed complete control over the cave operation and has continued to manage it to the present. Timpanogos Cave National Monument continues to draw thousands of visitors each year during its months of operation–May through October.
VISITATION: Over 100,000 visitors per year. The majority of people visit the caves between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Tours sizes are limited to 20 people per tour.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument
R.R. 3, Box 200
American Fork, UT 84003
Telephone: Visitor Center/Information: (801) 756-5238
OPERATING HOURS: The cave and cave trail are open from early May to November, weather permitting. The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m
CLIMATE/CLOTHING: Warm jackets or sweaters are recommended for the cave, comfortable walking shoes, and drinking water.
DIRECTIONS: Exit I-15 North or South at Hwy. 92. Follow Hwy. 92 east 10 miles (16 km) to the national monument. The closest major airport is Salt Lake City International Airport, and is 45 minutes away by automobile.
FEES, COST, RATES: Cave tours are $6 for ages 16 and older, $5 for ages 6 to 16, and $3 for 5 and younger. Cave Tour price 1/2 off for Golden Age and Golden Access cardholders.
Cave tour tickets frequently sell out every day. Tickets may be purchased up to 30 days in advance by calling the Visitor Center at (801) 756-5238 and using your Mastercard or Visa. Tickets may also be purchased at the Visitor Center up to the day of the tour, if still available. Tickets only sold at Visitor Center.
$3 per car entrance fee to enter the canyon. Golden Eagle, Age and Access Passports are honored.
FACILITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES:
Programs/Activities: Hour long guided tours through the cave. The cave entrance is 1.5-mile walk from the Visitor Center. The trail rises 1,065 feet (324.6m). It will take an average of three hours to hike and tour the cave. 1/4 mile self-guided nature hike also available. Evening Programs every Friday, Saturday and Monday throughout the summer. Picnicking, fishing, exhibits and video program are also available. Jr. Ranger programs Saturday mornings. Special cave tours including Introduction to Caving are offered daily. Call Visitor Center for more information and locations.
Lodging and Camping Facilities: Camping is available in the surrounding Uinta National Forest. U.S. Forest Service campground information is available by calling (801)785-3563. A wide range of lodging is available in Salt Lake City and Provo, UT.
Food/Supplies: Snack bar and gift shop, located next to Visitor Center are open cave tour season. Groceries and gas available 6 miles away from park.
Accessibility: The Visitor Center, concessions, restrooms and drinking fountains are accessible. Video programs are close captioned. 5 Senses Nature Trail is accessible, but has some steep paved areas.
Bookstore: There are book sales at Visitor Center operated by Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, a nonprofit organization.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES/PARK USE:
Many recreational opportunities available in the area including backpacking, day hikes, camping, fishing, skiing and scenic views and drives, rockclimbing, and horseback riding. Sundance Resort host Friday evening programs in partnership with national monument and Uinta National Forest.