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Mt. Timpanogos Cave
Timpanogos Cave is a National Monument that is actually comprised of three caves which are connected by two man-made tunnels. The three caves are Hansen's Cave, Middle Cave, and Timpanogos Cave.

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For Families:

Our family has hiked up to the caves several times, so it can be done.

On the trail, there are numbered markers embedded in the asphalt every 100 feet. Our children had a blast looking for each marker, which made the hike up easier as they looked for the little gold discs.

You should take a few things into consideration as you plan this activity.

The first is that the hike up the mountain is steep, and there are some major dropoffs. The path is paved, wide, and well-maintained, so this is only a problem if a child doesn't watch where they are going, or gets to running too fast on the way down.

The second is that the children should absolutely not touch the formations in the cave, so if your child has an issue with keeping his or her hands to themselves, you might postpone the hike until they are older, or perhaps a major pre-tour lecture and/or a bribe will help avoid the fines you'll get. The ranger will talk to everyone before the tour, but many young children don't understand what the ranger is talking about when he says don't touch the formations. Translate that to "don't touch the rocks, the walls, the pretty things you see, etc."

The third is that if your child takes a dislike to the cave, the dark, or the enclosed space, you will still have to finish the tour with the upset child. You might want to be prepared with a favorite blankie or whatever, since no food is allowed — just water.


Hansen's Cave is the natural entrance, and is the entrance visitors use today. There are several stories as to how the caves were discovered. One of the most widely accepted says that in 1887, Martin Hansen was cutting wood in American Fork Canyon and ran across some cougar tracks. He followed the tracks to the cave. He wisely chose not to enter the cave at that time but later returned and explored the absolutely stunning cave and its formations. Later on, this cave was actually mined for flowstone before being preserved in the National Monument.

Middle Cave can be reached by one of two man-made tunnels. The tunnels were created in the 1930s, ca. 1937. This cave has some unique formations and a small lake.

Timpanogos cave is where the tour exits, and is considered by many to be the most beautiful cave of the three. The cave was discovered around 1913 by a pair of boys who were exploring in the area. It contains pools of water and the formation known as the "Heart of Timpanogos." This cave was not mined commercially.

The cave is perhaps best known for helictites, the curved version of a stalactite. This relatively rare formation occurs frequently here. Other common formation in the cave include stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and draperies. Sections of the cave also follow a fault line.

The cave is located on the slopes of Mt. Timpanogos' northern flank in American Fork Canyon. The hike from the visitor's center to the cave entrance gains over 1,000 ft. Visitors should allow ample time for the walk up. The National Park Service claims a 1-1/2 hour hiking time up to the entrance, which is very accurate estimate for most visitors.

Special tours of other areas not normally visited are occasionally given. Additional information can be obtained from the visitor's center or from the Timpanogos Cave National Monument website. You can find information about the caves, and make reservations for tours. The monument is closed in winter due to snow, and summer weekend tours frequently sell out. You can purchase tickets up to a month in advance.

As a side note, there are additional caves in the area. Please respect the parks boundaries and rules.

Remember to take into consideration the high altitude of the Salt Lake valley, which is about 4300 feet above sea level. As you drive up to the Timpanogos Cave trailhead, you will go up considerably in altitude. Elevation at the visitor center is 5500 feet, and it is 6700 feet at the cave entrance. The trail to the cave is a series of switchbacks and generally a steep trail up to the entrance. So, not recommended to people prone to altitude sickness, or with heart conditions... also, not a hike for the casual tourist wearing flip-flops or heels.

Location: American Fork Canyon, (Highway 92) South of Point of the Mountain. The National Monument is on the South side of the road on the north slope of Mt. Timpanogos.


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