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Timpanogos Cave

The Timpanogos Cave hike combines a scenic and strenuous mountainside trail with the unique experience of exploring a dark, subterranean world full of fascinating formations. Access to the cave requires purchase of cave tour tickets; however, hikers may hike the paved trail to the cave entrance without tour tickets. The trail is quite strenuous, with 1,065 feet of elevation gain in 1.5 miles. Hikers should be in good physical condition before attempting the hike. Those uncomfortable with heights may want to avoid this trail, and children should be watched closely near the many exposed cliff edges along the way.

Trailhead

The hike to Timpanogos Cave begins at the Timpanogos Cave visitor center in American Fork Canyon:

  1. Take Exit 284 from I-15 onto Hwy 92/Timpanogos Highway.
  2. Drive east on the Timpanogos Highway for 9.8 miles into American Fork Canyon to the Timpanogos Cave visitor center on the right side of the road (40.443771, -111.705702).

The Hike

For hikers with advanced reservations to tour the cave, it is important to show up to the Timpanogos Cave visitor center at least 15 minutes before your scheduled start time. Hikers without reservations may be able to purchase tickets the same day; however, availability is limited, and the tours are often sold out on busy weekends. Check with the Timpanogos Cave visitor center for more information.

After picking up your tickets at the visitor center, begin hiking on the trail immediately east. A park ranger is stationed here to give you a quick orientation of what to expect and to make sure you are prepared with enough water and a jacket for inside the cave. Beyond the entry checkpoint, the trail begins the long, gradual climb up the steep mountainside. Some sections of the trail are marked with a yellow line, indicating that hikers should not stop due to risk of rock falls. Many benches are located in safe spots along the trail to rest your legs and catch your breath. There are several exhibits along the trail about the local geology and wildlife. A brochure available in the visitor center explains the numbered signs along the trail. 

Further up, the trail passes straight through large cliffs via two unique tunnels. The views of American Fork Canyon are spectacular all along the trail. Signs along the trail mark your progress to keep you motivated.

A metal storage box is located near the top of the trail. Baby carriers or hard-framed backpacks need to left here before continuing to the cave entrance. Only small, soft-sided backpacks are allowed in the cave. The exit trail at the other end of the cave passes back by this box for those who need to retrieve items after the cave tour.

Once at the cave entrance, park rangers accept your cave ticket, and your tour will begin shortly. You may have to wait a little while, depending on how fast you made the hike. The park service anticipates that hikers will take as long as 90 minutes to reach the cave entrance. Faster hikers may get lucky and be put into an earlier cave tour if there is room.

The cave tours are in small groups led by knowledgeable park rangers who teach you all about the history and science of the cave. Be prepared for plenty of crouching, bending, ducking and twisting as you are led from room to room in the cool, dark confines of Timpanogos Cave. Be careful not to touch any of the formations, and follow all directions for your safety and to preserve the cave. After about one hour, the tour ends at the cave exit. A trail returns hikers back to the backpack storage box near the cave entrance and then back down the main trail to the visitor center.

Round trip hiking distance including the cave tour is approximately 3.5 miles.

Rules and Regulations

  • No pets allowed.
  • No littering.
  • No strollers.
  • No running/jogging.
  • No feeding wildlife.
  • No collecting of natural and historical objects.

Special Considerations

  • A special fee is required to park anywhere in American Fork Canyon. Passes can be purchased at the fee booth near the mouth of the canyon or at one of several self-service pay stations throughout the canyon. A one-three day pass is $6, with weekly and annual passes also available. The America the Beautiful interagency parks pass is also accepted here.
  • Cave tour tickets are are required to access the cave. Advance reservations are strongly recommended. Tickets can be purchased at www.recreation.gov, and more information is available on the Timpanogos Cave National Monument website at www.nps.gov/tica/.
  • Pack plenty of water as temperatures can exceed 100 degrees in the summer time. A water bottle filling station is available at the visitor center, but no drinking water is available along the trail or at the cave entrance.
  • The inside of the cave stays at a constant 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and the tour inside the cave lasts about one hour. Be sure to pack a jacket, even on a hot day.
  • Baby carriers and solid frame backpacks are not allowed in the cave. A box is available near the cave entrance to store them while you are in the cave; however, it is not secured or watched.
  • Restroom facilities are available at the visitor center and near the cave entrance.
  • Small, cramped conditions exist inside the cave that may make those with claustrophobic tendencies uncomfortable.
  • Use caution near numerous exposed cliff edges along the paved path.

Credits

This trail guide is provided by Backcountry Post.