17 June 1984
Most caves we’ve visited have been easy to get to. That wasn’t the case with Timpanogos Cave National Monument. If you want to visit the series of three-caves that are connected by man-made tunnels, you first have to climb a steep, winding trail that goes up a wall of the American Fork Canyon. Over a course of 1.5 miles (2.4 km), the trail rises 1,066 feet (325 meters). In other words, if you want to visit the cave, you have to put some effort into it! I’m not sure which took a worse toll on our legs, going up or coming down the trail.
IT’s 54 miles from our house to Timpanogos Cave NM.
The caves are named for the second highest mountain in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. The word Timpanogos comes from the Timpanogots Ute tribe who lived in the surrounding valleys from AD 1400. The name translates as rock (tumpi-), and water mouth or canyon (panogos).
The trail winds up a steep canyon wall.
[collage from a brochure page and a map found on Utah.com]
We paid our tour fees at the visitor center on the canyon floor, bought a 25¢ brochure to help us understand what we would be seeing on our way up to the cave, and started hiking.
Here are a few pages scanned from the brochure:
If this page is to be believed, we passed old ocean beaches on our way up.
This cross-section shows the v-shape of the canyon, which indicates that in
geologic terms the canyon is young. The caves are in a strata of deseret limestone,
dated to the Mississippian period; that’s about 360 to 325 million years ago.
This schematic shows the trail inside the cave system. Once our tour is
over, we’ll follow the trail at the top to go back down to the canyon floor.
Though the elevation gain was initially easy, it became considerably steeper further up. Luckily, we had plenty of time before our tour and could take our time and rest along the way.
A glimpse of the Salt Lake Valley from the trail to the cave.
Middle Cave was discovered in 1921.
Scenes from Middle Cave.
The “Great Heart of Timpanogos”
this is a 5½-foot (1.7 m) stalactite that weighs 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg).
Can you find the “Ballerina” amongst the plugged-up soda-straw stalactites?