Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Martin Hansen He followed mountain lion tracks and discovered an underground mystery, the legend goes. Martin Hansen, a Mormon settler from American Fork, happened upon a cave with colorful deposits, beautiful formations, and clear underground pools in 1887. The cave is named Hansen Cave, and it along with two other caves discovered later make up Timpanogos Cave National Monument.

Timpanogos Cave The steep mountainside of American Fork canyon is the setting for these limestone caves. Water, time, and rock formed the spectacular underground scenery that exists inside. Natural forces created the caves as the Wasatch Range grew 30 million years ago. Sedimentary rock was lifted and fractured along fault lines. Naturally occurring carbonic acid then dissolved the rock, leaving a hole that filled with water and later drained. The underground water dissolved rock and left mineral deposits and forming crystals of different sizes and shapes—a process that continues today.

See formations called draperies, popcorn, helicites, and flowstone, as well as the more well-known stalactites and stalagmites. Water trickling down an inclined ceiling forms draperies, most less than one inch thick. Popcorn is made by water entering rock's pores or seeping down rock walls, leaving a bumpy surface. The most colorful and delicate formations in the caves, helicites, are like hollowed straws through which water traveled and left a small crystal deposit at the end. The colors of the rock are varied by iron, nickel, manganese, and other minerals.

Timpanogos Cave Trail A short but strenuous hike of 1.5 miles is required to reach the cave, located 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. (The round trip through the cave and back to the trailhead is about 3.5 miles and takes about 3 hours. Trail details.)

Temperatures inside the caves are about 45 degrees Fahrenheit so a light jacket is advised. The cave is open mid-May to mid-October, funding and weather permitting. Guided tours are led by park rangers. Tickets must be purchased at the visitor center before hiking to the cave. You may purchase tickets up to 30 days in advance with a credit card by calling the monument. Advance tickets may also be purchased in person at the visitor center. On the day of tour, tickets may be purchased until the tours are filled.

Cutaway showing cave system Timpanogos Cave is located off I-15 up American Fork Canyon. Take Exit 284, turn east onto State Highway 92, and go 10 miles to the monument. There are picnic areas along American Fork Creek. Private and public campgrounds are located in and around the monument, which is surrounded by the Uinta National Forest and three neighboring state parks, where hiking trails, fishing, and other recreation is available. Accommodations and services are located in nearby cities of American Fork and Lehi.

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