Timpanogos Caves National Monument

Timpanogos Caves National Monument

40°26’20.4″N 111°42’31.5″W

Randall Chapman | Oct 14th, 2018 | Travel


I met up with the Rock City Climbing Team for a week of climbing in American Fork Canyon over the summer and I have to say it was great to be climbing in AF again. During our week we took a rest day from climbing and visited the Timpanogos Caves National Monument, a cave system high on hill side up Timpanogos Mountain. The system of caves consists of three that were connected by blasting and digging in 1930’s. The first cave was discovered by Martin Hansen in Oct of 1887. He found it while he was cutting timber and came across mountain lion tracks. He tracked the mountain lion until he found the cave. In 1913 a second cave, known as Timpanogos Cave, was discovered on the adjacent hill side. This cave was lost for a while, likely due to a land slide, but it was rediscovered in 1921. In October of 1921, while out hunting, the grandson’s of Martin Hansen found the mouth of a third cave through binoculars from the other side of the canyon. The two bots came back with their grand father a few days later to explore the new cave.

The caves and surrounding area were signed into a national monument by President Warren G Harding in 1922. From the mid 1930’s till the start of American involvement WWII in 1942 the Work Project Administration built the visitors center and other structures in the monument as well as trails that led up to the caves from the canyon floor.

This was a great “rest day” activity (rest day in quotes because the hike up was steep though short). You have to reserve a tour a head of time but we lucked out and got in on a cancellation. There is another tour that involves more of a caving experience, one of the families in our group reserved well a head of time to do that tour and said it was amazing and worth doing. The rest of us just took the tour of the main cave. The hike up is steep, gaining over 1,000 ft of elevation in 1.5 miles, but short and gives an amazing view of the canyon. Along the way there was a ranger on the side of the trail that had bones and feathers from different birds of pray, we had a few kids with us so we stopped and he taught us about the different birds.

We got to the entrance of the and met up with our tour guide. The tour starts in the Hansen Cave, the first cave that was discovered. This was a beautiful cave but unfortunately a lot of the really cool stuff was taken from it before it was protected as a monument. The ranger described the cave and all of it’s features as well as how they formed. He told us of how it was discovered and how it has changed since people started visiting. He led us down the cave to a door, on the other side of the door there was the first part of the man maid tunnel that connected the Hansen cave to the Middle Cave.

The Middle Cave was harder to get to before the man made tunnel was dug, it was also discovered during a time when it could be better protected so it has more of the cool features. It sucks being tall in this cave but it was worth it. Once again the ranger led us through the cave to another man made tunnel.

This led to the Timpanogos Cave which was also pretty well preserved since it was lost and then found again during a time when it could be better protected. This cave had a lot of really cool features including a stalactite and a stalagmite that were inches from touching. This eventually led to the exit, or what was the enterance before the man made tunels were built.

Like I said, it was a great rest day activity and I’d highly recommend it if you’re climbing in AF Canyon. It is a bit touristy but not as bad as any of the private caves I’ve been to, definitely worth the price of admission.

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