If you’re looking for a fun day trip in Northern Utah, consider visiting Timpanogos Cave National Monument. It’s Located in the Wasatch Mountains about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City.
You’ll find Timpanogos Cave a fun and unique place to visit in Utah. Enjoy views of American Fork Canyon as you hike the trail to the cave, then spend time learning about the caves on a guided tour!
Strollers or wheeled vehicles are not allowed on the trail or in the cave. But the Visitor Center is accessible to wheeled vehicles and offers video programs and exhibits about the cave.
Usually the trail and cave tours open in May and close in October, but dates change based on weather, snowpack, and trail damage each year. Always check the website for the most current information about opening and closing dates.
Use our Utah Packing Lists to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting any time of year! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!
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Visiting Timpanogos Cave National Monument
Here’s some basic information about visiting Timpanogos Cave National Monument located in American Fork Canyon, Utah.
Entrance Fee: No entrance pass is required for visiting Timpanogos Cave National Monument, the Canyon Nature Trail, or Swinging Bridge Picnic Area.
There is also no fee for taking your car beyond this Utah National Monument to simply drive along the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway.
**If you plan to stop at any points of interest, recreation sites, or picnic areas beyond the Monument, you must pay the American Fork Canyon fee. Stop at the US Forest Service information station at the mouth of the canyon and pay the fee to use the sites in the area surrounding the Monument.
Or display your US National Park pass when stopped at any site in American Fork Canyon. The US Forest Service honors all of the National Park passes.
Cave Tour Fees: A ticket must be purchased to enter the cave system. Timpanogos Cave National Monument no longer accepts cash or checks so debit or credit card only!! Read more details below about the cave tours and making reservations.
Operating Hours: The monument is open seasonally, typically from late May to early October. Dates and tour times can change year to year based on weather, snowpack, and trail damage so always check the website for the most current information.
Weather: Be prepared for current weather conditions. Summer temperatures can reach over 100 degrees F on the trail. Spring or fall storms can bring in cold weather quickly.
Storms can bring lightning, strong wind or heavy rain that can dislodge rock. Be aware of the striped rock fall zone – don’t stop here! There are places rocks fall most frequently, and you don’t want to be in them when rocks fall.
When there is lightning overhead the cave trail is closed. If you’re still hiking when the lightning comes in:
- Do not stand under lone trees for shelter.
- Do not stand in open areas where you might be the tallest object around (these are often the rock fall areas).
- If you are close enough, return to the visitor center.
Wildlife: You’ll see squirrels and chipmunks, but do not feed them (no matter how cute they are or how much they beg). They are wild animals and they do bite.
Rattlesnakes are also common in the area. They usually will not bite unless they feel threatened. If you see a rattlesnake, leave them alone, give them plenty of space, and report their location to a ranger.
The best thing you can do is watch that you don’t put your hands and feet anywhere you can’t see like under a bush or rock. These are areas where rattlesnakes like to live so if you reach there they may feel threatened and bite to defend their space.
Pets: Pets are not allowed on the cave trail, inside the cave, or inside the Visitor Center. All dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at the Monument parking and picnic areas.
Directions to Timpanogos Cave
GPS directions aren’t always accurate. Sometimes it will direct you to use the Scenic Loop taking over the mountain near Sundance Resort, but this way will take longer than using the directions below.
From I-15: Take Exit 284 (Alpine-Highland) and head east on State Highway 92. Drive about 10 miles to the monument.
From US 40 or US 189: If you’re coming from Heber or Provo Canyon, drive to the end of Provo Canyon and turn west onto Orem 800 North (UT 52). After 2.4 miles turn right on State Street. After 3.8 miles turn onto Pleasant Grove 100 East. Stay on this road for about five miles. The road turns into Canyon Road and takes you to the mouth of American Fork Canyon. Turn right into the canyon and drive to the monument.
Alpine Loop Scenic Drive: You can also travel the scenic drive from Provo Canyon. It’s a beautiful mountain drive, but it’s a narrow and winding road so it will take considerably more time to make the drive. Buses and large vehicles over 30 feet are not allowed on the Alpine Loop. Also note this road is closed in the winter.
This is a beautiful Utah Scenic Drive, especially in the fall. If you have time for this drive, we recommend it!
Is Timpanogos Cave Worth Visiting?
Yes, Timpanogos Cave is worth a visit! With stunning formations and fascinating geological features, the caves are a unique natural wonder. Guided tours are informative and engaging, giving visitors a closer look at the cave’s beauty.
Hiking to the cave entrance is also a great experience, with amazing views of the mountains and canyon.
The hike to the cave entrance, however, involves steep switchbacks and a significant elevation gain. Visitors should be prepared with appropriate footwear, water, and sun protection.
Timpanogos Cave Tours
The caves may only be entered with a guided tour led by park rangers. They are offered multiple times a day from May to October.
Plan 3 to 4 hours for the cave tour and hike: 1.5 hours to hike up, an hour in the caves, and up to 1 hour for the hike down.
After hiking to the cave entrance, you’ll walk 1/3 mile inside the cave for the tour. There are several sets of stairs and places you must bend and twist to navigate through the cave.
Timpanogos Cave Tour Reservations
It’s best to make Timpanogos Cave reservations online in advance. Tickets can be purchased up to 30 days before your visit. Each tour is limited to 16 people.
Cave tours usually sell out in advance so it’s best to buy them online ahead of time. People are often disappointed when arriving at the Visitor Center hoping to buy tickets and the tours are all sold out.
All persons entering the cave must have a ticket, including infants.
You must have your ticket before hiking to the cave. Tickets cannot be purchased at the cave entrance.
Tours begin and end at the Visitor Center. The time you purchase your ticket for is the time you pick that ticket up at the Visitor Center to begin the hike.
Due to the small waiting area just outside the caves, you must wait until your tour time before hiking to the cave.
Hiking to Timpanogos Cave
The 1.5 mile long trail to reach the caves is steep and strenuous. The paved trail climbs 1,092 feet above the Visitor Center to an elevation of 6,730 feet. The round-trip hike and tour takes about three hours.
Summer temperatures on the trail can reach over 100 degrees F! It’s recommended to wear sturdy hiking shoes, stay hydrated by taking plenty of water to drink (hydration pack or refillable water bottles), and use sunscreen.
The caves are around 45 degrees F (11oC) year round, so a light jacket or long-sleeved shirt is recommended. The trail and cave features are electrically lit, but bring a flashlight if you like.
Because of the steep incline of the trail, strollers and other wheeled vehicles are not allowed. Canes needed for mobility are allowed in the cave.
You can use a baby backpack or carrier for hiking to the caves but external frame backpacks (including baby carriers) are prohibited in the cave. Infants may be carried through the cave in front packs.
Eating snacks along the trail is ok, but food or beverages are not allowed inside the caves. Benches are available along the cave trail.
Taking pictures in the cave is allowed, but no tripods or monopods are allowed.
Items NOT permitted in the cave: Walking sticks, baby strollers, pets, food, candy, tobacco, or drink.
Timpanogos Cave Guided Cave Tour
The most popular tour is the Timpanogos Cave tour that lasts 55 minutes and takes you through Hansen Cave, Middle Cave, and Timpanogos Cave. Children under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
Timpanogos Cave Lantern Tour
You’ll spend an hour with a ranger on a guided lantern tour to experience what it would have been like for early explorers traveling through the cave in the dark.
The Lantern Tour is only for ages 7 years and older, and anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
You’ll need to begin the hike for this tour at 7:00 or 7:15 am.
Lanterns will be provided after you complete the hike, do not bring your own.
Timpanogos Cave Introduction to Caving Tour
You’ll learn all about caving safely on this guided tour with a ranger. The tour lasts 1.5 hours and is considered strenuous. Participants must be in good physical condition because you’ll need to scramble and even crawl on the trail leading to Hansen Cave Lake.
The Introduction to Caving Tour is limited to 5 people ages 14 years and older (those 14 and 15 must be accompanied by an adult).
Here’s the list of items you’ll need to bring for this tour:
- Clean rubber-dipped cloth or leather gloves (not suede)
- Good close-toed hiking shoes
- Drinking water
- Sweatshirt or jacket (cave temperature is 45 degrees F)
- Long pants are REQUIRED and long sleeves are recommended in addition to the jacket
- PROHIBITED: any boots, clothing, gear, or camera that have been in any other cave or mine, any time!
- The monument will provide caving helmets and head lamps
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Activities
Here’s a list of the things you can at or near the Monument after you’re done with the hike and cave tour!
Timpanogos Cave Ranger Programs
Evening Ranger Programs and the Junior Ranger Program are offered every Saturday at the Visitor Center beginning Memorial Day into September. Check the Timpanogos Cave Event Calendar for the latest dates and times.
- Hawkwatch Evening and Junior Ranger Programs
- Build-A-Bat Evening and Jr. Ranger Programs
- Dark Sky Star Party/Evening Program
Timpanogos Cave Picnic Areas
There are two picnic areas in the Monument that don’t require the American Fork Canyon fee:
- River View Picnic Area – across the street from the Visitor Center
- Swinging Bridge Picnic Area – .25 miles down the canyon on the north side of the road
More picnic areas are available up the canyon, but you’ll need to pay the fee at the entrance booth to the canyon in order to stop and use those other sites.
Scenic Drive Near Timpanogos Cave
The Alpine Loop Scenic Drive is a must-do if you have the time. You’ll be treated to mountain views, lakes, a river and springs found along this road through American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon.
You don’t need the American Fork Canyon pass if you simply drive the road. But if you plan to stop for picnicking, hiking, taking pictures, etc. then you’ll need to get the pass at either the Aspen Grove or American Fork fee stations. Or display the National Park Pass if you have one.
This 20-mile paved road is open from approximately late May to late October. Snow closes part of the road for the rest of the year.
In the fall, Alpine Loop Scenic Drive is a terrific place to see fall foliage, but the road will get crowded. We recommend early morning to avoid the crowds!
It’s a narrow road with sharp turns so it’s not recommended for vehicles more than 30 feet long.
Recreational activities in the area along the scenic drive include camping, fishing, ATV riding and hiking in the summer with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling in the winter.
A camera is a must on this drive! There are short detours to lakes and natural springs, plus views of Mount Timpanogos you’ll want to photograph along the way.
Several campgrounds along the highway are available for overnight stays. There are numerous day use picnic areas along the route next to the river.
Parking and restrooms are provided in a few areas along, and various trailheads offer a chance for a short hikes.
Cellphone service is spotty along the Alpine Loop, so a downloaded Google map or a physical map to navigate through the area is useful.
Camping at Timpanogos Cave
Within the monument itself, there are NO campgrounds. Farther up American Fork Canyon you’ll find sites for campground camping, RV camping, and group camping.
You’ll want to make a reservation for camping in the American Fork Canyon area.
Utah Bucket List
To help make your trip planning easier, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of must-do activities that belong on every Utah Bucket List: things to see, do and taste all around the state! Grab the free download by clicking the graphic below!