It’s funny how you live near things and never do them…or go years between doing them, like I did with Timpanogos Caves (located in American Fork Canyon, Utah). The hike itself and going into Timpanogos Caves is one of the most gorgeous things you’ll ever do. If you are taking a trip to this area–or live close by, I highly recommend it.
It doesn’t cost anything to hike the trail, only to go into the caves. The cost ranges, with the adult tickets ending at $8. I’d highly recommend purchasing your tickets online. That way you can be assured a time. I also highly recommend going as early as possible in the summer. Me? I’m the 7 a.m. gal. Totally worth it. Most of the path is shaded when you go early, but as you come down, you’ll hit more sun. Be sure to take water!
Your ticket time is when you start at the visitor’s center. Then you have 1 1/2 hours to get up the mountain. I think it’s pretty doable for most people. Kass and I would have made it in about an hour and ten minutes had we not stopped to wait for a couple California family members. Just think–sea level home life and then climbing from 5700 feet up to 6700 feet. After the 15-year old got his second wind, they passed us and carried on like he was a mountain goat. We should have just kept going. ;)
There are many people that use this paved path to get in a good workout. It’s 1.5 miles up with a 1000 foot elevation gain. The last 3/4 of the trail is the butt kicker as it gets fairly steep along the switchbacks. This out-of-shape 50-year old body did manage to make it up there though! Slow and steady wins the race.
If you’re end game is to do the cave, stopping and admiring the scenery may not be in your best interest going up. That being said, I think that’s the best time to look at the scenery. Luckily I had two opportunities within three weeks to hike this trail. The first time was when we did our girls camp. Kristy hikes it as exercise, so I went with her and took my time going up, in part to see how I’d fair after the anemia this spring.
I enjoyed the heck out of it! I took pictures and really soaked in where I was. Sometimes I think when people hike that they are so focused on the destination that they don’t really pay attention to what’s in front of them and appreciate everything along the way. That’s my favorite thing to do. It may be slower, but oh so worth it!
I mean, c’mon. Look at the roots of these trees. Anything to survive.
On this day, I went to the half way mark in about 4o minutes. Remember, I was taking my time and taking photos. In that same time, Kristy had gone up the whole way and come back down to meet me at the half way point.
The second time I was hiking with family with our end game being the caves. I didn’t take the time for photos because I’d just done it. And there really wasn’t a lot of time for the slow pokes to take photos anyway. I did take some.
There’s a section of path that’s probably a little too dangerous to be open to the side of the mountain. The drop off must be a bit much. So they’ve made brick pillars with chains to fence off the edge. The best part is the rocks they put on top of the pillars–discourages both bird and man from getting on them. ;)
There are areas where you are not allowed to stop due to possible rock fall. Those are marked with the red and yellow lines. And if you look at the right photo, this was the butt kicker part. You can see the bathroom in the upper right. It blends with the scenery.
And if you’re really lucky, you’ll run into some mountain animal life. I happened to catch this mule deer down below the path. I quietly took out my iPhone (the least noticeable and movement on my end) and snapped this photo. A lady was doing her power walk up and I quietly told her there was a deer. She said she’s walked this path so many times (for exercise) and has never seen a deer. I really think it’s because they are focused on the path and not what’s around them.
So truly, take in all the beauty of this hike–whether going up or down. It’s amazing. And as I’m typing this, Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ has come on Spotify. Couldn’t have been more timely.
Our tour guide was so good. He started off with this [paraphrased] quote from Edward Abbey:
A man on foot will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.
I know getting out and ‘hiking’ isn’t something everyone can do, but there are plenty of simple hikes that are easy for people. I’ve done a few that are maybe a mile and they are flat. Some are even wheelchair accessible (Hello Glacier NP’s Trail of the Cedars). I think even getting up to the mountains (or wherever)–by car–and sitting out in nature for a while without the walk or hike counts too. Just get outside. It’s therapeutic. Be one with nature. ;)
(all this talk is making me want to go camping now, by the way.)
If I could remember all the details of stalagmites and stalactites and this amazing cave, I would tell you all about it. But you can read much more information than I could ever remember on the NPS site mentioned above. Instead I’ll just share some of the photos I took in the caves. They aren’t perfect. But you don’t have a lot of time and there isn’t a lot of light. And forget about a tripod.
It’s a 45 minute tour and you go through some narrow spaces and do some ducking and maneuvering from time to time. Check the website for information on what you can take in, how to carry infants, etc. It’s also about 45 degrees inside so you may want a light jacket. For me, it felt wonderful. I’d brought a jacket and never felt the need to put it on. But I’m like that. ;)
So many stalactites and stalagmites. This photo on the left below shows ‘the heart’ of Timpanogos Caves. It’s about 5 1/2 feet tall and weighs 4000 pounds.
One other note, it’s pretty much one way in and one way out. When you come out the other side of the mountain, you’ll hike back around to connect back to the path you came up. There is one restroom that you can hit before going up the last stretch to go in the cave. If you need to go potty after you get out, you have to hike down and over to it and then back up if you want to meet up with your party to go down.
I’ve said it before here, the Alpine Loop–which includes this cave and goes up, over and around to Sundance–is one of the most beautiful places to see. So much to do! Here are a few other things that I’ve posted about before.
I think that when people think of vacationing in Utah that their minds immediately go to places like Zion, Arches, and Bryce–the ‘Big 5’ Utah National Parks, which are amazing. But the north has spectacular stuff too. :) And all I kept thinking while going through the cave was how on earth did this get discovered so long ago way up on the mountain side??