Timpanogos Cave is an adventure that everyone from Utah Valley should do. We tried it today with our 3- and 6 year-olds and had a lot of fun. Several pieces of information may help you plan your trip.
1) The trail is very steep and strenuous. The hike up to the cave is only about a mile and a half, but it is pretty much straight up the mountainside. Mark, who is an excellent hiker for an almost 6 year-old, made the entire trek, and even carried the heavy backpack much of the way. He didn't complain at all. Dax, who is 3, did about half of the hiking and Dad carried him the rest of the way. Make sure that before undertaking this adventure that you have enough stamina to make this climb.
|Ancient marine fossils along the trail.|
|There IS a little bit of railing, but not much.|
2) The trail is pretty treacherous. There is a steep drop-off to one side of the trail and no railing for the majority of the hike. A few years ago, a hiker actually died on this trail. Little children must not run and should stay to the inside of the trail. If you're one of those people who like the little ones to run free while you talk to your pals about the latest sales at Rue 21, this hike is not for you. Parents must be vigilant and aware of little ones-- holding hands, at all times.
3) Timpanogos Cave actually sells passes over the phone now. Call 801.756.5238 to get your tickets. They will give you a time to arrive and start your hike (90 minutes before your tour time). Walk-ups have a wait of 1-2 hours on most summer days. You can visit the park service website for more information here.
4) There is a Junior Ranger program at Timp Cave and the rangers are awesome. Our boys spent the hour we were waiting (we didn't call ahead) doing the activity booklet. The boys are pictured below holding their rewards (Mark wanted a badge and Dax wanted a patch). In answer to the request for more information about the Junior Ranger Program, just ask for a Junior Ranger booklet. There were 4 things that every child had to do, like: Take a pledge to protect our parks, ask a ranger how he/she spends their time, and pick up trash. Then there was an under 8 section that my boys did: a maze, draw a picture of something you might see in the cave, match the animals with their names. I did all the writing for Dax, but Mark did his own. The over 8 section I didn't pay too much attention to, but Mark was doing a word search, and I noticed a few other more complicated activities. A trip through the cave IS required to become a Junior Ranger. Then just turn the booklet in to the ranger. She went over it and had the kids repeat the pledge, then offered them the badge or the patch. Note: This program is a staple of any park, so you can get Junior Ranger patches or badges at just about any state or national park.
6) You should pack plenty of water (they'll ask you about this as you buy tickets). The ranger berated the people in front of us for taking "one tiny water bottle."
7) The temperature in the cave is only 46 degrees (I thought it felt wonderful after that hike). We took jackets for the kids, and our 3 year-old was still freezing in the cave.
8) Don't forget that you have to pay $6 for a 3 day pass every time you go up American Fork Canyon. You can also buy a yearly pass for $45.
|Working on the Junior Ranger program|
Mark, 6, loved this adventure. He kept rattling on about all the things he learned and talking about how much he enjoyed it. For Dax, the day became too long. We spent about 5 hours on the mountain, and about halfway through the cave, he began asking, "When do we get to go home?" We still had the rest of the cave and the hike back down! He definitely enjoyed the the trip, but it was wearing on such a little one. We did see many other children making the trek, though.
|This is a switchback on the trail.|
We took a lot of pictures in the cave. Some were discolored due to the orange light on the camera, but we have included the best photos below.
|The Heart of Timpanogos|
|A typical cave formation.|
|Someone fed a chipmunk-- not us, though!|
|Look closely for the squirrel.|