Timpanogos Cave National Monument is an adventure that everyone from Utah Valley should definitely do at least once in their life. We have visited this cave a few times, even with children as young as 3 years old, and we always have a lot of fun. Here are several pieces of information to help you plan your trip.
Timpanogos Cave is not easily accessible. The trail is very steep and strenuous. The hike up to the cave is only about 1.5 miles, but it is pretty much straight up the mountainside. Our oldest, who is an excellent hiker for a 6 year-old, made the entire trek, and even carried the heavy backpack much of the way. He didn’t complain at all. Our youngest, 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. We recommend 5 and up, unless your kids have hiked quite often before this.
Steep Drop Offs
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, this hike is not for you. Parents must be vigilant and aware of little ones– holding hands, at all times.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument sells tour tickets online now. You can make reservations 30 days in advance up to 1 hour before the tour. After that, the online window closes, and any extra tickets are sold at the Visitor Center. There are usually no extra tickets, so we highly recommend buying tickets online. Walk-ups have a wait of 1-2 hours on most summer days, or no chance of visiting at all. You can visit the park service website for more information here.
The tickets are the time to begin your hike up the mountainside. So if you purchase 9 am tickets, this is when you pick them up at the Visitor Center and start on the trail.
What to Take
You should pack plenty of water. This hike can extremely hot in the summer, and the rangers berated the people in front of us for taking “one tiny water bottle.” So make sure to take lots of water for everyone to stay hydrated.
The temperature inside the cave is only 46 degrees all year long. I thought it felt wonderful after that hot hike. We took jackets for the kids and mom, and our 3 year-old was still freezing in the cave. Bring appropriate jackets or layers for those in your family who will need it.
Wear good shoes. You will want comfortable shoes for hiking, but also shoes that will keep you steady while walking through the cave. It can be a little bumpy inside.
Junior Ranger Program
There is a Junior Ranger program at Timp Cave and the rangers are awesome. Our boys spent the hour we were waiting doing the activity booklet. Just ask for a Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitor Center. There were 5 things that every child has to do to complete the program: tour the cave, complete the booklet pages for the child’s age, take a pledge to protect our parks, ask a ranger how he/she spends their time, and pick up trash.
Junior Ranger booklets always have leveled pages, so younger children don’t ned to complete as much as the older kids. We always help our littlest kids write until they are in school. Our teenager still enjoys completing the Junior Ranger program because it helps us all learn about the park we are visiting, and he loves earning a badge/patch.
The tour through the cave lasts about an hour inside the cave. The rangers are very knowledgeable and give great information about the history of the cave, as well as the geological features of the cave. This cave is narrow and small compared to some caves in the US, but it is still a neat cave to explore. It is very dark inside the cave, so make sure to consider children’s reactions in small spaces or the dark.
Timpanogos Cave Tours are only offered from May-October in good weather.
The cave has special events. They offer different classes and programs all the time. Check out their monthly calendar here. We have tried the fishing program through Timpanogos Cave, and absolutely loved it! Our boys all caught fish, and we had fun chatting with the rangers. So make sure to take advantage of the fun programs at Timp Cave.
Our boys that have been 5 and older when visiting Timpanogos Cave National Monument love this adventure. For our younger children, the day becomes too long and strenuous on them. Plan on about 4-5 hours on the mountain, including the hike, the cave tour, the Junior Ranger program, and anything else you might end up doing. We see many children make the trek, but our recommendation is for ages 5 and older.
If you have some extra time, we also recommend visiting the Canyon Nature Trail, which is just across the street from Timpanogos Cave. It is a fun trail by the river with a few bridges. We always like this easy hike.
If you visit Timpanogos Cave National Monument, the fee to American Fork Canyon is waived. Make sure to tell them at the booth. But if you plan to do other adventures in the canyon, please pay the day use fee or use your national parks pass. These fees help keep our canyons looking beautiful.