High on the steep rocky slopes of American Fork Canyon in the shadow of mighty Mount Timpanogos in Utah‘s Wasatch Range are three moderate-sized limestone caves: Hansen Cave, Middle Cave and Timpanogos Cave. These exquisitely beautiful caverns are decorated with a dazzling display of helictites and anthodites in a variety of fantastic shapesThe Timpanogos Cave National Monument is comprised of these three limestone caverns connected by man-made tunnels. Each cavern has unique colors and formations. Helictites and anthodites are just a few of the many dazzling formations to be found in the many chambers. A short but strenuous hike of 1.5 miles is required to reach the cave, located 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. As visitors climb to the Timpanogos Cave entrance, on a hike gaining over 1,000 feet in elevation, they are offered incredible views of American Fork Canyon. Temperatures inside the caves are about 45-degrees Fahrenheit, so a light jacket is advised.
Nature & Science
High on the steep rocky slopes of American Fork Canyon in the shadow of mighty Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range are three moderate-sized limestone caves: Hansen Cave, Middle Cave and Timpanogos Cave. These exquisitely beautiful caverns are decorated with a dazzling display of helictites and anthodites in a variety of fantastic shapes. In the tradition of the National Park Service, Timpanogos Cave National Monument preserves these caves and all their fragile underground wonders for you and for others in the years ahead, to enjoy.
Some of the earth’s most powerful and most delicate forces combined to create the wonders of Hansen, Middle and Timpanogos caves beginning when the Wasatch Range was building 65 million years ago. Tremendous mountain-building forces slowly uplifted and fractured the sedimentary rock. The caves were dissolved later along fractures now called the Hansen, Middle and Timpanogos faults in the Deseret Limestone. Apparently rising hot water and descending cold water were important factors in the caves’ origins. Natural, weak carbonic acid dissolved the rock to form the caves, which were created at the level of an ancient water table and later invaded by a stream for a short time. It is likely that rainwater and water from melting snows seeped or flowed underground along two vertical cracks (or faults) dissolved the surrounding layer of Deseret Limestone and hollowed out the subterranean chambers.
Then a change occurred. Water that filled or partially filled the caves drained. As water seeped into the air-filled caves, it decorated them with fantastic formations. Water trickling through the limestone overlying the caves dissolved calcite and other minerals from the rock. Then, upon entering an underground chamber, the water deposited its mineral load as a tiny crystal on a cave ceiling, wall, or floor. Over thousands of years, as countless crystals were deposited, a variety of cave formations took shape – stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, helictites and others. Each had its own shape and size, determined by how and where the water entered the cave, how long it flowed and other factors.
Today, the caves still are changing: new formations are being created and existing ones are growing where mineral-laden water continues to enter. In Timpanogos Cave a stalactite-stalagmite pair are growing closer year by year; today they are only 3/4 of an inch apart and if growth continues at the current rate, they probably will join in about 200 years. As long as water – the master architect and interior decorator – continues to trickle into the caves, creation will continue.
Many recreational opportunities are available in the area, including, backpacking, day hikes, camping, scenic drives, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, rock climbing and horseback riding.
Cave tours are available from May 7 until October 10, 2005, weather permitting. Advance tickets are recommended.
National Park Rangers guide visitors on hour-long, interpretative tours through the caves. Tours are conducted throughout the day, during the cave tour season, with a limit of twenty people per tour. The cave entrance is a 1.5 mile walk from the visitor center and rises 1,065 feet, it is considered a strenuous hike. For safety, pets and wheeled vehicles (baby strollers) are not allowed on the cave trail. Allow three hours round trip for the hike and cave tour and come prepared with hiking shoes, a light jacket or sweatshirt (cave temperatures are forty-five degrees) and plenty of drinking water. The Introduction to Caving Tour is a special tour introducing visitors to the sport of caving. For more information call, 801-756-5238. Picnic Areas and Nature Trail: Picnic facilities and a 1/4 mile nature walk are available in the monument.
The closest major airport is Salt Lake City International Airport and is 45 minutes away by automobile.
From Interstate 15: If you are arriving from the north or south on Interstate 15 take Exit 287 (Alpine-Highland exit), then turn east on State Highway 92 and proceed ten miles to the monument.
From U. S. 40 or U. S. 189: If you are arriving from Heber City or Provo Canyon traveling on U. S. 40 or U. S. 189, take State Highway 92, passing by Sundance Resort and over the mountainous scenic route known as the Alpine Scenic Loop. Because of the narrow and winding road, buses and large vehicles over thirty feet are not allowed to travel on the Alpine Scenic Loop. The Alpine Scenic Loop is closed during the winter.
Utah Highway 92 runs east and west through the monument. Personal vehicles, bicycles, walking and hiking are means of transportation at the monument.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument
R. R. 3, Box 200
American Fork, UT 84003
Operating Hours & Seasons
The cave and cave trail will be open for the 2005 season May 7 to October 10, 2005, weather permitting.
Ranging from 5,500 to 6,700 feet in elevation, summer days are warm (80′s to upper 90′s) and nights are moderate (50′s). afternoon thundershowers are common during mid-to-late summer. Spring and fall are milder with highs generally in the 60′s and 70′s. Daytime winter highs average less than 50 degrees. Snowfall is usually moderate with frequent thaws. The caves are 45 degrees, 100% humidity year round, a jacket or sweatshirt and suitable walking shoes are recommended.
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