High on the steep slopes of Utah's Wasatch Range, three
limestone caves pierce 11,750-foot Mt. Timpanogos. On a fall day in 1887, a
Mormon settler by the name of Martin Hansen was cutting timber high on the
south slopes of American Fork Canyon when he saw a set of mountain lion tracks.
He followed the prints to where they ended on a high ledge. There he found an
entrance to a small cave. Hansen returned later to explore it, discovering an
array of fragile cave formations inside.
©National Park Service
Timpanogos Cave National Monument features a unique arrangement
of fragile formations.
In 1915, while their family explored Hansen Cave, two teenagers stumbled upon the opening to a second cave, and in 1921 a third cave was found. The next year, President Warren G. Harding established Timpanogos Cave National Monument to protect the caverns and their spectacular features from vandalism. The caves were formed 65 million years ago when water hollowed out the subterranean chambers. Over countless years, water trickled through the caves, depositing minerals shaped like tiny crystals on the ceilings, walls, and floors. The crystal deposits built up, forming a variety of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, draperies, and helictites, some as fragile as the threads of a spider's web. Early tourists had to climb the side of the mountain to reach the caves.
Today, visitors can walk up a paved trail, though the trip is still strenuous. In the 1930s, tunnels were built to connect the caves, and today a one-hour ranger-led tour explores Hansen, Middle, and Timpanogos caves. Highlights of the tour include the Chimes Chamber of Timpanogos Cave, with its profusion of brilliant white helictites, and the Great Heart of Timpanogos, a giant cave formation of linked stalactites. Though the caverns are millions of years old, they are still changing. Drop by drop, water continues to work its magic.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Information
Address: Off I-15 up American Fork Canyon, American Fork, UT
Hours of Operation: 7 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Admission: $3 - 3 Days; $10.00 - 14 Days; $25.00 - Annual
Learn about these other national monuments:
To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Salt Lake City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Salt Lake City.
- Utah State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Utah as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.