Photo: Courtesy of Karissa DeCarlo. Temporary barriers along exit trail keep participants from falling off.
Photo: Courtesy of Karissa DeCarlo. Existing Exit Shelter with rockfall in Foreground new stairs
will route visitors away from this rockfall zon
The Timpanogos Cave National Monument, about a half-hour drive from BYU campus up American Fork Canyon, is a must-see for BYU students looking for a day trip in the mountains.
The national monument attracts an average of 70,000 visitors each year, some in the spirit of spelunking, others looking for a different way to cool off in the cave which averages 45 degrees year-round.
Shandon Gubler grew up in Orem and visited the caves seven times growing up. He said he liked it when he was young but now enjoys it for different reasons.
“When I was little it was cool to see the cave, but I think I liked it because I thought of Batman,” he said. “But now, understanding the geological processes it takes to create something like this from limestone, and the groundwater reacting with it, it’s amazing.”
Gubler said he recommends the tour to anyone looking for a more intense mountain experience.
“It’s a change of activity,” he said. “Unlike hiking the Y or Bridal Veil Falls, you get to delve a little further into the outdoors and mountaineering feel.”
Maddi Merrill moved with her family to Orem about a year ago from Chicago. Merrill heard about the Timpanogos Cave when her 10-year-old daughter went for a school field trip last year, and Merrill has wanted to go ever since.
“We’ve never lived near mountains,” Merrill said. “We’ve had tall buildings but no mountains. It looks really fun, it would be great for the whole family to go.”
Lauren, Merrill’s daughter, said the hike up was tiring for her, but she would do it again.
“It’s amazing how it forms different rocks,” she said. “Some stick straight out.”
Safety components have been added this year after the fatality of a maintenance employee last May. Construction delayed the opening of the monument and further construction starting this week will limit tours to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Construction currently taking place will provide further safety from falling rocks at the exit of the cave.
Mike Gosse, chief ranger at the monument, warned about the dangers of any canyon like American Fork Canyon.
“This is a canyon and a mountainous environment, so rock fall does happen,” he said. “It’s part of the natural erosional process.”
Gosse said much of the dangers of falling rock come because of the age of the canyon.
“This is a fairly young canyon compared to other canyons in the area like Cottonwood,” he said. “It’s young, geologically speaking, so there’s a lot of active erosion.”
The hike to the cave entrance is only a mile and a half and is paved, but gains about 1,100 feet in elevation. High danger areas have also been marked to prevent injury.
Tours of the cave take place May through October. A fee of $6 per vehicle is required to enter American Fork Canyon, and the tour fee is $7 for ages 16 and older.