Got a hankering to head underground? Cave tours at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah begin on May 10 for the summer season.
Visitors have been buying tickets to tour Timpanogos Cave for 92 years, and on May 5, they will finally be able to do it on-line. Daily tours begin Saturday, May 10 and are expected to run through late September. Tickets will also be sold over the phone through a nationwide toll-free number and in person at the park. The new service, which many visitors have been requesting for several years, will add between 50 cents and $1 to the price of each ticket.
Beginning May 5th, the Monument visitor center and bookstore will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Labor Day, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the remainder of the season. Tours begin on May 10, the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend. Groups enter the cave every 15 minutes, weather permitting, and each tour is limited to 16 people, regardless of age.
Each year, rangers lead over 70,000 people through the Timpanogos cave system, and tours often sell out well in advance, especially on weekends and holidays. Visitors will now able to reserve tickets up to 30 days in advance through the National Recreation Reservation System, on-line at www.recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777, toll free. The website will be available 24/7 and phone sales available 8 a.m.to 10 p.m.
Previously, the park added a 50-cent processing fee to the price of each ticket purchased by phone. That fee will be replaced with a straight $1 per ticket service fee regardless of when or how they are purchased. The service fee will cover the contract costs for the improved system. New ticket prices are $8 for visitors age 16 or older, $6 for children ages 6-15, $4 for children age 3-5, and 2 and younger are free. Seniors (age 62 and over) with a Golden Age Passport or Senior Pass are $4.
When this system was originally considered, the service fee was $3 per ticket, but the National Park Service negotiated the lower $1 per ticket fee after public comments favored the concept but opposed the cost.
"We don't expect this price change to generate any additional funds for tour guide salaries or maintenance work, but it will cover the cost of utilizing the National Recreation Reservation System, and that should significantly improve the visitor experience in planning a trip to the cave, " said Superintendent Jim Ireland.
In late summer and early fall, the park hopes to complete several projects to improve safety and resource protection, including construction of permanent safety fences along parts of the cave trail, repairs to rock fall protection facilities above the trail, and replacement of several doors inside the cave. The exact timing of this work is uncertain, but may require closure of the trail and cave from late September through October.
The park plans to increase the variety and frequency of ranger programs other than cave tours. Even if cave tours are sold out, ranger-led visitor center deck talks are offered free of charge each afternoon on a variety of topics. Talks on Wednesdays and Saturdays will be specifically designed for Cub Scout and Boy Scout audiences, though everyone is welcome. Grotto talks will be offered at the cave entrance four times each day for those waiting for tours as well as those just out for a hike. In addition, evening programs are each Friday and Saturday evening in the visitor center at 7 p.m., free of charge, Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Many local residents enjoy hiking the cave trail for exercise even if they don't take a cave tour. Hiking the trail is free, but rangers encourage fitness walkers to come in early morning to avoid the heat of the day. More information about trail safety and hiking for fitness will be available in the visitor center.
The three-mile round-trip hike to the cave is considered strenuous, climbing almost 1,100 feet in elevation from the parking lot to cave entrance. Altogether, the hike and the cave tour takes approximately three to four hours. Afternoon temperatures on the trail often exceed 100 degrees, while the average cave temperature is a cool 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Light jackets, plenty of drinking water and sturdy walking shoes are recommended.
Trip planning and safety information is available at the monument's website.