The only way to see the caves is on a ranger-guided tour. Allow about 3 hours total for the basic cave tour -- 1 1/2 hours hiking up, an hour in the caves, and 30 to 45 minutes hiking back down. The tours are limited to 20 persons and often fill up early in the morning, so it's best to call ahead and reserve your space with a credit card. The "Introduction to Caving" tours are about a half-hour longer and are limited to five people. Reservations are required. The temperature inside the caves is around 45°F (7°C; about the same as a refrigerator), so take a jacket or sweat shirt.

The Hike to the Caves -- The change in elevation between the visitor center (at about 5,600 ft.) and the cave entrance is 1,065 feet, and the steep, albeit paved, trail is 1.5 miles long; it's a physically demanding walk, but quite rewarding. The trail should not be attempted by anyone with breathing, heart, or walking difficulties. Wear good walking shoes and carry water and perhaps a snack.

This is a self-guided hike, so you can travel at your own pace, stopping at the benches along the way to rest and enjoy the views of the canyon, the Wasatch Range, and Utah Valley. A trail guide, available at the visitor center, will help you identify the wildflowers growing amid the Douglas fir, white fir, maple, and oak trees. You'll also spot chipmunks, ground squirrels, lizards, and myriad birds along the way. Restrooms are available at the cave entrance, but not inside the cave or along the trail.

Touring the Caves -- The basic ranger-guided cave tour is along a surfaced, well-lit, and fairly level route. You enter at the natural entrance to Hansen Cave and continue through Hansen, Middle, and Timpanogos Caves. Nature decorated the limestone chambers with delicately colored stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, graceful flowstone, and helictites (curvy formations for which the caves are famous), all in soft greens, reds, yellows, and white. The huge cave formation of linked stalactites at the Great Heart of Timpanogos is quite impressive, and the profusion of bizarre, brilliant white helictites in the Chimes Chamber of Timpanogos is stunning. Mirrorlike cave pools reflect the formations. The "Introduction to Caving" tours take you to less developed sections, and require some crawling through tight places.

Bring high-speed film or a flash if you're taking photos; tripods are not allowed. Remember that the formations are fragile and easily damaged, even by a light touch of your hand. Also note that the oils from your skin will change the formations' chemical makeup.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.