Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Minnetonka Cave

The cave entrance - enlarged so you don't have to crawl.

Where can you find dwarves, ghosts, Whos in Who-ville, and King Kong all under one roof?  The Minnetonka Cave! It was with no small amount of excitement that I actually left the state of Utah this week, and traveled to Idaho to see the Minnetonka Cave.  This cave is not far from Bear Lake, and is up a beautiful canyon.  Our drive from Salt Lake City was more like a swim, as we had heavy rain most of the way.  If you take this day trip, plan on about 3 hours to reach the cave from Salt Lake City.

Clouds over Bear Lake

Minnetonka means "falling water."  This is a really beautiful cave.  Compared to Timpanogos Cave in Utah, this cave is very spacious.  The Ballroom in the cave measures about 300 feet in length, and almost 90 feet from its lowest point to the top.

The Three Sisters

There are 444 steps inside this cave.  It is an out & back, so you will retrace those same 444 stairs on your way out.  However, the stairs are broken up with straight stretches, and you go both up and down before reaching the last chamber of the cave.  If you don't have difficulty on stairs, this cave is completely manageable.  As a living cave, it is damp, and slick in areas, but there are handrails.  Bring a jacket (and maybe gloves...those metal handrails are cold)!  Cave temperatures hover at 40 degrees Fahrenheit year round.  Much of the cave improvements were done as a WPA project during the Depression. 

Columns in the cave

Stalagmites grow from the bottom, and stalactites "hold on tight" to the top of the cave.  Columns connect top and bottom.  We saw a beautiful ceiling of soda straws, where the water goes through the straw and drips out the end.
A feature in Minnetonka Cave

The rooms in the cave have names like "Dwarf Kingdom" where you can see the Three Sisters, all seven dwarves, and Casper the friendly ghost.  Following the Dwarf Kingdom are rooms like the Ballroom and Wedding Room.  The Wedding Room features a ring, a bride and groom, and organ pipes.

Kermit's Castle is illuminated by a green light.

"Coins" glisten in the Treasure Room

After descending a long metal staircase, you can peek into the red glow of the Devil's Office.  Of course, on your way out of the cave, you will have to climb this "Stairway to Heaven."

Stairway to Heaven in Minnetonka Cave

This was a wonderful day trip, and I loved this cave.  The cave is open from 10am to 5:30pm during the summer months, with tours beginning every 1/2 hour.  Up to 30 people can be on a tour.  We were fortunate enough to make the 10:30am tour, and only had 10 people in our group.  The groups coming in after us had over 20 people, and I am glad we had a small, more intimate tour.  The tour lasts about 90 minutes.  On our way back, our guide asked us if we wanted to walk a flat stretch with the lights off, only holding the hand rail for guidance.  Everyone agreed, and we walked a short distance in complete darkness.  That is an amazing experience!  It is hard to comprehend the blackness of cave interiors until those lights go out.

"Melting" rock inside the cave.

It is a bit tricky photographing inside a cave, but we were lucky with a few of these photos!  Minnetonka contains fossils from about 350 million years ago.  It has beautiful features, and our tour guide was great.  Reservations are NOT taken in advance, so it is possible to get to the cave and have to wait a few hours for your tour.  Your best bet is to arrive early!  There are restrooms at the cave entrance, and a few tables if you have a picnic lunch with you.
View of the forest from Minnetonka Cave

The cave is a short walk from the ticket booth.  On your way, you overlook a dense forest.  There was mist rising in the trees on the day we visited.

Lichen on the rocks

If you go, be wary of the Mapquest directions!  Our directions had us turn off of Highway 89 prematurely, and left us on narrow, winding dirt roads in a small neighborhood.  Residents had posted handwritten signs to direct traffic toward the cave.  Our directions told us to turn onto 200 N. from Highway 89.  DO NOT DO THIS.  Stay on Hwy. 89 (heading north) and pass St. Charles Creek, and The Bear Cave drive in, and then you will see a large, brown sign directing you to turn left for the Minnetonka Cave.  Make this turn onto Minnetonka Cave Road and follow it ten miles to the cave parking lot!

Several places advertise the famous Bear Lake Raspberry milkshakes

On our way back to Utah from Minnetonka cave, we stopped to sample a raspberry milkshake.  This particular drive in advertised that theirs were the tastiest, but they had plenty of competition.

A great way to end the day!

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