Sometimes, just sometimes, fun things to do in Utah aren't in Utah at all, but just beyond the borders of the state. No, we're not talking about Disneyland or Las Vegas. For this excursion, we have to set our sights on Paris. Well, not all the way to Paris, but close- to St. Charles, Idaho, just south of Paris, Idaho.
Minnetonka Cave is located to the west of Bear Lake in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. It is a beautiful drive up St. Charles Canyon to the cave. There is a paved road right up to the parking lot. Here at the parking lot you purchase your tickets, then you walk a couple dozen yards to the entrance of the cave. That right. Unlike Timpanogos Cave, where you must hike 1.5 miles to the entrance, Minnetonka Cave is easily accessible by car.
But be prepared. Minnetonka Cave is a little cooler than Timpanogos, at about 40 degrees, so bring a sweater or jacket, even in the summer. Also, Minnetonka Cave has a lot more up and down climbs inside- more than 400 steps. So bring some shoes with good treads to help prevent slipping.
Minnetonka Cave is every bit as fascinating as Timpanogos. The tour through the cave is about 90 minutes long and covers nearly a half-mile through 9 different chambers. The Ballroom is the largest of the chambers at about 300 feet across and 90 feet high it is truly impressive. The Treasure Room chamber, where "gold coins" are spread across the floor is also amazing. My children's favorite chamber was the Wedding Room, especially when they found out that people had actually been married here. You can also descend 71 of the steps on the "Stairway to Heaven" to enter the "Devil's Kingdom."
Of all the formations in the cave, one of the most interesting is known as "Miss Piggy's Tail." This is a soda straw formation that instead of hanging straight down like most soda straws do, this one curls around and around, looking much like a pig's tail.
The drive just over the border into Idaho is well worth the look at this fascinating cave, not to mention the scenic drive by Bear Lake, and for most of us, through Logan Canyon. Although this is a little longer drive that might have the kids asking, "Are we there yet?," after they have seen the cave they will be asking, "When can we go back?"
Place: Minnetonka Cave
Location: Follow Highway 89 north by Bear Lake past St. Charles, Idaho. Just past St. Charles is a turn-off for the Minnetonka Cave Road. Follow the signs.
Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day, 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $5.00 for adults (16 and older), $4.00 for children (6 to 15 year old) 5 and under is FREE. If tickets for your family will cost more than $20, get the Family Pass for $20.
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Salt Lake City: 143 miles
Ogden: 108.7 miles
Provo: 185 miles
Logan: 61 miles