Minnetonka Cave

Useful Information

Location: Caribou-Targhee National Forest, St. Charles Canyon northwest of Bear Lake. 15km west of St. Charles, on Forest Road 412.
Open: Mid-JUN to Labor Day daily 10-17:30, tours every 30min.
Fee: Adults USD 7, Children (6-15) USD 5, Children (0-5) free, Family (2+*) USD 28, Golden Age Passport holders USD 3.50.
Groups (30+): 10% off.
Classification: ExplainKarst cave, Mississippian limestones.
Light: electric
Dimension: T=4°C, A=2,346m asl.
Guided tours: D=90min, L=800m, St=444, V=34,000/a[2010].
Photography: Flash photography allowed.
Address: Minnetonka Cave, Montpelier Ranger District, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, 322 North 4th Street, Montpelier, ID 83254, Tel. +1-208-847-0375.
Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, 745 East 200th Street, Hyrum, UT 84319, Tel: +1-435-245-6521. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1907 cave discovered by Ed Arnell while hunting a grouse.
1930s developed by the WPA and opened as a show cave.


Minnetonka Cave is said to be the longest cave of Idaho, which means the longest cave operated as a show cave. It is also one of the highest, with an entrance elevation of 2,346m asl. This cave is famous for various speleothems, like stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, cave bacon, and the rare helictites. The biggest chamber seen on the trip is the Ballroom, which is more than 100m long and 30m high. The tour path crosses nine chambers and includes a total of 444 stairs. Minnetonka Cave is operated by the forest service.

The cave was discovered by a frontier woodsman named Edward Arnell. According to legend he was working to help construct a saw mill in St. Charles Canyon. When was out hunting, he shot a grouse. The bird fell close to the cave entrance and he felt cool air when he collected the bird. He returned with friends and torches the following day to explore the cave. The cave was named after the American Indian word Minnetonka meaning "flowing water."

The begin of the season of Minnetonka Cave is weather depending. If snow conditions allow, it is typically between Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend in June. For current information call Scenic Canyons, who organize the tours and employ 11 tour guides and managers. Nevertheless the high amount of visitors during the last years caused hour long waits form late June. Tickets are sold on a first-come first-served basis, the trick is to buy a ticket early in the morning.

There is no electricity at the cave. The cave light is made by a propane-powered 250-kilowatt generator.

Five different species of bats hibernate in the cave. One is the Townsend's Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii).

The cave is reached on Minnetonka Cave Road which follows St. Charles Canyon from St. Charles to the west. On some 15 kilometers it climbs more than 500m. After some nine kilometers is a small parking lot on the left and on the right starts the Blue Pond Spring Trail which leads to the nice karst spring Blue Pond Spring. As typical for karst springs, it contains a high amount of limestone, hence the blue colour. It is surrounded by rocks of the Ordovician Garden City Formation. After four more kilometers the canyon divides into three forks. Foot trails lead further up into the forks of the canyon. The road to the cave loops back on the mountainside to the cave on the southern slope of the canyon.