Kartchner Caverns AZ State Park
Things to Do
In addition to the cave tour, a variety of recreational opportunities are available to visitors at Kartchner Caverns. Hiking in the Whetstone Mountains above the cave will be popular. Picnicking,walking on the Humming garden around the Discovery Center, and eating under the ramada area additional day-use activities.
The 23,000-square-foot Discovery Center features a multi-screen video tells the history of the cave and gives the explorer's perspective of cave preservation. The exhibits include the geology, a tabletop model of the cave, huge pictures of the cave features, an explanation of the bat population, explanations of other cave creatures and the cave's paleontology (including a ground sloth exhibit).
A recreation of features inside the cave with an interactive exhibit on the "underground journey" as a prelude to the cave tour itself.
From the visitor center to the cave's entrance, you will ride in an electric tram. The rest of the trip is walking on concrete walkways. In the cave, rangers will lead the tour on 40" wide walkways with handrails. The paths wind through two major chambers in the cave, the Rotunda and Throne rooms.
Each cave tour is guided by a State Park Ranger. The tour is about 1/2 mile long underground and encompasses two big football field sized rooms called the Rotunda and Throne rooms and an exquisite passage called the Imaginary room. Because this is an environmental cave, it has been protected to educate and teach "cave ethics." Arizona State Parks does not encourage exploring caves but rather experiencing the beauty of the natural, pristine setting that has been protected.
Visitors may see native animals, such as deer, in the park. Inside the cave, however, most of the animal life is confined to the "Big Room" portion of the cave. The bats are only in the "Big Room" during the summer months and must not be disturbed in their maternity nursery. Both sound and light may affect the 1,000 Myotis velifer bats from coming back to the cave each year. An exhibit in the Discovery Center describes the maternity roosting area and the habits of the bats.
Big Room Tour Length: ½ mile. Time: 1¾ hours. Closed - This tour will re-open Oct. 15, 2012. The cave is also closed Dec. 25.
This tour has been open since 2003. Tours are available from mid-October to mid-April and are scheduled throughout the day. It is half of a mile long and takes an hour and 45 minutes to complete, one hour of which is underground. The Kartchner Cavern story is about amazing discoveries past, present and future. Marvel at the many strange and colorful formations. Learn about the cave fauna, both living and ancient. Experience the wonder of the cave’s discovery and learn about new scientific research and discoveries as ongoing studies continue. Note: Big Room Tours are not available for children under 7 years of age.
Precautions, Rules, Regulations
Arizona State Parks does not recommend that the public arrive at the park without making a guaranteed reservation. If you do not have a reservation, the chances will be very slim that you will be able to schedule a tour.
The reservation number for KCSP is (520) 586-2283.
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All tours are guided by a trained tour guide. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling: (520)586-CAVE. The cave averages 68°F and 98% humidity year round. All cave trails are barrier-free. Due to wet surfaces and changes in grades, strollers and walkers are not allowed on the tours.
- Touching or breaking formations is punishable by law.
- No photography or video cameras allowed on cave tour.
- No walkers allowed on cave tour.
- Small children should be carried in arms or in front pack. No baby backpacks or strollers allowed on cave tour.
- Cave tour trail is barrier-free.
- The park, including the Discovery Center, is accessible for persons with disabilities.
- No food, drink (including bottled water), gum, or tobacco products allowed on cave tours.
- No pets, except assist dogs.
- No littering..
Hiking and Walking Trails
The Guindani Trail (#398), located on the east flank of the Whetstone Mountains in the Coronado National Forest, is 4.2 miles in length (first mile is an easy walk, next 2/3 of trail is moderate difficulty, and the last leg is strenuous). This is a shared-use, non-motorized trail that is well-marked with directional signs.
Elevations range from 4900' at the park trailhead to over 7000' in the summits along the crest of the Whetstone Mountains. The Whetstones are a fault-block mountain range with a variety of exposed geological formations. Vegetation is mesquite-invaded Chihuahaun semi-desert grassland at the lower elevations and open oak-juniper woodland on the higher slopes.
Access to the Guindani Trail is located on the west side of Kartchner Caverns State Park campgrounds; a kiosk marks entrance to trail. For more information, contact: Sierra Vista Ranger District, 5990 W. Hwy 92, Hereford, AZ 85615 or call (520) 378-0311.
The Foothills Loop Trail (loop) is approximately 2.5 miles, rated moderate to difficult. There are two access points, one at the northeast end of the Discovery Center parking area and one at the Hummingbird Garden.
This is a hiking trail, with no bicycles or motorized vehicles permitted. The trail climbs the limestone hill north of the cave and descends into the wash that follows the fault between the Whetstone Block and the San Pedro Block. A short spur trail at the upper portion of the Foothills Loop Trail leads visitors to the scenic Mountain Viewpoint.
Informational signs along the Foothills Loop Trail will discuss such trail highlights as the foothills, scenic view, riparian area, bedrock mortar and the Native Americans that inhabited the area.
Some of the vegetation seen on the Foothills Loop Trail hike include: Ocotillo, Creosote Bush, Mesquite, Desert Broom, Acacia, Wait-a-Minute Bush, Scrub Oak, Barrel Cactus, Prickly Pear, Buckhorn Cholla, and Hackberry.
The Hummingbird Garden Walk is located on the southwest side of the Discovery Center. The walk is lined with a variety of local vegetation. Some of the varieties include: Catclaw Acacia, Velvet Honeysuckle, Beargrass, Yellow Bells, Sandpaper Verbena, Black Spine Prickly Pear, Autumn Sage, Agave, Aloe, Desert Bird of Paradise, Indigo Bush, and Desert Spoon.
Pictures copyright 2008 Arizona State Parks.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
P.O. Box 1849
Benson, Arizona 85602
Phone information (520) 586-4100
Phone reservations: (520)-586-2283
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