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Kartchner Caverns State Park, Arizona - Visiting Kartchner Caverns

What You Need to Know About Kartchner Caverns State Park

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Kartchner Caverns State Park

One of the Beautiful Kartchner Caverns Formations

Kartchner Caverns State Park, which was kept a secret for decades by those who discovered this natural treasure, is now open to visitors in the Benson area south of Tucson, Arizona. Kartchner Caverns is a living cave and is lovingly cared for by the State of Arizona. Visitors are limited and so reservations are necessary.

Park Basics

Address: P.O. Box 1849, Benson, Arizona 85602
Phone for Reservations: (520) 586-CAVE (2283)
Directions: The park is located nine miles south of I-10, off State Hwy 90, exit 302.
Park and Tour Fees: Reservation Fee: $3.00 (included in cave tour fee), Park Entrance Fee: $5 per car (up to 2 adults) or free with tour reservation, Rotunda/Throne Room Tour: $9.95 (ages 7-13) and $18.95 (ages 14 & up), free for children 6 and younger (not allowed on tours). Big Room Tour: $12.95 (ages 7-13) and $22.95 (ages 14 & up), no children under 7.
Ownership: State of Arizona
Park Website

About Kartchner Caverns

Kartchner Caverns were discovered in 1974 by local men who were hiking and caving in the area and noticed air escaping from a hole in the ground. Thinking this might be the entrance to a mine shaft, they soon found that it was a living, breathing cave. As they explored the cave they found unimaginable beauty and knew that if others found out about the caves, they may exploit and destroy the beautiful environment. They kept the caverns a secret until arrangements could be worked out for the State of Arizona to take the area under protection. Kartchner Caverns, 12 miles south of Benson, Arizona, was just announced to the world in 1988. Still in an almost untouched state, these limestone caverns have 13,000 feet of passages and two rooms as long as football fields.

Kartchner Caverns was opened as a state park November 12, 1999. The State works hard to ensure that the beauty of the caverns remains protected while allowing visitors a rare tour through multi-colored cave formations.

About Cave Tours

First, make a reservation. You can reserve a space on a tour online or by phone. Then, be sure and arrive at least a half hour ahead of time and enjoy the Visitors Center. There are two main rooms in the caverns, the Big Room and the Rotunda/Throne Room (open year round). The Big Room is available for tours between October 15 and April 15 due to bat colonies living in the room.

What to Expect

The park and Visitors Center are fully accessible. To take a tour, you will need to ride a tram to the cave entrance, pass through two airlocked doors and walk 1/2 a mile on the tour. They don't allow strollers or walkers on the tour as the surfaces can be slippery. Also, children under 7 are not allowed to tour. Any young children should be prepared for the trip, explaining what they will see and that there may be periods of darkness. If you believe your child may become frightened, perhaps it would be best to take the tour when they are older.

You won't be allowed to carry items with you. The park has lockers. I left my fanny pack locked in the trunk of my car.

Hiking at Kartchner Caverns State Park

Hiking trails wind through the park. You can choose between moderately strenuous trials and a fun little Hummingbird Garden Trail near the Visitors Center. Camping

Camping is on a first come, first served basis. $22 (arrive before 5:30 p.m. to enter) Park Gates Close at 6:00 p.m. and opens at 7:00 a.m. There are 62 camping sites with electric hook-ups, water, dump station, restrooms, showers, and flush toilets.

Liz's Tips

This is a must-see. The tour leaders are knowledgeable and will leave you with an appreciation of the beauty of this delicate environment. According to the Kartchner Caverns website, Kartchner Caverns is home to:
  • One of the world's longest soda straw stalactites - 21 feet 2 inches (Throne Room)
  • The tallest and most massive column in Arizona, Kubla Khan: 58 feet tall (Throne Room)
  • the world's most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk (Big Room)
  • The first reported occurrence of "turnip" shields (Big Room)
  • The first cave occurrence of "birdsnest" needle quartz formations
  • Many other unusual formations such as shields, totems, helictites, and rimstone dams.
This can be a major highlight of your Southwest vacation.

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