Kartchner Caverns State Park - Park is Open
To make Cave Tour Reservations and Book Tickets: Reserve online (24-hours) or call (520) 586-2283. You can call 7 days a week, from 8 am to 5 pm MST. Please review the Cave Tour Info before placing your reservation. School/group tours should review additional information. To make same day Cave Tour reservations (based on availability) please call (520) 586-2283. Please arrive AT LEAST 1 hour prior to your scheduled tour time. Late arrival may result in the forfeiture of your reserved tour time.
Winter Hours (November 1 – May 31)
Gate Hours 7 am – 10 pm, Park Hours 7 am – 6 pm, Discovery Center Hours 8 am – 6 pm. The Discovery Center is closed half-day on Thanksgiving & December 24, and all day on December 25. The campgrounds are open year-round.
Daily Video Screening: The First Day Journey
3 pm in the Tenen & Tufts Theater. Daily. Take a 20-minute journey from the Sinkhole to the Big Room, following the path of cave discoverers Gary Tenen & Randy Tufts! WARNING: Due to point-of-view, helmet-mounted camera footage, film is not recommended for visitors susceptible to motion sickness.
9 am at the Discovery Center. Hike is 2.5 miles in length. Visitors will hike the Mountain Overlook Trail and view the San Pedro Valley's natural wonders. Read about other park's First Day Hikes
3 pm. Meet at the Discovery Center. Join us for a monthly ranger-led hike on the Foothills Loop trail. Each hike will have a unique discussion theme. Visitors should bring their own water, hat, and sun protection. Trail is 2.5 miles long and moderately difficult. Dogs are welcome on a 6-foot or shorter leash. Call 520-586-2283 for more info. RSVP to reservations(at)azstateparks.gov
2013: Dec. 14: Geology with Ranger Jennifer
2014: Jan. 11, Feb. 15, March 15, April 5
Feb. 8 & 9, 2014: CaveFest
Celebrate Kartchner Caverns during CaveFest 2014! From 10 am – 4 pm enjoy live animal displays (reptiles with Tom Miscione & birds with Liberty Wildlife), children’s activities & crafts, mining history & caving equipment display, plus a Speleothem cave formation display.
New for 2014: enjoy CaveSim, an electronic cave simulator with 60 feet of crawling passage and realistic cave formations that are electronically sensed to give users feedback with videogame-type scoring. This caving experience is for beginner and experienced cavers of all ages.
The gift shop will also be hosting a signing by children’s book author Conrad Storad. And enjoy special presentations throughout the day in the Tenen-Tufts Theater. $6.00 per vehicle fee includes activities and presentations (up to 4 adults), does not include Cave Tour Tickets. Visit Benson Area Chamber of Commerce at Benson-Chamber.com or camp at the park.
Download CaveFest Flier ( 2.2 MB PDF)
Read Story About Kartchner Caverns
You may read a story by Mark Duggan and see exclusive photos by visiting Arizona Public Media website.
Introductory Park Video
About the Park
Starting October 15, the Big Room re-opens for tours. Book now and experience nearly 1 hour underground. Children age 6 and under are not allowed on this tour. 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. Read Cave Tour Information.
Experience a stunning limestone cave in Southeastern Arizona that boasts world-class features. This “live” cave, discovered in 1974, is host to a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. Water percolates from the surface and calcite formations continue to grow, including stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground. Tour guides will unveil this fascinating underground landscape during a memorable 1½ hour tour.
The Discovery Center features museums exhibits, a large gift shop, regional displays, theater, and educational information about the caverns and the surrounding landscape. There are also campgrounds, hiking trails, lockers, shaded picnic areas, a deli, an amphitheater, and a hummingbird garden.
It wasn't until February 1978 that Tenen and Tufts told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their amazing discovery. During the four years of secret exploration, the discoverers realized that the cave's extraordinary variety of colors and formations must be preserved.
The cave's existence became public knowledge in 1988 when its purchase was approved as an Arizona State Park. Extraordinary precautions have been taken during its development to conserve the cave's near-pristine condition.
“I have been to over a half dozen developed caves and a couple undeveloped. This is by far the best preserved one.” —desertratduane, Jan. 20, 2013. Read Other Visitor Reviews.
“Wonderful experience. My wife loves caves and she said it's a BEST! I love all the state has done and is doing to preserve the caves. This alone is a good experience. And the Throne Room is a magnificent experience!” —yestat, Jan. 11, 2013. Read Other Visitor Reviews.
“Gorgeous, Pristine Caverns with Excellent Guides”
“The formations in this cave are really remarkable. The trail through the cave is well-maintained, not slippery, and not arduous. The guides are volunteers, and ours was exceedingly knowledgeable. Overall, one of the best cave tours I've ever had.” —bkt48, Jan. 10, 2013. Read Other Visitor Reviews.
This bell canopy is one of many fascinating features on the Rotunda-Throne Room tour at Kartchner Caverns State Park. It is formed by water flowing over a bump on the wall, then dripping to create this beautiful formation.
In November 1974 two young cavers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetstone Mountains. In the bottom of a sinkhole they found a narrow crack leading into the hillside. Warm, moist air flowed out, signaling the existence of a cave. After several hours of crawling, they entered a pristine cavern.
The formations that decorate caves are called “speleothems.” Usually formations are composed of layers of calcite called travertine deposited by water. The form a speleothem takes is determined by whether the water drips, flows, seeps, condenses, or pools.
Kartchner Caverns is home to:
- one of the world's longest soda straw stalactites: 21 feet 3 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.
Please Remember: Many of the formations you will see have been continuously growing for tens of thousands of years. The formations grow very slowly and are extremely fragile. When visiting remember that formations damaged even by accident will stop growing. To avoid damage to the cave and injury to yourself please refrain from touching any of the formations.
Both cave tours are closed September 16-20, 2013 due to cave maintenance; no cave tours on December 25.
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