Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Kartchner Caverns State Park Offers Hiking Trails,

Guided Cave Tours, Camping In Southeastern Arizona

Kartchner Caverns State Park (near Benson, Ariz.) is a wet, "live" cave with stunning limestone in Southeastern Arizona. Water percolates from the surface and calcium carbonate features continue to grow in the darkness.

On the guided cave tours, visitors view dynamic structures such as stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground, sometimes meeting to form a massive column. The caverns host some of the world's most diverse minerals and formations.

Kartchner Caverns State Park has three hiking trails outside the cave, and in 2013, there will be ranger-led hikes on Feb. 2, March 2 and April 6 from 9 to 11 a.m. on the Foothills Loop trail.

The Foothills Loop Trail

The Foothills Loop Trail is approximately 2.5 miles, rated moderate to difficult. 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 leads visitors to the scenic Mountain Viewpoint and is at the upper portion of the Foothills Loop Trail. Visitors should meet at the Discovery Center and bring their own water, hat and sun protection. Visitors may bring a camera and/or binoculars, but it is not necessary. No reservations are necessary. Please call (520) 586-4118 for more information. Dogs are welcome on a 6-foot or shorter leash.

Other hiking trails include the Guindani and the Hummingbird Garden Walk. The Guindani is 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. The Hummingbird Garden Walk is located on the southwest side of the Discovery Center. The walk is lined with a variety of local vegetation.

Two Guided Tours Inside Cave

There are two guided tours inside the cave at Kartchner Caverns. The Rotunda/Throne Room Tour is half of a mile in length and takes approximately an hour and a half to complete, 50 minutes of which is underground. On this tour, visitors will discover the role that water plays in creating the caverns.

You will see the discoverers' original trail, 45,000-year-old bat guano, delicate formations and "Kubla Khan," the largest column formation in Arizona. The Big Room Tour is available from mid-October to mid-April. It is half of a mile long and takes an hour and 45 minutes to complete, one hour of which is underground.

The Big Room's unique formations include: flowstone consisting of calcium carbonate, gypsum and other mineral matter accumulated on the floors and walls of the cave, turnip shields that look like turnips hanging from the ceiling, large fried egg stalagmite and brushite moonmilk. Note: Big Room Tours are not available for children younger than 7 years of age.

Feels Warm And Steamy

The cave has an average temperature of 72° Fahrenheit (22° Celsius) and 99% humidity year-round, so it will feel very warm and steamy. Most areas are dimly lit and some passages may pass through narrow or enclosed areas. This may be difficult for persons with mobility, respiratory or claustrophobia issues.

The Discovery Center facility contains exhibits on cave formations, cave life, hydrology and history. In the Tenen-Tufts Theater, a video presentation (15 minutes long) plays twice an hour. The program highlights the discovery aspect of the cave.

The Gift Shop offers a wide array of cave related and southwestern themed souvenirs, gifts and practical items to meet the needs of travelers. The Bat Cave Cafe is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for dining while at the Park.

Kartchner Caverns State Park also offers a large, modern campground adjacent to the Whetstone Mountains with views of the entire San Pedro Valley. Electric camping sites with water are available at a fee of $25. All sites are developed as electric hook-up sites. NO sites have been developed or designated for basic "dry camping."

Reservations, More Info

Non-electrical and tent campers are welcome to use these sites but the full fee will be required. A paid camping permit entitles the holder to use of the shower/restroom, water, electrical and dump station facilities. Reservations for camping can be made at AZStateParks.com or by calling (520) 586-2283.

Reservations for cave tours can be made 24-hours a day at AZStateParks.com or by calling (520) 586-2283 between 8am and 5pm (Mountain Standard Time) seven days per week. Reservations are highly recommended for all tours. You will need to pick up your tickets at the park on the day of your tour; tour tickets are not mailed out. Bring your reservation receipt with you to the park.

Cave Tour tickets must be picked up at least 1 hour prior to your scheduled tour time. Late arrival may result in the forfeiture of your reserved tour time. Kartchner Caverns State Park is located on Highway 90, nine miles south of I-10 near Benson, Arizona.

For information about all 27 Arizona State Parks, the Trails and Off-Highway Vehicle Programs and State Historic Preservation Office call (602) 542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free (800) 285-3703), visit the website and online camping reservations at http://www.AZStateParks.com, Twitter/Facebook AZStateParks.


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