The Best Cave in the US lies in ‘Sky Island’ country among the Whetstone Mountains of Southern Arizona and inside Kartchner Caverns State Park. Located 9 miles south of Benson and 48 miles northwest of Tucson, this unique park features camping, cabins and trails in addition to its daily cave tours.
Activities at Kartchner Caverns State Park
The large limestone cave contains living rock formations and 2.4 miles of passages ready to be explored! Visit for the day or spend a few nights and enjoy the cool evening temps and crisp mountain air.
Explore the trails, walk through the Hummingbird Garden and get a bite to eat from the Bat Cave Cafe. You’ll find plenty to keep busy at this interesting Arizona state park!
Here are some of the many activities that you can do during your visit to Kartchner Caverns State Park:
Cave at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Explore the cave during your visit to Kartchner State Park. Discover more about fossils and the history of the uplands around the San Pedro River Valley. Guided tours are scheduled daily but due to popularity it is recommended that you book as far in advance as possible.
Some of the cave’s highlights include:
- Kubla Khan – the tallest and largest column in the state.
- A 21’x3” soda straw stalactite
- Unusual formations – totems, rimstone dams, shields and helictites
- Seventy degree temperatures inside year round
- Cave tours are ADA accessible
No items (cameras, cell phones, backpacks, purses, strollers, bottled water, etc) are allowed into the cave but lockers are available to store your things while you tour. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled tour time; and keep in mind Arizona is in the Mountain time zone and does not participate in daylight savings time.
Cave passages are not well lit and may be narrow or enclosed in areas. Minimum age for the Big Room tour is 7; minimum age for the Helmet and Headlamp tour is 10. (Tours take place in the Big Room between October and April and the Rotunda/Throne Room between April and October.)
Discovery Center at Kartchner Caverns State Park
The park’s Discovery Center is located inside the Visitor Center and also features a museum, gift shop, amphitheater, theater presentation and a snack bar. Exhibits and interactive displays highlight the cave’s history, formation, geology and living creatures.
A 36,000 year old horse skull and 86,000 year old sloth bones are part of the displays as well as small bones from other animals – bear, antelope, rabbit and bobcat. The gift shop carries books, guides, souvenirs and more.
Bat Cave Cafe at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Have lunch at the Bat Cave Cafe during your visit to Kartchner Caverns State Park. The cafe serves freshly made sandwiches, wraps, individual pizzas, salads and quesadillas. Drinks and Blue Bunny Ice Cream are also available.
A relaxing picnic area is right outside the cafe and surrounded by the colorful and peaceful Hummingbird Garden.
Trails at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Kartchner Caverns State Park has 4 hiking trails and one multi-use trail. These trails extend throughout the park and deep into the Whetstone Mountains. Discover the beauty of Southern Arizona while exploring ‘Sky Island’ country!
Here are some of the trails at Kartchner Caverns State Park:
- Guindani Trail – This 4.2 mile multi-use trail begins as an easy walk at the start of the trailhead and gets more difficult the higher you climb (trail elevations range from 4750’ to over 5620’ at its highest point). Beautiful views of the grasslands, desert, mountains and varied wildlife along this trail.
- Foothills Loop Trail – Moderately difficult 2.9 mile hiking trail. This steep trail climbs along the limestone hill, and up to a scenic overlook, and then down into the wash that follows the fault between the Whetstone Block and the San Pedro Block.
- Ocotillo Trail – A fairly new 1.8 mile hiking trail that extends off of the Foothills Loop Trail. This moderately difficult trail winds through small hills, wash crossings and around a large limestone hill.
Wildlife Viewing at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Beautiful ‘Sky Island’ country contains many different species of life. You’ll see many birds, mammals, reptiles and insects during your visit to Kartchner Caverns. Expect to see hummingbirds, butterflies, bats, rabbits, deer, squirrels, lizards and turtles. And you may encounter a raccoon or skunk if you leave any food out!
Bats are very important to the cave habitat. You may see them flying during the evening or hanging from buildings and bridges. The Big Room is a protective area for female bats nursing their young between May and October.
Camping at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Kartchner Caverns State Park has campsites and camping cabins with spectacular mountain views. All 62 campsites have water and electric connections (back-in and pull-through sites are available) and are located close to bathhouses, trailheads, the cave and the Discovery Center.
The 4 two-room camping cabins sleep up to six each (one queen sized bed and 2 sets of bunk beds), have heat/AC, a mini-fridge, table with 4 chairs and a front porch. Cabins do not have water, kitchens, bathrooms or linens. Bathhouses are nearby.
Pets at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Pets are allowed at Kartchner Caverns State Park but must be attended to at all times and kept on a leash no longer than six-feet. Please clean up after your pet.
Pets are not allowed inside facility buildings or the cave tours (except for service animals). Pets should not be left unattended in vehicles in the parking lot or outside. There is an additional $5.00 fee for pets staying in the cabins.
Become a Junior Ranger at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Junior Ranger Pledge: ‘As an Arizona State Parks Junior Ranger, I pledge to help the park rangers protect and preserve habitat, wildlife, and help keep the park clean and safe for visitors and wildlife.’
Encourage younger generations to do their part and help preserve the beauty of the parks for future visitors. If your child is between the ages of 6-12 they can become a Junior Ranger at Kartchner Caverns State Park.
All they need to do is download and complete the Junior Ranger Activity Sheet and then request a Junior Ranger booklet at the park’s visitor center once you’ve arrived at the park. Complete each of the activities during your stay.
When all of the activities have been completed report back to a Park Ranger who will swear your Junior Ranger in and award them with a Junior Ranger Button. Kids can become a Junior Ranger at most Arizona State Parks and earn each park’s unique Junior Ranger Button. Check out the For Kids section on each park’s website.
Discovery Center Hours:
8:00am – 5:00pm Daily
Park Entrance Fees:
Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
*Cave Tour tickets are extra. Entrance fee waived for cave tour and campsite reservations.*
Kartchner Caverns State Park
Benson, AZ 85602
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Kartchner Caverns State Park: