- Hours: Tour hours vary by season
- Reservations: Reservations are highly recommended for busy times of the year, weekends and holidays. Reserve online through their website (registration required) or by phone at 520-586-2283
- Cost: Admission fee charged
- Location: East of Tucson - directions below
- How Long: Tours last 1.5 to 2 hours, add a half hour to tour the visitor center
- Best Time to Visit: Any time of the year
- See It Now: Photo Tour
The stone formations at Kartchner Caverns not only grow down from the ceiling and up from the floor, they also sometimes grow sideways. Colored in shades of brown ranging from light beige to caramel, it's considerd by many to be one of the world's best caves.
Kartchner Caverns was discovered in 1974 by two young explorers who kept it secret, worried that that others might damage the delicate, growing formations. Eventually, they realized it would take professional management to keep the cave from harm, and in 1988, the state of Arizona bought Kartchner Caverns and created a state park. Because of their management, some 85% of the Kartchner Caverns features have never been touched by humans, but that doesn't mean you can't see them. Instead, it makes them all the more beautiful to look at.
Guided cave tours vary by season:
- Rotunda/Throne Room Tours: Given year-round, this tour lasts about an hour and a half, and covers about a half mile.
- Big Room Tours: Mid-October through mid-April only (the rest of the year, about 1,000 female bats use the room as their nursery). This tour lasts almost two hours. It also covers a half mile but is more physically challenging.
What to expect at Kartchner CavernsAfter a short tram ride to the cave entrance, your group will receive an orientation talk, enter the cave through a series of airlocks designed to keep moist air inside and pass through a water mist designed to help settle dust and lint. The cave is warm (68 °F year round), moist (98% humidity) and dimly lit. Because Kartchner Caverns holds living formations, it is also wet, and trails may be slippery. You will have only one opportunity to sit down on the Big Room tour.
Know your kids. Smaller children (especially those under 6 years old) sometimes get scared and unhappy in the cave, and you'll be asked to leave the tour if that happens.
Leave Your Stuff in the Car: Items allowed on the Kartchner Caverns tour are limited. With thousands of visitors per year, these rules are necessary to keep Kartchner Caverns clean, growing and undamaged, and to keep you safe:
- No purses, backpacks, fanny packs, baby backpacks or other bags are allowed inside Kartchner Caverns.
- Leave your sunglasses in the car, or stow them in your pocket.
- No food, drink (including bottled water), chewing gum or tobacco products.
- No cameras of any kind.
- The cave is barrier-free and paths are wide enough for wheelchairs, but because of slightly slippery surfaces no strollers, walkers, crutches or motorized scooters are allowed.
Kartchner Caverns Location
Kartchner CavernsKartchner Caverns State Park is nine miles south of I-10, near Benson, Arizona, off State Hwy 90 at exit 302. It's 49 miles from Tucson and 160 miles from Phoenix.