Kartchner Caverns State Park - Park is Open
“Thanks for a wonderful weekend. You hit a homerun with my family. My boys are still talking about the mountain biking and archery.” –Parent from Fall 2013 Session
Spring & Summer 2014 Arizona Family Campout Program is designed for families that have little or no experience camping. We hope to introduce you to the great experiences you can share with your family and inspire you to continue to explore the great outdoors! Take a one weekend introductory adventure at one of 9 Arizona State Parks. Learn more about the program and register.
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.
March 15: Monthly Hike: Archeology with Ranger Mike
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. Also: April 5 Photo Scavenger Hunt with Ranger Dawn
Come spend an evening with your family and friends at the park, and observe the wonders of the night sky through astronomers’ telescopes! Download Event Flier ( 673 KB PDF)
2- 5 pm. Afternoon Solar Viewing: safely view the sun through a special telescope.
5:30 pm Guest Speaker. Dr. David O’Brien, a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, will present “The Giant Asteroid Vesta: Highlights from NASA's Dawn Mission.” NASA's Dawn mission completed its year-long orbital exploration of the asteroid Vesta at the end of 2012, and is now on its way to its second target, the asteroid Ceres, where it will arrive in 2015. His talk will discuss historical studies of Vesta, its relation to meteorites found on Earth, and the latest results from the Dawn mission's exploration of Vesta. In addition, his talk will feature numerous close-up images and animations using data from the Dawn mission. Dr. O’Brien has won a number of awards, and a minor planet was renamed “O’Brien” in his honor.
6:30 pm. After the speaker see planets, stars, comets, galaxies, and more through Astronomers telescopes! Bring a folding chair, red light, sweater or jacket, enthusiasm to enjoy and conserve our beautiful night skies! Entrance Fees is $6 per vehicle (up to four adults) for the night of viewing, instruction and family fun. Camping is available at the park (additional fee). Reserve campsites online. Or Learn about Star Parties, watch video, and see other park event dates. Event supported by Huachuca Astronomy Club & Astronomers of Verde Valley.
May 17: Moonlight Hike
5:30 pm. Enjoy a moonlight hike at Kartchner Caverns. Call 520-586-2283 for more info. RSVP to reservations(at)azstateparks.gov. Also: June 14 and July 12.
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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