Kartchner Caverns State Park
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.
A two loop Campground is located off of the main road past the Discovery Center on the southwest end of the park. Campers must arrive prior to 6 pm before the park closes. All permits are sold on a "first come, first served" basis, reserving sites is not permitted. Electric hook up sites are available. NO sites have been developed or designated for basic "dry camping". Non-electrical and tent campers are welcome 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. All sites have a table, hose bib and power post. Each site has a 20 amp and a 110 electrical outlet, some pull through sites have 50 amp service. Sites vary in length from 35' in the shortest, "back in" sites to 60' in the pull through sites, all sites are single width. Sites have ample room on the side areas for pull out units.
There are four host sites, three accessible designated sites (one is a pull through site), twelve pull through sites and forty three other sites of varying sizes. Accessible designated sites have paved access to the site and adjacent restroom, a paved pad and wheelchair accessible table. Waste bins and shower/restroom facilities are located on the upper west end of each Campground. Restroom buildings have bottled water vending machines and dishwashing sinks located on the rear east side.
"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.
Hikers should ensure that they wear comfortable clothing, durable shoes and have plenty of water when hiking, especially in summer months. Hats, sunscreen and regular consumption of water will help prevent exhaustion and heat related injuries. Hikers should stay on developed trails to prevent erosion, damage to vegetation and personal injury. Please report any problems along the trail or trail damage to the staff at the Front Desk.
The Guindani Trail (#398), 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.
Trail elevations range from 4750' at the park trailhead to over 5620' at the highest point along the Guindani Trail. The summits along the crest of the Whetstone Mountains are over 7000' in elevation. Vegetation is mesquite-invaded Chihuahaun semi-desert grassland at the lower elevations and open oak-juniper woodland on the higher slopes.
Access to the Guindani Trail is located on the west side of Kartchner Caverns State Park campgrounds; a kiosk marks entrance to trail.
The Foothills Loop Trail (loop) is approximately 2.5 miles, rated moderate to difficult. There are two access points, one at the northeast end of the Discovery Center parking area and one at the Hummingbird Garden.
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 at the upper portion of the Foothills Loop Trail leads visitors to the scenic Mountain Viewpoint.
Informational signs along the Foothills Loop Trail will discuss such trail highlights as the foothills, scenic view, riparian area, bedrock mortar and the Native Americans that inhabited the area.
Some of the vegetation seen on the Foothills Loop Trail hike include: Ocotillo, Creosote Bush, Mesquite, Desert Broom, Acacia, Wait-a-Minute Bush, Scrub Oak, Barrel Cactus, Prickly Pear, Buckhorn Cholla, and Hackberry.
The Hummingbird Garden Walk is located on the southwest side of the Discovery Center. The walk is lined with a variety of local vegetation. Some of the varieties include: Catclaw Acacia, Velvet Honeysuckle, Beargrass, Yellow Bells, Black Spine Prickle Pear, Autumn Sage, Agave, Desert Bird of Paradise, Desert Spoon, Fairy Duster, Chaparosa and Hesperaloe.
covered picnic tables are located around the perimeter of the Main Parking Lot and adjacent to the food concession area outside of the Discovery Center. Seven single table sites are located on pads under a shaded ramada with a water source on the west and south end of the main parking lot. Two handicapped accessible sites are located in the center of the sites on the west side of the lot, they have a wheelchair accessible table and adjacent parking. All perimeter tables are accessible by a developed sidewalk and pad.
Three uncovered tables on pads are located in the southeast section of the Main Parking Lot, only one table is accessible with a paved sidewalk.
Seven single tables and one wheelchair accessible table are located under the covered dining area outside of the food concession area at the Discovery Center. The dining area looks out onto the Hummingbird Garden and the vista of the Whetstone mountains. Announcement of tour times are audible in this area. A counter area with wheelchair accessibility will be located inside the concession building.
Weather at Kartchner Caverns State Park is usually pleasantly temperate. The rare snow may occur from November to March, Monsoon storms may occur from July to September and January to April may be windy. Inside the cave it averages around 70 degrees F. but the humidity averages around 99% so it will feel much warmer. You will not need a coat or jacket inside while on tour but it may be appropriate to take them for the tram ride from October through April, depending on the weather conditions outside the cave.
From Phoenix, AZ: Head west on W Washington St toward N 1st Ave, take the 1st left onto S 1st Ave, take the 1st left onto W Jefferson St, slight right to merge onto I-10 E toward Tucson, take exit 302 for AZ-90 S toward Ft Huachuca/Sierra Vista. Turn right at AZ-90 S (signs for Ft Huachuca/Sierra Vista), destination will be on the right
Nearest airport is Pheoniz, AZ.