Facilities and information about Kartchner Caverns State Park:
Park Hours | Emergency Services | Discovery Center (Visitor Center) | Parking | Restrooms | Gift Shop | Bat Cave Café | Exhibits | Group Day Use Areas | Camping & RV Sites | Dump Station | Showers | Picnic Areas/Shelters | Hiking Trails | Pets Policy | Wildlife Viewing
Summer Hours (June 1 – Oct. 31): Gate Hours 6 am - 10 pm,
Discovery Center hours 9 am - 5 pm.
Winter & Spring Hours (November 1 – May 31): Discovery Center Hours 8 am – 5 pm. The gate hours do not change. The Discovery Center is closed half-day on Thanksgiving & December 24, and all day on December 25. The campgrounds are open year-round.
Contact the Discovery Center, the Gatehouse, or a Camp Host in person or call (520) 586-4141. during business hours to report an emergency. After hours call 911. Ambulance and hospital facilities are available in the town of Benson.
The main parking lot for the Discovery Center is located at the third turn off to the right after leaving the Contact Station. General parking is available throughout the lot, thirteen handicapped accessible parking spaces and two Van Accessible sites are available on the northeast section of the lot, and sixteen oversized RV parking spaces are located in the southeastern section of the lot. A section designated for eight school or tour buses is located at the second turn off to the right after leaving the Contact Station. A lot with twenty three spaces is located at the trail head located on the far southwest end of the park at the end of the main road.
The Discovery Center is located on the northeast end of the main parking lot. Visitors should arrive one hour prior to tour time in order to obtain tickets and experience Discovery Center activities. The facility consists of the front desk, a theater presentation, museum, gift shop, an amphitheater and food concession. At the Front Desk, customers may get park information, pick up reservation tickets or purchase walk up tickets. (Walk up tickets may or may not be available on any given day, reservations are highly recommended.)
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 Museum contains exhibits on cave formations, cave life, hydrology and history. 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 amphitheater may host a variety of interpretive programs, weddings or other special events. There is also a Discovery Center Scavenger Hunt for Kids.
The park has modern restrooms located at the Discovery Center, Campground and Trail Head. Handicap accessible and Family facilities, with baby changing stations, are located at the Discovery Center and Campground facilities. Basic, non-handicap accessible facilities are located at the Trail Head. Please do not dispose of stored wastewater in the restroom, please use the Dump Station for this purpose.
Open 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (summer hours) and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (winter hours). Store phone number is (520) 586-4166.
In our gift shop you will find tasteful unique gifts with southwestern flavor. Our selection changes often to keep it fresh and new. We offer a variety of Kartchner Caverns State Park logo souvenirs for Adults and Kids. Shirts, jackets and ball caps provide a fashionable way to commemorate your visit. For the collector or souvenir seeker we have: cups, spoons, postcards, key chains, hiking stick pins, hat pins, magnets, glasses, tiles, golf balls, ornaments and more.
For those that have just had their curiosity and imagination stirred by their cave visit, we have items that will let them explore some more with the “Jewel of the Desert” DVD, books on Kartchner Caverns and many other subjects relating to the desert southwest.
Our gift shop cooperates with the preservation wishes of Arizona State Parks and strives to carry “green” products. Such products as Free Trade coffee, recycled tees, environmental safe cards and recycled bags. Be sure to check out our “locally made in Arizona” products. We have an extensive offering of Native American handmade jewelry, weavings and Mata Ortiz pots. You can learn about the artist who made your piece and what tribe they are from. A selection of delicious snacks, regional sauces, Arizona jellies and locally made fudge will tempt and excite your tastes.
If you love books, we have an eclectic collection of books for your review covering subjects from the Cavern, nature, desert animals, birds, southwestern history, Native Americans and Arizona, to cookbooks, crafts and paperbacks. View our Children’s section for stimulating and educational toys, puzzles, plush animals and puppets to accent the children’s storybooks. Dig your fingers though our variety of worldly and colorful rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils. A fascinating display of music will appeal to many tastes and spur interest in something new and intriguing as you peruse through Native American Flute entries, traditional Cowboy tunes or the haunting chants of “Adiemus”, which plays on the Rotunda Throne Tour.
We pride ourselves in customer care so feel free to give us a call for your requests. Better yet come by and visit our gift shop. We will gladly ship to any destination in the continental U.S. for your convenience.
The Bat Cave Cafe is open daily from 10:45 am to 3 pm (summer hours) & 10:30 am – 4 pm (winter hours). Please check the sign posted on the door for current times.
The Cafe offers a choice of Quesadillas & fresh baked pizzas, including the favorite, Southern Arizona style with locally roasted green chiles, fresh tomatoes, onion and cheese. Need a quick bite, try our Hebrew National Kosher “bat”dogs and Johnsonville Batwursts. Rounding out the fare is a variety of filling, freshly made sandwiches such as turkey, roast beef, ham and vegetarian. For the salad lovers there is mesquite chicken, pecan and cranberry salad on a mix of fresh local organic greens and homemade croutons. Be sure to check out our “Daily specials” (seasonal homemade soups sell out quickly)! But save room for Shirlene’s homemade pie, a must have. Cold drinks, teas, coffee, cookies and Blue Bunny ice cream complete the menu.
A quick, healthy alternative, to the standard fast food options that will satisfy any appetite in a relaxing patio atmosphere surrounded by the Hummingbird Garden. Complete your visit to the cave with a glass of prickly pear lemonade, quick snack or full meal at the Bat Cave Café.
Visitors to Kartchner Caverns find that the Discovery Center is well-named. Caves are mysterious and unfamiliar to humans. These dark places raise many questions. Numerous interactive displays in the museum give visitors the opportunity to discover the answers for themselves.
Introductory panels in the geology exhibits show how caves form, why the formations look as they do and locations of other caves. Other displays are specific to Kartchner Caverns, one of the most-studied public caves. It ranks in the top ten caves worldwide for its unique mineralogy. Here you can touch local rock types. A cut-away view of the cave hill highlights some major features and tour routes at the touch of a button. Take a virtual tour of some of the cave’s most prominent formations at the Underground Journey exhibit. The hands-on hydrology display allows visitors to follow water underground, usually hidden from our view, and shows why water is essential to the cavern remaining a “living” cave.
Though geology is the focus of many of the museum displays, exhibits also showcase cave and surface ecology, paleontology, archaeology and history. The cave ecosystem is dependent upon a summer colony of cave myotis bats. Their guano nurtures a miniature world of amazing creatures. Explore the regional displays to educate yourself on the area’s plants, animals and other attractions found aboveground. Paleontological studies inspired displays describing the area’s distant past. Bones, many from extinct animals, were discovered during the caverns’ development. Evidence of human habitation on the park property is also displayed.
New Exhibit! Original 86,000-year-old Sloth bones and a 36,000-year-old Horse skull are now on display in the Discovery Center. There are also small bones from Bear, extinct Antelope, Bob Cat, Ringtail Cat, and rabbit.
Kartchner Caverns has an intriguing story of discovery and development. A 15-minute video featuring the discoverers tells the story of finding and protecting the cave. View their meager caving equipment, and put yourself in their boots by crawling through simulated cave openings.
Arizona State Parks’ consultation with cave experts prior to development resulted in a display showing problems facing public caves and the importance of preserving them. Hopefully, the museum exhibits will also inspire you to appreciate and help preserve all caves.
The Group Day Use Area is located at the northwest corner of the Main Parking Lot. The area features three covered ramadas, eighteen picnic tables with one handicapped accessible table, water faucets and drinking fountains, 110 electrical outlets and lighting, waste receptacles and an area for a band and dancing. Optional use of a large covered gas grill and built in counter is available for an additional fee. All fees must be paid in advance when making a reservation. Fees are on a per day basis. Please make payment with cash, Visa or Mastercard at the Front Desk of the Discovery Center. Personal checks are not accepted for payment. Reservation fees apply to the rental of the Group Day Use Area only, all other per vehicle Day Use, Camping and Tour fees are additional.
Covered Group Ramada capacity is 200-250 persons (can accommodate 50-100 more if utilizing the uncovered gravel area on the north side – no additional charge will be assessed).
Please leave the Group Day Use Area in the same condition that it was found. Please clean the grill (if used) and place waste in receptacles. A refundable cleaning/damage deposit of $150.00 (which includes the Amphitheater area if used) is required when reserving.
50 people or less = $150.00 + $25 w/grill
50 to 100 people = $200.00 + $25 w/grill
100 to 200 people = $450.00 + $25 w/grill
200+ people = $600.00 + $25 w/grill
Catering must be arranged through park consessionaire Aramark or receive permission from Aramark to arrange your own catering. Aramark's phone number is 520-586-4166 (Annette).
Has a raised platform with electrical outlets. Seating capacity is 200-250. $50.00 per hour.
Site reservations are available by calling the Reservation Center at (520) 586-2283. You can call 7 days a week, from 8 am to 5 pm MST. There is a $5 reservation fee per site. You may also reserve campsites 24/7 for this park online Note: At this time, Camping Sites and Cave Tour Tickets cannot be reserved together on the same invoice, you must place both orders separately.
Important Note: At this park, the entrance gate is closed nightly at 10 pm. A two loop Campground is located off of the main road past the Discovery Center on the southwest end of the park. Camping fees are $25.00 per night, payable with cash, Visa or Mastercard at the Contact Station the day of arrival or at the Discovery Center the following day. Fees must be paid daily or in advance and there is a 14 day stay limit.
Access card keys for camper after-hours entering the park are now administered by the four Campground Hosts.
All sites are developed as electric hook up sites. All sites also have water. 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 back-in site power post is 110 volt AC with a 30 amp RV connection and a 20 amp receptacle. Each pull-through site power post has a 220 volt 50 amp AC & a 110 volt 30 amp AC RV connection and a 20 AMP GFI receptacle. 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 handicapped designated sites (one is a pull through site), twelve pull through sites and forty three other sites of varying sizes. Handicapped 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.
Effective Oct. 1, 2012 there will be a $15.00 per night fee for second vehicles. Fee will be paid upon arrival at the park. Fee does not apply to vehicles towed behind a primary vehicle when the primary vehicle remains at the site and the towed vehicle is used for transportation.
For cancellation policy see Reservation Policies: Terms & Conditions
The Dump Station is located along the main road on the south end of the park adjacent to the Campground entrance. The station consists of two 110’ lanes, two sumps, waste receptacle and a non-potable water source. Lanes may be accessed from either end, in either direction. A paid Camping Permit is required to use the dump station. Please leave the area clean for the next user.
Showers are located in the Campground restroom buildings at the upper west end of each Campground loop. Use of showers is included in the Camping Permit fee, there are no separate charges for their use. All showers are handicapped accessible. Flush toilets and sinks with handicapped accessibility are also located in the restroom building. Two showers are located in each of the Men’s and Woman’s restrooms, a single shower is located in the Family restroom.
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 is located inside the Bat Cave Café.
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. For more information, contact: Sierra Vista Ranger District, 5990 W. Hwy 92, Hereford, AZ 85615 or call (520) 378-0311.
The Foothills Loop Trail (loop) is approximately 2.5 miles, rated moderate to difficult. There are four access points; one at the northwest end of the Discovery Center parking lot near the the Group Use Ramada, one at the north end of the lower campground, one at the north end of the upper campground and one at the trailhead gate leading into the National Forest.
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.
Pets are allowed in all outside areas but they should be leashed. Pets are not allowed inside any of the buildings or on cave tours except for certified service animals. Pets should not be left unattended in vehicles in the parking lot or left unattended outdoors. Ensure that pets have access to a water source. Pets should be restricted to trails and developed areas due to potentially harmful desert plants and cactus. Wildlife and other pets may pose a danger to unrestrained pets due to potential conflicts or predatory behavior that could be harmful.
A variety of species common to the Arizonan deserts may be found around the park. Please remember that wildlife should be given a practical amount of respect and distance for their and our own health and safety. It is important that we don’t interfere in their lives as we enter their habitat and do not give them the opportunity to interfere in ours when we introduce exotic food sources or shelter that may attract them.
Birds: A 63-entry birding list is available upon request at the Front desk of the Discovery Center. The close proximity of the canyons and arroyos of the Whetstone Mountains, Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert terrain and the riparian areas of the San Pedro River creates an unique opportunity to see species found in each of these habitats. One of the most common birds seen on the park is the large, dark Raven that may present a nuisance when food is left unattended in the picnic or camping areas. Hummingbirds from around the country converge on Southeastern Arizona during their migratory travels and many may be seen year round in the Hummingbird Garden.
Download Printable Bird List ( 1 MB PDF)
Reptiles: Lizards are commonly seen scurrying among the rocks or up a tree trunk. Slow moving Gila Monsters, plodding tortoises and racing Coach Whips may be observed in season. Caution should be taken in warm months not to disturb the several species of rattlesnakes here. To ensure your safety: keep a respectful distance, remain on trails, avoid overgrown areas, use a light to check the warm roadways after dark and keep pets restrained. This should prevent any contact with these important but potentially dangerous desert dwellers.
Insects: Many colorful butterflies and a number of intricately patterned moths may be observed during blooms in the Hummingbird Garden. Unusual Assassin Bugs climbing a Century Plant, large Horselubber Grasshoppers lumbering across the ground, and Walking Sticks blending in with the shrubbery will provide a fascinating entomological experience. Caution should be taken for scorpions. See the display in the Discovery Center about the cave dwelling insects that live in the dark environs of the cavern.
Mammals: Mountain Lions range throughout the Whetstone Mountains and precautions should be taken when in camp or on the trail. Coyotes or Gray Foxes represent the canine species of the park. These animals are seldom seen but since these animal are predators, pets should not be left unattended outdoors, especially at night. Skunks, raccoons, coatimundi, and ringtail cats may present a night time nuisance if food is left unsecured in the camp areas. Jackrabbits, cottontails, squirrels, javelinas and deer may be seen wandering through the park. Of course, bats are also an important element of the cave and park habitat. Common Cave bats (Myotis velifer) exit the cave each night during summer months to feed while the maternity colony occupies the Big Room from mid April to mid October. Pallid bats often occupy overhangs on buildings and bridges, Mexican Free Tail bats chase flying insects and Long Nosed bats come to feed from the local Agave species at night.
Please advise Park Staff of any unusual sightings or unusual behavior by wild animals. Please do not feed wild animals or birds on the park. Avoid leaving food unsecured or unattended outside and place all trash in the appropriate receptacles. This will prevent attracting unwanted animals and insects to your area and leave the animals in their natural state.
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- Buckskin Mountain
- Cattail Cove
- Lake Havasu
- River Island
- Yuma Quartermaster Depot
- Yuma Territorial Prison
- Dead Horse Ranch
- Fort Verde
- Red Rock
- Riordan Mansion
- Slide Rock
- Verde River Greenway
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum
- Fool Hollow Lake
- Lost Dutchman
- Lyman Lake
- Tonto Natural Bridge