A Living Cave

Undiscovered until 1974 and kept a secret until the late 1980’s Kartchner Caverns went through years of challenges before becoming a state park and opening to the public in 1999. The beautiful caverns are carved out of limestone and filled with spectacular formations, called speleothems. These formations began forming drop by drop 200,000 years ago.

The Rotunda and Throne Room tour is half a mile in length and takes approximately an hour and a half to complete, most of which is underground.  On this tour you will discover the role that water played in creating the caverns. You will also see the 45,000-year-old bat guano, delicate formations, and “Kubla Khan,” the largest speleothem formation in Arizona, made of a hollow mineral tube.

The Big Room Tour is open from October – April because it is a nursery roost for over 1,000 cave bats the rest of the year.  This tour has only been open since 2003 and is half a mile long, taking approximately an hour and 45 minutes to complete. You will learn about amazing discoveries of prehistoric life found in the caverns and studied by scientists around the world.  You will also marvel at the many strange and colorful formations, learn about the cave fauna (both living and ancient), and learn about new scientific research as ongoing studies continue.  Please note: children under the age of 7 are not permitted on this tour.

All tours are guided by a trained tour guide. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling: (520) 586-CAVE. All cave trails are barrier-free. Due to wet surfaces and changes in grades, strollers and walkers are not allowed on the tours.

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.

Travel Tips

  • No items (bags, purses, cameras, strollers, bottled water, etc.) are allowed in the caves, so be prepared to leave them in your car or rent a locker.
  • Arrive at least one hour prior to your scheduled start time.
  • The caverns have an average temperature of 72-degrees Fahrenheit (22-degrees Celsius) and 99% humidity year-round.  It will feel warm and steamy and might not be safe for those with respiratory problems.
  • Coats and jackets are not necessary inside the cave, but might be appropriate for outside weather depending on the time of year.
  • Children under the age of 7 are not permitted on Big Room tours.
  • Camping is permitted in designated sites and RV sites are available but they go fast, so reserve them early.
  • Visit the Discovery Visitors Center to watch a video on the discovery of Kartchner Caverns and wander through educational exhibits.
  • If you plan to do both tours in one day, make sure to schedule at least 2 hours between tours.
  • Kartchner Caverns are easily accessible from Metro Phoenix and its surrounding areas.  If you plan to stay overnight, we recommend in Tucson or Benson.

Call a AAA Travel agent toll-free 888-870-9408 or stop by yourlocal AAA office