Jul 12, 2013 9:05 AM by Jeff Beamish
TUCSON - Kartchner Caverns State Park is much more than a stunning cave with the world's most diverse minerals and formations. There are many activities for families inside the Visitor Center and on the park grounds. There will be a ranger-led moonlight hike during the full moon on Saturday, July 20, 2013 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the Foothills Loop trail.
Reservations are required by emailing contact information and number of people in the group to reservations(at)azstateparks.gov. Visitors should meet at the Discovery Center and wear suitable clothing and shoes, bring water, a flashlight and insect spray. Visitors may bring a camera and/or binoculars, but it is not necessary. The $6 per vehicle entrance fee applies.
The Foothills Loop Trail is approximately 2.5 miles, rated moderate to difficult. 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 leads visitors to the scenic Mountain Viewpoint and is at the upper portion of the Foothills Loop Trail. Dogs are welcome on a 6-foot or shorter leash.
During the summer, there is one guided tour offered inside the cave at Kartchner Caverns. The Rotunda/Throne Room Tour is half of a mile in length and takes approximately an hour and a half to complete, 50 minutes of which is underground. On this tour, visitors will discover the role that water plays in creating the caverns. You will see the discoverers' original trail, 45,000-year-old bat guano, delicate formations and "Kubla Khan," the largest column formation in Arizona. The Big Room Tour is not open to visitors in the summer because it serves as a nursery for around 1,000 female cave myotis bats (scientific name Myotis velifer).
The Discovery Center facility contains exhibits on cave formations, cave life, hydrology and history. 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 Gift Shop offers a wide array of cave related and southwestern themed souvenirs, gifts and practical items to meet the needs of travelers. The Bat Cave Cafe is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for dining while at the Park.
Kartchner Caverns State Park also offers a large, modern campground adjacent to the Whetstone Mountains with views of the entire San Pedro Valley. Electric camping sites with water are available at a fee of $25. All sites are developed as electric hook-up sites. NO sites have been developed or designated for basic "dry camping." Non-electrical and tent campers are welcome to 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.
Reservations for camping and/or cave tours can be made 24-hours a day at AZStateParks.com or by calling (520) 586-2283 between 8am and 5pm (Mountain Standard Time) seven days per week. Reservations are highly recommended for all cave tours. You will need to pick up your tickets at the park on the day of your tour; tour tickets are not mailed out. Bring your reservation receipt with you to the park. Cave Tour tickets must be picked up AT LEAST 1 hour prior to your scheduled tour time. Late arrival may result in the forfeiture of your reserved tour time. Kartchner Caverns State Park is located on Highway 90, nine miles south of I-10 near Benson, Arizona.
For information about all 27 Arizona State Parks, the Trails and Off-Highway Vehicle Programs and State Historic Preservation Office call (602) 542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free (800) 285-3703), visit the website and online camping reservations at AZStateParks.com, Twitter/Facebook AZStateParks.