PS - Kartchner Caverns

  • Thu, November 14, 2019
  • 2:00 PM
  • Mon, November 18, 2019
  • 12:00 PM
  • Kartchner Caverns, AZ
  • 4


If you are not currently a GO member, you'll be able to sign up during the registration process.

Your adventure awaits! Join us and explore the wonders of the southwest Sonoran desert. This trip offers a variety of activities and accommodates all types of camping options - tents, RV's and cabins - with full camp amenities including electricity and water. Both caves are open, and we have reserved all the spots on both cave tours. Local hiking trails are near our camp and a variety of day trips to local attractions are available. 

The story of Kartchner Caverns is one of discovery, exploration, secrecy and preservation. The main attraction at this national park is a cave so pristine it’s entered via an airlock-sealed tunnel. It’s beautifully riddled with stalagmites, quartz formations and one of the world’s longest soda-straw stalactites.

The cave was discovered by two college students back in the 70’s and its existence was kept secret for 14 years until they secured protection to keep it natural and pristine, making it a very rare cave undisturbed by humans. Experience their excitement of discovery of this stunning limestone cave, which contains a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. Water percolates from the surface and calcite formations continue to grow. Southeastern Arizona has a wealth of cultural, historical and natural resources. There are many opportunities for half or full day side trips in the surrounding area. Renew your sense of discovery and experience new and exciting secrets of the desert and meet new friends in outdoor adventures.

Registration options include: Tents, RV’s, Camper Cabins and Motel. If you want a cabin, reserve it soon as they sell out fast.

Registration is available to  Great Outdoors members only. You may join and purchase a membership - Click Here For Membership - which will then allow you to register.

Registration options – Signing up: After you select your registration type, you can scroll down and add additional information such as RV size, carpooling, etc. You will have the option to stay another night with a day trip on Monday to Chiricahua National Monument and check out on Tuesday.  You pay later once we determine the average cost of the extra campsites and divide it up evenly. 

Cave Tours:  The two cave tours are totally different, so expect to see and experience different features. We have a discounted group price for cave tours.  Once your register for this event, you'll be sent a confirmation email.  It will include a link to another page where you can purchase cave tours at a discounted price - $20 per tour, per person.  You can also - click here - to purchase cave tour tickets for our group tours.

Big Room Tour  Length: ½ mile. Time: 1¾ hours. Saturday.

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. Experience the wonder of the cave’s discovery and learn about new scientific research and discoveries as ongoing studies continue.

Rotunda/Throne Tour  Length: ½ mile. Time: 1½ hours. Sunday.

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.

Camper Cabins* are located nearby and you can reserve them directly - click here. These cabins sell out fast, so reserve as soon as possible. If you want to share a cabin, contact Gary Fritzen click here.

Motels* are available in Benson (9 miles) and Motel Six (7 miles) at the I-10 turnoff. 

* If you reserve a cabin or motel, you must also register for this event using the “Reserved own accommodations” option. You will also need to purchase a park pass to enter the park/campground.

RV campers: Sites have 30 amp electricity & water. RV dump station is nearby.

Tent campers: Electricity and water available at each site. Expect cold nights, consider bringing electric heater and/or electric blanket.

Registration notes: Tents and RV's will share sites. These are large sites and room to set up tent in the grass area. Electric available for tents; bring electric extension cord. Park and set up accordingly to share space; all vehicles need to fit in the assigned paved areas, so park efficiently allowing space for your site companion.

Showers  - at restroom building near campsites. No extra charge.

Cell Service - yes -WiFi - limited, near Visitor Center is best.

What to Bring: Ten Essentials, camping/cooking gear, camp chair, food, warm/cool weather clothing, ear plugs for sleeping, electric extension cord and electric heater. Bring potluck item and an appetizer for ‘tea’ along with your favorite beverage. Bring a bundle of firewood for the group campfire (available if no fire restrictions), we will also have a propane fire pit.  Firewood may also be purchased on site.

Consider going green! - Please bring your own plates, cups, mugs, eating utensils, napkins, paper towels, camp soap, etc. There are water spigots located in the nearby restroom for washing dishes.

Restrictions: Check for open fire, no smoking restrictions upon arrival, no display of firearms.

Address: 2980 S Hwy 90 Benson, AZ 85602

Directions: Click here.  434 miles and about 6 hrs. from Palm Springs. Take I-10 Exit 302 south on Hwy 90. GPS: N31° 50.146' W110° 20.681'. Or alternate less traffic route, take I-8.

Weather: Average temps: 71° - 31°. Current Weather: Click Here

Photos Of Area - click here

Dark Sky Park - Kartchner Caverns State Park is designated an International Dark Sky Park - click here - to read more about their designation. Consider limiting your outdoor lights at your campsite and experience the dark sky.

Prices: This is a 4-night, 5-day event and priced accordingly. Option to stay another night with a Tuesday departure. If payment is not completed within 7 days, your registration may be cancelled.

Schedule of Events*

*Check white board at camp for updates and details

Thursday 11/14

  • 2:00 pm   Check-in at the gate. Your name will be on the list.
  • 6:00 pm   Meet and greet ‘tea’. Bring a beverage and appetizer to share.
  • Dinner on your own.

Friday 11/15

  • 6:30 am   Coffee and continental breakfast
  • 9:00 am   Hike and or exploration* 5 mile 955’ Guindani Loop
  • 12:30 pm Hike or day trip* Titan Missile site
  • 6:30 pm   Potluck and Group campfire activities

Saturday 11/16

  • All day      Kartchner Caverns celebrating 20 yrs. as a state park,
                     with fun activities, events and celebrations all day!
  • 6:30 am    Coffee and continental breakfast 
  • 9:15 am    Cave tour #1A - Big Room - tour begins at 9:45 am. Meet at Discovery Center. 
  • 10:15 am  Cave tour #1B - Big Room - tour begins at 10:45 am. Meet at Discovery Center.  To purchase this tour - click here.
  • 12:30 pm  Hike or day trip*      
  • 6:30 pm    Dinner on your own. Group campfire activities

Sunday 11/17

  • 6:30 am    Coffee and continental breakfast
  • 8:50 am    Cave tour #2A - Rotunda/Throne - tour begins at 9:20 am. Meet at Discovery Center. 
  • 9:30 am    Cave Tour #2B - Rotunda/Throne - tour begins at 10:00 am. Meet at Discovery Center.  To purchase this tour - click here.
  • 12:30 pm  Day hike and or exploration*
  • 6:30 pm    Dinner on your own.  Group dinner at nearby restaurant*.

Monday 11/18 This is add on - you need to reserve a site for Monday.

  • 6:30 am    Coffee and continental breakfast
  • 8:00 am    Day trip to Chiricahua National Monument* - if staying over
  • 12:00 pm  Check out if not staying until Tuesday.

Tuesday 11/19

  • 12:00 pm  Check out

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations for a full refund must be received by Oct. 31, 2019. No refunds for cave tours unless there is a wait list.

The Discovery Center is located a short distance from campground. The facility consists of the front desk, a theater presentation, museum, gift shop, an amphitheater, and food concession. 

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 Bat Cave Cafe is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Cafe offers freshly made salads, sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas and individual pizzas, as well as a variety of drinks and Blue Bunny Ice Cream treats. Enjoy your meal in a relaxing patio atmosphere surrounded by our Hummingbird Garden


Caves are mysterious and unfamiliar to humans. These dark caverns pique our curiosity and lead us to seek answers for our many questions.

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.

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 above ground.  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.


The park has modern restrooms located at the Discovery Center, Campground and Trail Head. Restrooms are within easy access of rental cabins and campgrounds.

Dump Station

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 pumps, 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.

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. 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 women’s restrooms, and a single shower is located in the family restroom.

Pets Policy - Pets are allowed in all outside areas but they must be leashed. Pets are not allowed inside any of the buildings or on cave tours except for 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

Hiking Trails: Ocotillo Trail, The Guindani Trail, The Foothills Loop Trail

Discovery Center

Please arrive one hour prior to your tour time to see the video presentation and museum exhibits. Please leave all items in your vehicle except appropriate clothing and method of payment if purchasing tickets.


  • Campfires are allowed within designated fire rings. Two commercial fire rings are provided (one in each loop) for the purpose of enjoying a campfire. Solid bottom, self-contained propane stoves or charcoal grills are allowed for cooking at your campsite.
  • Wood gathering is not permitted. Wood can be purchased from camp host.
  • Pets must be on a leash. Do not leave pets unattended outdoors. Pet waste must be picked up and disposed of.
  • Drive and park on designated, paved areas only.
  • Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. – 7 a.m.

Please arrive at the park prior to 6 p.m. The entrance gates will close at 10 p.m. and access will not be available until 7 a.m.

Cave Tours

Kartchner Caverns is now following established nationwide protocols to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that is killing bats. We request that if you have been in another cave or mine since 2005 you do not wear or bring any of the same clothes or shoes as on your other cave trips. If you arrive to Kartchner Caverns wearing shoes that have been in another cave, you will be asked to visit a White Nose Syndrome Decontamination Station, where your shoes will be sprayed down with rubbing alcohol to kill the fungus. Thank you for working with us to protect our bats! 

The following are NOT permitted on cave tours:

  • Pets (except certified service animals meeting ADA standards). Please do not leave pets in vehicles.
  • Purses, handbags, backpacks, fanny packs, baby backpacks or other bags/items.
  • Binoculars or flashlights.
  • Photography or video equipment (to include phones, other electronic recording devices, and tripods).
  • Food, gum, tobacco products and drinks (including bottled water).
  • Strollers, walkers, crutches.
  • Touching or damaging formations (punishable by law).
  • Littering or tossing coins.

Please plan to leave all items in your vehicle or in the lockers located on the rear patio of the Discover Center. Heavy clothing will not be necessary in the warm, humid cave. A coat or jacket appropriate to the outside weather is all that you will want to bring with you on tour.

Nearby Attractions:


  • Foothills Loop Trail 2.9mi 521'
  • Ocotillo Loop Trail 3.4mi 360'
  • 1/2 hour drive South: Huachuca Canyon Trail 4.5mi 459' - there is also an Army Museum in the village
  • 45 min drive: Brown Canyon Trail 5.3mi 708'

Benson - The city of Benson is located ten miles North of the park and is a ten to fifteen minute drive.  Restaurants, lodging, fuel, banks, library (wi-fi), and groceries are available.

Sierra Vista The city of Sierra Vista is located 20 miles to the Southeast of the park and is a 45–60 minute drive. Restaurants, lodging, fuel, banks, libraries, groceries, laundry, theaters, shopping centers. Visitors Bureau at 1011 N. Coronado Dr. Sierra Vista, AZ 85635.

Fort Huachuca - An active military base established in 1877 as a base for American soldiers fighting the Indian Wars and was home to the Buffalo Soldiers. It is located 20 miles away adjacent to Sierra Vista and requires a 45–60 minute drive. The Fort Huachuca Museum highlights early military history. There are 27 miles worth of easily accessible but rugged hiking trails that wind through the canyons of Huachuca. Visitors will need a driver’s license and vehicle information when you register at the front gate.   Call (520) 533-3638.

Tombstone - The “Town too Tough to Die” and location of the OK Corral and Boot Hill Cemetery (30 mi.)

Bisbee - is located 50 miles Southeast of the park and requires an hour and a half drive.  It is a curious mix of the old and the new. The downtown historic district recalls the wild days as a booming mining town, while the newer parts of town carry on as a modern municipality. See the large, open Lavender Pit or take the Copper Queen underground mine tour and visit the local museum.

Cochise Stronghold - is named for the legendary Apache chief who evaded U.S. troops by hiding in the rugged hills and canyons of the Dragoon Mountains. It is located about 45 miles from the park and takes 60–90 minutes to drive to. History, hiking trails await the visitor in this scenic “hideaway”. Phone (520) 364-3468 or (520) 364-6800.

Chiricahua National Monument - Our destination for Monday

Titan Missile Museum - is located about 25 mi south of Tucson on I-19. That has an inert Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile in the silo, as well as the original launch facilities.

San Pedro River Riparian Natural Area - This natural area is a long vegetated strip, thirty seven miles long, down the center of the San Pedro River valley. The San Pedro House serves as a visitor center and trailhead and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is located 30 miles to the Southeast and requires an hour and 15 minute drive. It is an ideal location for hiking and nature viewing, Phone (520) 439-6400.

Patagonia - Patagonia is a defunct mining town that is now surrounded by opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing. It is located 40 miles from the park, an hours drive, and has restaurants and a selection of shops featuring uniquely crafted works of art and antiques. The Nature Conservancy has a riparian area that meanders through the Cottonwood lined Sonoita Creek south of town. 15 miles further south of town, off of Highway 82, is Patagonia Lake State Park and Sonoita Creek State Natural Area.

Coronado National Memorial - Located 40 miles south at the border. Cave tours and hiking trails, Joe’s Canyon Trail (3 mi).

Emergency Services

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.

References and further reading

 Campground Map:

Health Problems/allergies: It is the responsibility of participants to carry on their person a record of significant allergies, medications and medical history in the event of a medical emergency.  Discuss any medical concerns with the trip/hike leader if you wish.

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