Voted USA Today’s “Best Arizona Attraction”, Kartchner Caverns State Park is a must-see for all its unique, natural wonders. The campground is built around the well-preserved Kartchner caves and discovery center, making this campground an excellent learning opportunity for any nature enthusiast, or anyone wanting to learn more about this only recently explored area.
Discovered in 1974 by two young explorers and opened to the public in the 80’s, the Kartchner caverns remain largely undisturbed in their natural beauty.
The formations along these caves are known as “speleothems”, formations composed of layers of calcite called travertine deposited by water. The shape of these speleothems is determined by whether the water drips, flows, seeps, condenses, or pools.
These formations have been growing for tens of thousands of years. They grow slowly and are very fragile, so those who visit the caves are encouraged not to touch any of the formations.
Found in the Kartchner Caverns:
- One of the world’s largest soda straw stalactites (21’3″)
- Tallest and most massive column in AZ, Kubla Khan (58′)
- Most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk in the world
- First reported occurrence of “turnip” shields
- First cave occurrence of “birdsnest” needle quartz formations
- Other unusual formations such as shields, totems, helictites, and rimstone dams
These long undisturbed formations are certainly a unique sight to see!
The campgrounds also feature hiking trails such as the Guindani Trail, Foothills Loop Trail, and the Hummingbird Garden Walk. This walk is lined with a variety of local vegetation including 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.
There is a 63-entry birding list for occupational bird watchers, as well as many interesting species of reptiles, insects, and mammals including mountain lions, coyotes, and grey foxes. About 1,500 bats live in part of Kartchner Caverns for part of the year.
The park’s Discovery Center has many activities and exhibits detailing the varying species and formations of the park.
- Camping permitted in designated sites only
- Campfires within two provided fire rings only. Solid bottom, self-contained propane stoves or charcoal grills are allowed at individual sites.
- Wood must be purchased from camp host, no wood gathering is permitted.
- Pets must be leashed and pet waste must be disposed of.
- Driving and parking on designated areas only.
- No littering.
- Quiet hours from 10 PM to 7 AM
- No feeding of birds or wildlife.
- Water conservation is encouraged.
See Arizona State Park’s page for Kartchner Caverns for more information and to plan your stay!