AAA Editor Notes
Kartchner Caverns State Park, 9 mi. s. of I-10 exit 302 off SR 90, contains one of the world's few living wet caves open for viewing. The guided 1.5-hour Rotunda/Throne Room Tour takes visitors through rooms that contain more than 30 types of colorful formations growing for more than 200,000 years out of the limestone beneath the Whetstone Mountains. The guided 1.75-hour Big Room Tour features striking calcite formations and giant boulders. Formations include stalactites, stalagmites, canopies, bacon-colored draperies, helictites and rimstone dams. Turnip shield and birdsnest quartz needle formations also may be found. The guided 1.25-hour Headlight and Helmet Tour allows guests to experience the cave as discoverers did in 1974 using only the light provided by their helmet's headlamp.

Discovered in 1974, the 7-acre cave system holds the world's second-longest soda straw formation and “Kubla Khan,” a 58-foot-high column. The skeleton of a Shasta ground sloth from the Pleistocene period is among the fossil finds. Within the 550-acre park are a discovery center with exhibits and interactive displays, an interpretive nature path and 5 miles of hiking trails.

Note: Cameras are not permitted in the cave.

Guided tours are available. Camping is permitted. Picnicking is permitted. Food is available. Time: Allow 2 hours, 30 minutes minimum.

$7 (per private vehicle, up to four passengers); $3 (per additional adult passenger in vehicle or person arriving on foot or bicycle); free (with tour reservation). Rotunda/Throne Room tour or Big Room tour $23; $13 (ages 7-13). Ages 0-6 are not permitted on Big Room tour. Headlight and Helmet Tour $30. Ages 0-9 are not permitted on Headlight and Helmet tour. Camping $30. Rates may vary; phone ahead. Reservations are recommended.
Park open daily 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Discovery Center daily 8-6, late Dec.-May 30; 9-5, rest of year. Rotunda/Throne Room tours are offered all year and Big Room tours are offered Oct. 15-Apr. 15. Headlight and Helmet Tour on Sat. Times vary, phone ahead. Closed Christmas.
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