Tucked in the foothills of the Whetstone Mountains in Coronado National Forest, Kartchner Caverns State Park is only a short drive from Tucson, but you'll feel like you're worlds away. With dark skies and deep caverns, step into the abyss and experience this unique Arizona state park for yourself.
With 62 campsites, big rig access, tent camping, cabins, and more, Kartchner Caverns State Park provides a variety of accommodations. Kartchner Caverns boasts hiking and biking trails, cave exploration, and world famous dark skies, renowned by astronomers and amateur stargazers for their astonishingly bright display of the cosmos.
RV campers will appreciate well-paved, flat roads, broad sweeping turns, and ample parking. A relatively small campground area provides a tight-knit community feel. Gather around the fire ring for dinner, then go to sleep to the coyote's howl. Rise again to sun draped mountains and grand, open skies.
Heads up, some sites are a tight fit for longer rigs, and while RV sites provide potable water and electrical hookups, none provide sewer hookups. There is a shared dump station on the south side of the park after the main parking area, near the entrance.
Whether you require a brief respite or a place to drop anchor and stay for a while, Kartchner Caverns State Park fits the bill.
RV Rentals in Kartchner Caverns State Park
Transportation in Kartchner Caverns State Park
Kartchner Caverns State Park provides easy access, ample parking, and well-paved roads. RV campers will appreciate the broad, sweeping turns, large pull-off area, and general layout of the campground area. The roads within the park are minimal, reducing the chances you might get turned around, and getting to the park entrance couldn't be easier, as it is well marked and directly off of Arizona Highway 90.
Located right after the entrance, the main parking area is large enough for the typical traffic this park receives, even in peak months. Continuing on, campers will find a pull-off dump station at the southernmost tip of the park, before the campground. The campground area is consolidated, the cabins are right near the turn-in, and both back-in and pull-through sites are sprinkled about.
Kartchner Caverns State Park has no vehicle or driving restrictions, and campsites provide plenty of room for both your rig and your haul vehicle. Nearby, Tucson offers a brilliant culture, food, and drink. Or if you need to gear up and resupply, the small towns of Benson and Sierra Vista are only 20 and 30 minutes away, respectively.
Located off of the main parking and campground areas, trail access as is very easy to find. And, when you're ready to dive into the darkness and visit the cave, you can hike there or drive back toward the entrance where the tram road takes you right to the visitor area.
Campgrounds and parking in Kartchner Caverns State Park
Campsites in Kartchner Caverns State Park
Kartchner Caverns State Park Camping
With 62 campsites, including cabins, RV sites, and tent sites, Kartchner Caverns State Park provides a variety of options regardless of your preference. Most sites offer water and electric hookups. All campsites have a paved pad, picnic table, hose bib, and power post. There are three handicapped designated sites, as well as 12 pull-through sites and 43 other sites. Sites vary from 35 to 60 feet in length and have plenty of room for pop-outs. All registered campers have access to restroom facilities with hot water and showers, as well as bottled water vending machines. There are dishwashing sinks located on the rear, east side of the campground.
Do beware, there is a 14-night stay limit within any 30-day period. Also, the entrance gate closes every night at 10 p.m. So, if you are arriving after-hours, you will have to see one of the four Campground Hosts who can administer you an access card key.
If you are taking a spontaneous RV trip Kartchner Caverns State Park you might be lucky enough to snag a site on a first-come, first-served site if there is one available. However, you should try to plan ahead as reservations are highly recommended. There are also seasonal, first-come, first-served tent camping sites available.
Seasonal activities in Kartchner Caverns State Park
The parks main attraction, of course, is the pristine Kartchner Caverns. Discovered by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts in 1974, the caverns are now a protected conservation area. Head over for a guided cave tour of the Big Room and Rotunda-Throne Room, voted "Best Arizona Attraction" by USA Today. Witness limestone formations that have been growing for many thousands of years, including one of the worlds longest soda straw stalactites, standing at a staggering 21 feet and three inches. If you're lucky, you might get to experience absolute darkness, when your cave guide prepares the group and turns out the cave lighting. The experience is the nearest thing to absolute blindness a sighted person will ever know.
Ready to dust your boots? Fantastic, since Kartchner Caverns State Park has plenty of trails to explore. From the two-mile Foothills Loop Trail, you can make your way to the scenic Mountain Viewpoint, or branch out and add on an extra two miles of fun on the Ocotillo Trail. There is even a water crossing along the way. In addition, there are trails connecting the parking area to different sections of the campground if you just want to get off the beaten path for a walkabout.
Hopefully you packed your mountain bike in your RV because Kartchner Caverns State Park has one of the most beautiful biking trails you've never pedaled. While all of the trails are shared and non-motorized, the one that that stands out for biking is The Guindani Trail. The trailhead is on the west end of the main access road, at the Upper Volunteer Village. The trail winds its way out of park boundaries, through the Whetstone Mountains, and into Coronado National Forest. If the four-mile loop doesn't suffice, pick up a trail map and continue onto Cottonwood Saddle Trail and beyond.
Headquartered in nearby Tucson, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA) has granted Kartchner Caverns State Park the "One Star at a Time" award. Along with Alamo State Park, Kartchner Caverns was the first state park in the United States to receive this great honor. Recognized by the IDSA as an International Dark Sky Park, Kartchner Caverns State Park provides unparalleled access to the cosmos. The IDSA defines an International Dark Sky Park as a public land with an exceptional view of starry skies. So, turn out the lights in your camper, and turn your eyes to the skies for a live-stream like nothing you've ever witnessed.
Attending the Discovery Center Scavenger Hunt
Visitors will enjoy the Kartchner Caverns Discovery Center, located right next to the main parking area. Inside, you will find incredible science and natural history exhibits as well as good eats at the Bat Cave Cafe. After you fuel up, start the Scavenger Hunt. Children can experience crawling through the narrow passages of the "caving wall" and explore the exhibits in search of scavenger hunt answers to questions like "what do most bats eat?" Quench your youthful passions with this invigorating experience for you and the kids.
Wildlife Viewing and Bird Watching
Birding anyone? You've got your work cut out for you. With a 63-entry birding list available at the Discovery Center you will have the opportunity to notch everything from the common Dark Raven to the rare, elusive Peregrine Falcon, the fastest animal in the world!
In addition, Kartchner Caverns State Park boasts an impressive biological diversity including Gila monsters, plodding tortoises, walking sticks, Mexican free-tailed bats, jackrabbits, coyotes, and deer.
Mind your step and do not leave pets unattended as the occasional mountain lion and several species of rattlesnakes have also been sighted within park limits and the surrounding area. Do not feed wild animals or birds and avoid leaving food unsecured or unattended.