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.
The main parking lot for the Discovery Center is located at the third turn off to the right after leaving the Contact Station. General parking is available throughout the lot, thirteen handicapped accessible parking spaces and two Van Accessible sites are available in the northeast section of the lot, and sixteen oversized RV parking spaces are located in the southeastern section of the lot. A section designated for eight school or tour buses is located at the second turn off to the right after leaving the Contact Station. A lot with twenty-three spaces is located at the trailhead located on the far southwest end of the park at the end of the main road.
Discovery Center (Visitor Center)
The Discovery Center is located on the northeast end of the main parking lot. Visitors should arrive one hour prior to tour time in order to obtain tickets and experience Discovery Center activities. The facility consists of the front desk, a theater presentation, museum, gift shop, an amphitheater, and food concession. At the Front Desk, customers may get park information, pick up reservation tickets or purchase walk-up tickets. (Walk up tickets may or may not be available on any given day, reservations are highly recommended.)
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 Gift Shop offers a wide array of cave related and southwestern themed souvenirs, gifts and practical items to meet the needs of travelers. The amphitheater may host a variety of interpretive programs, weddings or other special events. There is also a Discovery Center Scavenger Hunt for Kids.
The park has modern restrooms located at the Discovery Center, Campground and Trail Head. Handicap accessible and Family facilities, with baby changing stations, are located at the Discovery Center and Campground facilities. Basic, non-handicap accessible facilities are located at the Trail Head. Please do not dispose of stored wastewater in the restroom, please use the Dump Station for this purpose.
Open 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (summer hours) and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (winter hours). Store phone number is (520) 586-4166.
In our gift shop, you will find tasteful unique gifts with southwestern flavor. Our selection changes often to keep it fresh and new. We offer a variety of Kartchner Caverns State Park logo souvenirs for Adults and Kids. Shirts, jackets and ball caps provide a fashionable way to commemorate your visit. For the collector or souvenir seeker we have: cups, spoons, postcards, key chains, hiking stick pins, hat pins, magnets, glasses, tiles, golf balls, ornaments and more.
For those that have just had their curiosity and imagination stirred by their cave visit, we have items that will let them explore some more with the “Jewel of the Desert” DVD, books on Kartchner Caverns and many other subjects relating to the desert southwest.
Our gift shop cooperates with the preservation wishes of Arizona State Parks and strives to carry “green” products. Such products as Free Trade coffee, recycled tees, environmental safe cards, and recycled bags. Be sure to check out our “locally made in Arizona” products. We have an extensive offering of Native American handmade jewelry, weavings, and Mata Ortiz pots. You can learn about the artist who made your piece and what tribe they are from. A selection of delicious snacks, regional sauces, Arizona jellies and locally made fudge will tempt and excite your tastes.
If you love books, we have an eclectic collection of books for your review covering subjects from the Cavern, nature, desert animals, birds, southwestern history, Native Americans, and Arizona, to cookbooks, crafts and paperbacks. View our Children’s section for stimulating and educational toys, puzzles, plush animals and puppets to accent the children’s storybooks. Dig your fingers through our variety of worldly and colorful rocks, minerals, crystals, and fossils. A fascinating display of music will appeal to many tastes and spur interest in something new and intriguing as you peruse through Native American Flute entries, traditional Cowboy tunes or the haunting chants of “Adiemus”, which plays on the Rotunda Throne Tour.
We pride ourselves in customer care so feel free to give us a call for your requests. Better yet come by and visit our gift shop. We will gladly ship to any destination in the continental U.S. for your convenience.
Bat Cave Café
The Bat Cave Cafe is open daily from 9:30 am to 4 pm (summer hours) & 9:30 am – 4:30 pm (winter hours). Please check the sign posted on the door for current times.
The Cafe offers quesadillas, freshly baked pizzas, Hebrew National Kosher hot dogs, Johnsonville Bratwursts, fresh made sandwiches & wraps (turkey, roast beef, chicken caesar and a vegetarian wrap option), as well as two salad options. Beverages offered at the Bat Cave Cafe include Coca-Cola fountain drinks, freshly brewed tea, locally sourced coffee, cookies, muffins, assorted candies and Blue Bunny ice cream to complete our menu.
Enjoy your meal in a relaxing patio atmosphere surrounded by our Hummingbird Garden.
Visitors to Kartchner Caverns find that the Discovery Center is well-named. Caves are mysterious and unfamiliar to humans. These dark places raise many questions. Numerous interactive displays in the museum give visitors the opportunity to discover the answers for themselves.
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. Here you can touch local rock types. A cut-away view of the cave hill highlights some major features and tour routes at the touch of a button. Take a virtual tour of some of the cave’s most prominent formations at the Underground Journey exhibit. The hands-on hydrology display allows visitors to follow water underground, usually hidden from our view and shows why water is essential to the cavern remaining a “living” cave.
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 aboveground. 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.
Original 86,000-year-old sloth bones and a 36,000-year-old Horse skull are now on display in the Discovery Center. There are also small bones from bear, extinct antelope, bob cat, ringtail cat, and rabbit.
Kartchner Caverns has an intriguing story of discovery and development. A 15-minute video featuring the discoverers tells the story of finding and protecting the cave. View their meager caving equipment, and put yourself in their boots by crawling through simulated cave openings.
Arizona State Parks’ consultation with cave experts prior to development resulted in a display showing problems facing public caves and the importance of preserving them. Hopefully, the museum exhibits will also inspire you to appreciate and help preserve all caves.
Group Day Use Areas
The Group Day Use Area is located at the northwest corner of the Main Parking Lot. The area features three covered ramadas, eighteen picnic tables with one handicapped accessible table, water faucets and drinking fountains, 110 electrical outlets and lighting, waste receptacles and an area for a band and dancing. Optional use of a large covered gas grill and built in counter is available for an additional fee. All fees must be paid in advance when making a reservation. Fees are on a per day basis. Please make payment with cash, Visa or Mastercard at the Front Desk of the Discovery Center. Personal checks are not accepted for payment. Reservation fees apply to the rental of the Group Day Use Area only, all other per vehicle Day Use, Camping, and Tour fees are additional.
Covered Group Ramada capacity is 200-250 persons (can accommodate 50-100 more if utilizing the uncovered gravel area on the north side – no additional charge will be assessed).
Please leave the Group Day Use Area in the same condition that it was found. Please clean the grill (if used) and place waste in receptacles. A refundable cleaning/damage deposit of $150.00 (which includes the Amphitheater area if used) is required when reserving.
50 people or less = $150.00 + $25 w/grill
50 to 100 people = $200.00 + $25 w/grill
100 to 200 people = $450.00 + $25 w/grill
200+ people = $600.00 + $25 w/grill
Catering must be arranged through park concessionaire, Aramark or receive permission from Aramark to arrange your own catering. Aramark's phone number is 520-586-4166 (Annette).
Has a raised platform with electrical outlets. Seating capacity is 200-250. $50.00 per hour.
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. Please leave the area clean for the next user.
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. All showers are handicapped accessible. 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 Woman’s restrooms, a single shower is located in the Family restroom.
Covered picnic tables are located around the perimeter of the Main Parking Lot and adjacent to the food concession area outside of the Discovery Center. Seven single table sites are located on pads under a shaded ramada with a water source on the west and south end of the main parking lot. Two handicapped accessible sites are located in the center of the sites on the west side of the lot, they have a wheelchair accessible table and adjacent parking. All perimeter tables are accessible by a developed sidewalk and pad.
Three uncovered tables on pads are located in the southeast section of the Main Parking Lot, only one table is accessible with a paved sidewalk.
Seven single tables and one wheelchair accessible table are located under the covered dining area outside of the food concession area at the Discovery Center. The dining area looks out onto the Hummingbird Garden and the vista of the Whetstone mountains. The announcement of tour times is audible in this area. A counter area with wheelchair accessibility is located inside the Bat Cave Café.
Pets are allowed in all outside areas but they should be leashed. Pets are not allowed inside any of the buildings or on cave tours except for certified 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. Wildlife and other pets may pose a danger to unrestrained pets due to potential conflicts or predatory behavior that could be harmful.
A variety of species common to the Arizonan deserts may be found around the park. Please remember that wildlife should be given a practical amount of respect and distance for their and our own health and safety. It is important that we don’t interfere in their lives as we enter their habitat and do not give them the opportunity to interfere in ours when we introduce exotic food sources or shelter that may attract them.
A 63-entry birding list is available upon request at the Front desk of the Discovery Center. The close proximity of the canyons and arroyos of the Whetstone Mountains, Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert terrain and the riparian areas of the San Pedro River creates an unique opportunity to see species found in each of these habitats. One of the most common birds seen in the park is the large, dark Raven that may present a nuisance when food is left unattended in the picnic or camping areas. Hummingbirds from around the country converge on Southeastern Arizona during their migratory travels and many may be seen year round in the Hummingbird Garden.
Lizards are commonly seen scurrying among the rocks or up a tree trunk. Slow moving Gila Monsters, plodding tortoises and racing Coach Whips may be observed in season. Caution should be taken in warm months not to disturb the several species of rattlesnakes here. To ensure your safety: keep a respectful distance, remain on trails, avoid overgrown areas, use a light to check the warm roadways after dark and keep pets restrained. This should prevent any contact with these important but potentially dangerous desert dwellers.
Many colorful butterflies and a number of intricately patterned moths may be observed during blooms in the Hummingbird Garden. Unusual Assassin Bugs climbing a Century Plant, large Horselubber Grasshoppers lumbering across the ground, and Walking Sticks blending in with the shrubbery will provide a fascinating entomological experience. Caution should be taken for scorpions. See the display in the Discovery Center about the cave-dwelling insects that live in the dark environs of the cavern.
Mountain Lions range throughout the Whetstone Mountains and precautions should be taken when in camp or on the trail. Coyotes or Gray Foxes represent the canine species of the park. These animals are seldom seen but since these animal are predators, pets should not be left unattended outdoors, especially at night. Skunks, raccoons, coatimundi, and ringtail cats may present a night time nuisance if food is left unsecured in the camp areas. Jackrabbits, cottontails, squirrels, javelinas and deer may be seen wandering through the park. Of course, bats are also an important element of the cave and park habitat. Common Cave bats (Myotis velifer) exit the cave each night during summer months to feed while the maternity colony occupies the Big Room from mid April to mid October. Pallid bats often occupy overhangs on buildings and bridges, Mexican Free Tail bats chase flying insects and Long Nosed bats come to feed from the local Agave species at night.
Please advise Park Staff of any unusual sightings or unusual behavior by wild animals. Please do not feed wild animals or birds in the park. Avoid leaving food unsecured or unattended outside and place all trash in the appropriate receptacles. This will prevent attracting unwanted animals and insects to your area and leave the animals in their natural state.
Most above ground and below ground areas on the park are handicapped accessible excepting most parts of the hiking trails. Access to parking areas, campgrounds, picnic areas and buildings are designed to be wheelchair accessible. The Discovery Center doors are automatic or manually activated automatic. All restrooms and shower areas are wheelchair accessible but the doors are NON-automated and must be opened manually. Hiking trails include uneven, unpaved surfaces; extended inclines/declines, steps, turns and miscellaneous obstacles such as rocks or logs.
The cave is accessible by wheelchair and scooter and by most visitors with limited mobility. All cave trails include switchback curves, inclines and declines and some grades of up to 12% that may exceed the Americans with Disabilities Act Guidelines. Most of the cave trails have rest areas at regular intervals along the way and the program is designed to incorporate periodic stops. Benches are located adjacent to the steeper incline/decline routes where one may avoid those areas but still enjoy the program. Stainless steel railing also lines the majority of the trails, although there are short stretches where the rail does not exist. It is suggested that you ask about any specific conditions or limitations prior to making reservation to ensure that we will be able to facilitate your specific needs. When taking a tour, please advise the Front Desk staff of your needs upon arrival so that the appropriate arrangements may be made.
Most motorized and manual wheelchairs may be used in the cave but due to the limits of the trail dimensions, certain chairs may be restricted. Wheelchairs with a seat width of 18” or less and an overall width of 30” are permissible. If your personal wheelchair exceeds these dimensions, refer to the “Wheelchair Loans” section below. Motorized wheelchairs should be electrically powered and have a closed cell battery. Wheelchairs should have functioning brakes capable of parking on an incline/decline. Ramps exist at all access points to the tram and the first car of each tram is designed to allow an individual to enter the car and remain in the wheelchair during the tram ride. Ambulatory visitors that wish to store their wheelchair on the car and ride on the seat may do so as well.
Motorized scooters are allowed on tours but due to the dimensions of the trails, some limitations exist. Scooters should have a width of 30” or less and a total length of 40” or less. If your scooter exceeds these dimensions, refer to the “Wheelchair Loans” section below. Motorized scooters should be electrically powered and have a closed cell battery. Scooters should have functioning brakes capable of parking on an incline/decline. Ramps exist at all access points to the tram and the first car of each tram is designed to allow an individual to drive the car and remain on the scooter during the tram ride. Ambulatory visitors that wish to store their scooter on the car and ride on the seat may do so as well.
The cave trails include inclines/declines, periodic waiting/stopping areas, and handrails through most areas. Crutches and walkers are not allowed on tours but canes with rubber tips are allowed. The temperature and humidity may aggravate respiratory issues. If you have any issue that may cause difficulties on the tour, it is suggested that you use a park loaner wheelchair for your ease and comfort. Please refer to the “Wheelchair Loans” section below.
If your personal wheelchair/scooter exceeds the recommended dimensions but you are able to use a wheelchair of these dimensions, manual wheelchairs are available for loan at the Discovery Center. An ID (drivers license, state ID card etc.) will be required to borrow a wheelchair. The ID will be retained at the Front Desk until the chair is returned. It is suggested that a designated person accompany each visitor in a scooter or wheelchair to assist or push if needed. Please remember that no additional items such as bags, purses, packs or bottled water, will be allowed on tours unless they have been approved for specific medical purposes at the Front Desk.
Certified assist animals meeting the American with Disabilities Act standards and are wearing the appropriate identifying items are allowed inside buildings and on cave tours. (Animals used for comfort or companionship are not allowed in buildings or on cave tours.) All owners are responsible for the actions of their assist animals and should consider the effect that darkness, enclosed spaces, warm temperatures and humidity may have on their assist animals when going on tour.
The following are NOT permitted in the Discovery Center:
- Food and drinks (including bottled water)
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. Lockers are available at the Discovery Center, they require four quarters for a one-time use. Change is available at the Discovery Center.
- Camping is permitted in designated sites only.
- 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.
- Littering is unlawful
- Quiet hours are from 10 pm – 7 am
- Help us to conserve water usage when possible.
- No feeding of birds or wildlife
Please arrive at the park prior to 6 pm. The entrance gates will close at 10 pm and access will not be available until 7 am.
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.