|Colossal Cave Mountain Park|
Spectacular views of the Sonoran Desert greet visitors to this park with vistas reaching the Santa Rita, Empire, Whetstone, and Huachuca Mountains above the horizon. The vast desert and canyon walls and lush trees line the streambed below.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park hosts a wide arra...
Kartchner Caverns State Park
|Description: This world-class cave system just outside Benson at the base of the Whetstone Mountains was discovered in 1974, established as a State Park in 1988, and opened to the public in 1999. Its near-pristine condition is extraordinarily protected, allowing visitors to see spectacular cave formations. Located at 4,600 feet elevation, the park is within desert thornscrub dominated by ocotillo, white thorn acacia and mesquite.
During the summer months, the Caverns’ Big Room serves as a nursery roost for over 1,000 female cave myotis bats that migrate to Kartchner Cavern to raise their young. To protect the young bats, the Big Room is closed during the time they are present, usually April to September.
Wildlife to Watch: A variety of bats, including Cave Myotis and Mexican free-tailed bats (seasonally), ringtail, coatimundi, javelina, white-tailed and mule deer, mountain lion, bobcat, and a variety of hummingbirds, such as broad-tailed, broad-billed, Costa’s, and black-chinned may be seen here. The Hummingbird Garden Walk, located on the southwest side of the Discovery Center, is lush with local vegetation specifically chosen to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The area also provides habitat for black-throated sparrow, Lucy’s warbler, Bell’s vireo, blue grosbeak, pyrrhuloxia, phainopepla, Scott’s and Bullock’s orioles. Birds of prey include great horned owl and Swainson’s and red-tailed hawks. An abundance of reptiles and amphibians also inhabit the park. Gophersnake, western diamond-backed rattlesnake, common side-blotched lizard, collared lizard, Gila monster, desert tortoise, and red-spotted toad are some of the more commonly seen species.
Special Tips: Fee site. Reservations recommended for cave tours.
Other Activities: The Guindani Trail is 4.2 miles and ranges from easy to strenuous. It leads to the crest of the Whetstone Mountains, and hikers see sweeping vistas. The Foothills Loop Trail is a 2.5 mile loop, moderate to difficult, which climbs the limestone hill north of the cave and descends into a wash. A short spur trail leads to a scenic mountain viewpoint. This trail has interpretive signage.
Ownership: Arizona State Parks
Size: 717 acres
Closest Town: Benson
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: