Apr 22 2016
The Arizona Republic
The rest of the country has caught on to what fans of Arizona’s Kartchner Caverns have known for a long time.
The state park is a pretty special place.
Kartchner Caverns was voted the best cave in the United States in the 2016 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.
The park near Benson beat out 19 other caves for the honor.
Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts discovered the caverns in 1974. Tenen called the park an “Arizona gem.”
“It has an incredible cluster of formations, beauty and is a model for cave presentations. It is gratifying that the visiting public agrees and voted it the best in the U.S.A.,” he said.
Those interested in exploring the caverns can sign up for one of three guided tours.
The Rotunda Tour features the “Kubla Khan” formation, a 58-foot column. The Big Room Tour showcases other formations in addition to Kartchner’s bat population. The Helmet & Headlamp Tour lets visitors experience the caves with only the light of a headlamp.
Each tour covers a half-mile. The Rotunda tour costs $23, $13 for ages 7-13 and $5 for age 6 and younger. The prices are the same for Big Room tours, except children younger than 7 are not permitted. The headlamp tour costs $30 and children younger than 10 are not permitted.
Cave tours often sell out, so online reservations are recommended.
The park also has a museum, hiking trails, campground, picnic ramadas and cafe. Admission is $7 per vehicle, waived for visitors with cave-tour tickets.
Details: On State Route 90 about 9 miles south of Benson. Information, 520-586-4100; tour reservations, 520-586-2283; azstateparks.com/Parks/KACA.
This article originally appeared in The Arizona Republic.