Caving in Southern Arizona comes in two varieties. “expert-led” tours and “self-guided” tours. The majority of the tours below require a guide. Even the ONYX tour, which is for serious cavers, requires a guide with expert knowledge of the cave.
Kartchner Caverns – Part of Arizona State Parks system, Kartchner Caverns has three tours; The Rotunda/Throne Room; The Big Room and the Saturday Helmet and Headlamp Tour. You will definitely need to call in advance for reservations to this most popular site.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park has several tours tailored for large and small groups and all skill levels. The general tour is a good introduction. If you are a little more adventurous, the Ladder Tour is for you. Get a glimpse of what real caving is all about. Headlamps, and helmets are provided. Full finger gloves are required but not provided. The Wild Cave Tour will take you to areas that have not been improved and give you a real caving experience. For an additional fee, they will feed you afterward. Now that is service. Colossal Caves also offers Candlelight Tours by reservation for groups and at special times of year. Check out our Halloween Howl slideshow. On the scariest night of the year, they give you a candle and send you down into the abyss. When we were down in the cave photographing, we witnessed more than one person get maybe 25 steps down into the cave and then turn around in terror and scramble back to the surface. Good luck! Watch our short video of the caves here.
at Coronado National Memorial south of Sierra Vista almost at the International Border. Stop in at the National Memorial visitor center to get directions. It is a small self-guided cave said to be a hiding place for Apaches. Bring flashlights.
Here are some awesome shots of the Onyx Cave. You will need to make arrangements in advance to get the key and a guide. Much of the information about Onyx Cave can be had from the Escabrosa Grotto, Inc. This group is dedicated to preserving, mapping, and educating the public about Southern Arizona caves. They meet monthly at 7:30 PM on the 2nd Friday at the Sabino House: 5990 N. Sabino Canyon Road, Tucson.
Cave of the Bells
We have not been to this cave. It is for real cavers, aka spelunkers. It requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there and equipment. We did find a video on the Cave of the Bells that will help you decide if this is for you.
is on the back road to Mt. Lemmon near the Peppersauce Campground in the Coronado National Forest. There are several videos on YouTube that may give you a sense of the place. In the past it has been heavily vandalized, but is now cleaned up and cared for by volunteers. There is also a Facebook Page with an excellent map of the cave. For more information about Caves and Caving in the Coronado National Forest, see the following resources. Southern Arizona Grotto and the National Speleological Society