17 Best Caves in Arizona to Explore – Arizona Caverns

17 Best Caves in Arizona to Visit – Underground Caverns in Arizona!

Arizona Caverns: Wondering where to find the best caves in Arizona? This list of cool Arizona Caves has something for everyone on it.

Kartchner Caverns is the largest cave in Arizona and well worth a visit. There are so many cool caves on this list and some with some epic views in Sedona – check out the Sedona caves near the end of the list.

The caves of Arizona have unique formations and are made of different minerals. Each of the caverns in AZ is a unique experience. Check out these famous caves in Arizona.

The Coolest Arizona Caverns and Caves to Explore

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen, two cave enthusiasts, discovered this cave near Benson in 1974. The state purchased land that belonged to the Kartchner family to protect the cave system.

Kartchner Big Room.jpg
Wiki Commons Mike Lewis 

Kartchner State Park is home to the stunning Kartchner Caverns. The caverns are home to the world’s longest stalactite structure, as well as a plethora of fascinating nooks and corners to discover.

The limestone caves were discovered in 1974 and are home to unique minerals and formations, as well as a large bat population. Although it is difficult to perceive with the naked eye, the cave’s stalagmites and stalactites are still developing.

A guided tour of the caverns is required and must be booked in advance. The tours last around three hours, but since the caves are kept at a constant 70 degrees with 100 percent humidity, you may visit even on the hottest summer day.

Viewing the numerous travertine rock formations up close gives you a better understanding of geology and the eons of time that these spindles and towers took to form.

These travertine rock formations are extremely fragile and formed over tens of thousands of years. A stray hand could cause irreparable damage to the cave system, so proceed with caution and respect! Kartchner Caverns State Park also offers hiking trails, camping, wildlife viewing, and cabin rentals.

To learn more, visit the neighboring Discovery Center, where you can learn about bats and some of the cave’s fossils.

Address: 2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ 85602

Entrance Fees: $7 per vehicle

Lava River Cave

In the Coconino National Forest, the Lava River Cave is a long lava tube. A volcanic eruption is said to have formed the cave approximately 700,000 years ago. It’s also an excellent way to beat the heat, with summer temperatures in the cave averaging 40 degrees and ice appearing on occasion.

Wiki Commons Dave Bunnell

The cave’s fascinating lava passage and adjoining caverns are open to visitors today. Wear thick clothing because the cave is very cold (even in the summer) and the temperature might drop to around 30 degrees.

The cave is a self-guided trip, which means you’ll need to do some research before going.

The roads, which are only 30 miles from Flagstaff, can be closed in the winter, so verify the conditions beforehand. You can even ski into the Lava River Cave if there is enough snow. Any trip to Flagstaff should include a visit to Lava River Cave.

Address: 171B Forest Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Entrance Fee: None

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Colossal Cave is a massive cave system in Arizona that contains some of the top caves in the area.

Colossal Cave in Tucson, Arizona

A half-mile guided tour of some of the caving systems is available, where you may learn more about the cave’s history and legends, as well as interesting information about the cave’s geological composition.

The regular guided tour lasts around an hour.

The cave has about 400 steps that make you feel like you’re on your way to the center of the earth. This cave system is located within the boundaries of a 2,400-acre mountain park.

Every day, guided tours are provided for a fee that varies based on whatever tour you choose. The classic cave trip is the most popular, as it is family-friendly and does not require any extra equipment.

As you scale ladders down into the cave system’s heart, the ladder tour takes a little more physical activity. The 3.5 hour-long wild cave trip is the most rigorous and in-depth tour. 

Prepare to get dirty on this trip, which will take you through tight spaces, pitch-black tunnels, and small passageways. This tour is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic.

During various periods of the year, hundreds of bats take flight from the caves after sunset. Colossal Cave is used by half of Arizona’s bat species as a home or a waypoint during migration. 

This cave is conveniently located around 22 miles away from the city of Tucson.

Address: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641

Entrance Fees: None

Coronado Cave

Spelunkers discuss the size of the cave, which is located near the Arizona-Mexico border; some claim it is big with several rooms, while others think it is on the smaller side.

Wiki Commons StellarD

A free permit is required to enter the cave, which may be obtained at the visitor center.

Coronado Cave is around 600 feet long and 70 feet broad in some places, so crawling may be necessary to go from one area to the next. With a 500-foot ascent in barely a half-mile, the hike to the entrance can be a little challenging.

This cave is simply the best in Arizona for cave exploration or spelunking since it has a mysterious aura. There is no official guided tour or anything that could help people with the detail of the geological facts of the cave, which is part of Coronado National Memorial Park.

As a result, many people take on the responsibility of self-education by exploring the cave on their own. Since the cave is dark, you’ll need to bring some torches and light backups.

Once inside, feel free to explore and admire the numerous stalagmites and stalactites, which are rock columns formed over thousands of years by dripping water. To avoid damaging the cave walls, it is recommended that you wear sturdy shoes and gloves.

Address: South of Hereford, AZ

Entrance Fee: None

Grand Canyon Caverns

This cave is near the Grand Canyon, as its name suggests. The limestone walls of this cavern system are geologically identical to the canyon’s soaring cliffs. It was discovered in 1927 by modern people and was officially protected in the 1960s.

Wiki Commons Scotwriter21

The Grand Canyon Caverns are limestone cave that is the world’s largest dry cavern. You’ll descend 200-300 feet (21 floors) below the earth’s surface on an elevator to the eerie cave setting.

Once at the bottom, you can take a selection of walking tours of varying difficulty levels to explore the cave.

You can choose from four different tours, ranging from beginner to advanced. The more advanced tour involves equipment and takes you into the cavern’s deepest recesses, which are rarely visited by visitors. The beginner tour is suitable for people of all ages and skills, and it allows you to visit the cave’s larger areas with a short stroll.

Grand Canyon Caverns is a wonderful choice if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon and want to add a little more adventure to your trip. Camping grounds, cottages, and bunkhouses are all easily available nearby.

The off-trail guided trip, which includes almost two hours of trekking into the cave, is for the more adventurous traveler, and you’ll uncover rarely-seen locations and fascinating formations.

  • Address: Route 66 Mile Marker 115, Peach Springs, AZ
  • Fees: Depends on what you want to do so check out their website

Peppersauce Caves

This limestone cave system, like most of Arizona’s caves, is located about 10 miles northeast of Tucson in Oracle, Arizona. There are no official tours or parking at these caves, however, there is a sign beside the road directing you to the entrance.

Wiki Commons
Mark Donoher

This limestone cave, which has a lake inside, is in a very primitive state, with no suitable visitor facilities. A shimmy through a tight passage is required to enter the cave.

Headlamps are required, and non-slip shoes are recommended. This cave’s rocks are wet and slick! If it’s going to rain, don’t walk inside the cave since the water levels inside can quickly increase to dangerous levels.

Metal ladders are available to assist cave explorers in reaching the cave’s interior. “Birthing Canal” or “The Rabbit Hole,” as well as “Big Room,” are two recognized spots that may assist in easy access.

The cave has a constant temperature of roughly 70°F and humidity almost all year. One of the most popular places for adventurers is the cave in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Other parts of Peppersauce Cave are less visited, but sticking to the main sections will keep you safe during your spelunking adventure!

Address: near Oracle on Mt Lemmon Rd

Entrance Fee: None

Wave Cave

The Wave Cave is the place to go if you’ve ever wanted to surf in the Arizona desert. This hike in the Superstition Mountains climbs up to a rock formation that resembles a wave protruding from a cave, making it a unique and memorable trip with great photo opportunities.

The hike to Wave Cave is 3 miles round trip and rated as tough, with an elevation gain of over 860 feet. The last ascent to the cave is very strenuous, requiring you to use your hands at times.

It’ll be well worth it after you’ve reached the top! Wave Cave is large enough to accommodate numerous people looking to get away from the Arizona sun.

Take care on the way down since the slope is fairly steep and there is a lot of loose gravel. Always check the weather forecast before going on this hike, and avoid attempting it on the hottest summer days. The Wave Cave is a pleasant, but challenging, trek with great views at the summit.

  • Address: Gold Canyon
  • Parking Fee: $15

Onyx Cave

Onyx Cave is a maze of passageways and rooms carved out of a limestone outcropping in the Santa Rita Mountains. Limestone is made up of the remains of small marine organisms that have been accumulated in layers over millions of years.

You can check out the full video here on youtube.

Geological pressures eventually warped and cracked the limestone. Water flooded these cracks, enlarging them through time to form what is today known as Onyx Cave.

You are free to explore once you have obtained the key to the caves’ gate! In 1974, the cave was fenced off to safeguard it from vandalism and damage. It has now been restored to its former glory and condition.

This cave is famously challenging to get to, but if you put in the effort, you might be able to have the entire cave system to yourself for many hours. Onyx Cave is privately owned by Escabrosa Grotto, Inc., and reservations for visits to the cave must be made at least two weeks in advance.

To get more information, or to obtain a key to Onyx Cave, you must contact the Escabrosa Grotto, Inc. at least two weeks in advance of your visit to allow time to transfer a key and register your reservation. Mail requests to: Escabrosa Grotto, Inc., ATTN: Conservation Chair, PO Box 3634, Tucson, AZ 85722-3634. Or contact the current Conservation Chair of Escabrosa Grotto, listed on their website at www.escabrosa.org/. Click the “Go caving” link for information, including a key request form for Onyx Cave.

Wind Cave

The hike up to Wind Cave is one of Mesa, Arizona’s most popular hikes, and it’s 3 miles round trip with roughly 800 feet of elevation gain.

Enjoy the shade and the vista once you’ve arrived at the cave! From this vantage point, you can view downtown Phoenix and other parts of the valley.

The hike will take approximately 2 hours in total. The climb will be shaded if you go early in the morning. This hike starts with a popular trailhead that has restrooms. Parking is limited and fills up quickly.

The track is well-marked and easy to follow from the trailhead. The terrain is dominated by desert cacti and palo verde. The land is densely forested with Saguaros. 

The cave is shallow, but there are lots of spots to sit and eat a snack while taking in the scenery. Take your time ascending, as the trail will be completely exposed to the sun in the afternoon.

The best time to hike this trail is in the mornings.  Wind Cave, while not a true cavern or massive cave-like the others on the list, is nonetheless worth visiting! It was carved out of the side of a cliff on Pass Mountain in Usery Mountain Regional Park by wind erosion.

Address: 3939 N Usery Pass Rd, Mesa, AZ 85207

Entrance Fee: $7 Day Pass

Soldier Pass Cave, Sedona

Soldiers Pass Cave Spur Trail is a 4.5-kilometer out-and-back trail near Sedona, Arizona that features spectacular wildflowers and is suitable for hikers of all levels. Hiking and wildlife visits are the most popular activities on the trail.

Cave inside Red Rocks near Sedona, Arizona.

This is still one of the coolest caves as the shade inside the cave can also provide some relief from the hot sun and watching the different colors inside change depending on the sun’s position overhead. 

Soldier Pass Trail is only 3 miles from Sedona’s downtown area, making it one of the most accessible hikes. From Sedona’s center, start by heading south on 89A. At the first traffic circle, take the 2nd exit to continue on 89A.

Keep going until you reach the next traffic circle and continue straight on 89A. After about 1 mile, you will turn right onto Soldier Pass Road. Continue for about 1.5 miles. You will be driving through a little neighborhood. 

You’re still on the proper track to the trailhead, so don’t worry. Make a right onto Rim Shadows Drive and continue on Canyon Shadows Drive for a short distance. On Forest Service 9904 Road, you’ll make a short left turn into the parking area.

In the gated area at Soldier Pass Trailhead No. 66, there are only about 15 parking spots. Since the lot is likely to be full, you’ll have to park on the street, which will add 0.8 miles to your hike. You cannot park just anywhere in the area, so read the posted signs carefully.

Since the Soldier Pass Trailhead is only open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., if you want to see the dawn or sunset, you’ll have to either park on the street in a residential area or start at the Jordan Road Trailhead and hike the one-mile Cibola Pass Trail to the Soldier Pass Trailhead.

Birthing Cave, Sedona

The Birthing Cave is a shallow cave on the side of a short cliff with a big diamond-shaped opening that overlooks a stunning view of Sedona’s red rocks.

This cave is easily accessible by a 2-mile out-and-back walk that is relatively flat. The cave would be overrun with visitors due to Sedona’s immense popularity. Despite being crammed with hikers, this trail has managed to fly under the radar and remains relatively peaceful and uncrowded.

You must park off the side of the road at Long Canyon Trailhead to begin your hike to the Birthing Cave in Sedona. However, unlike the more popular Catherdal Rock or Devil’s Bridge, this parking lot cannot accommodate a large number of vehicles.

This trail is wide and flat, with breathtaking views in every direction. You can proceed directly to the main trail. Take the less-traveled trail to the red rock cliffs on the left.

You’ll arrive at the Birthing Cave via this path. The path curves left after a short walk on this trail (less than a half-mile), and the cliffs are on your right. Keep a lookout for a hollow in the rock face, since this is where you’ll find the Birthing Cave! Take the short but arduous trail to the summit!

Stay awhile and take in the vista of Sedona’s Red Rocks. You’ll see a passage here that will take you up a rocky trail to the cave’s base once it feels like it’s right in front of you. Stay on the trail and avoid using shortcuts.

Warm, agreeable temperatures persist from March to May, and spring wildflowers are in bloom, making this a fantastic season to visit Sedona in general.

The months of September and October have equally nice temperatures and brilliant blue skies. Winter can be chilly, but if you’re willing to bundle up, a tiny dusting of snow can transform the red rocks into something very magnificent!

Both at sunrise and sunset, this cave is a photographer’s dream. Since the cave’s entrance faces east, sunrise would be spectacular—you’d be looking out over mountains that were shining golden in the sunlight, and the light within the cave would be soft and dreamy.

However, you should avoid doing so during the middle of the day, when the sun is directly overhead and the shadows are intense.

Keyhole Cave, Sedona

The Keyhole Cave via Sugarloaf Trail is a moderately trafficked 3.5-kilometer out-and-back trail near Sedona, Arizona that features magnificent wildflowers. The trail is open all year and is generally utilized for hiking, walking, and running.

This trail is also open to dogs, although they must be kept on a leash.  Since there is a limited parking lot and you cannot park on neighborhood streets, it is important to arrive early.

Keyhole Cave can be seen in the distance from the Sugarloaf Trailhead. It has a sharp back and appears to be a massive gaping hole in the mountainside. This is where you’ll end up.

The Teacup Trail, which begins directly at the trailhead, is the path you’ll travel. Continue for a little distance until you come to an intersection with Thunder Mountain Trail. Several side paths lead back up to the same spot or wander off somewhere else along the way.

It can be complicated, but if you have a map, you can see the trail intersection on it, which makes things a lot easier. You’ll want to turn left like you’re hiking up Thunder Mountain Trail, but there will be a wash on your right side shortly after you turn left. This wash will bring you to the bottom of Keyhole Cave if you follow it!

The climb is steep and slick. Keep an eye out for cacti and be cautious of your footing. Returning down should be done with extreme caution! To avoid slipping and falling back into a cactus, take your time and take little steps.

Spring, late fall, or even winter, if there isn’t more than a little coating of snow, are the best times to visit Keyhole Cave. Since the way to get here is in a wash, you should avoid hiking during or immediately after a rainfall. You never want to be in a wash when there’s a chance of rain, especially if there’s a risk of flash floods. 

Boynton Canyon Cave, Sedona

The Boynton Canyon Hike takes you up the canyon’s name and allows you to visit the Subway, a “secret” cave.

Although this cave is no longer a hidden gem, the connection remains unmarked and easy to miss if you aren’t looking. There are breathtaking views from the cave. A few Native American ruins can also be seen nearby.

Start at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead by parking. If the lot is full, arrive early or park a short distance down Boynton Pass Road.

The route heads northeast out of the trailhead, then immediately comes to a fork in the road where you’ll turn left to keep on the Boynton Canyon Trail. This initial section of the route runs alongside the Enchantment Resort, which detracts from the wilderness sense.

The trail climbs up the valley after passing by the resort. On this stretch, there are a few red rock views, although most of them are obscured by vegetation. The turnoff to Subway Cave is located around mile 2.

This turnoff is unmarked and easy to miss; in fact, branches may be strewn across the path to conceal it. To enter the woodland, turn right and follow the user track. The trail is a little difficult to follow in places and is a little overgrown.

Subway Cave is reached via a trail that leads to the cave’s base. You wouldn’t know there was anything inside from the bottom, but it’s incredible on the inside! A ledge runs along both sides of the lengthy cave, and an opening runs along the middle.

From the inside, there are spectacular views, and the site is extremely beautiful. Climbing through the central aperture or wandering around on the ledge from the southern side are both options for getting inside the cave. Check out the Native American ruins on the ledge to the left of the cave while you’re there.

Return to Boynton Canyon Trail via the user trail once you’ve finished visiting the cave. If you choose to keep exploring, the trail continues a little further up the canyon before coming to a halt beside an overlook. If not, return to the trailhead by returning your steps.

Shaman’s Cave or better known as Robbers’ Roost, Sedona

Robbers Roost (also known as Shaman’s Cave or the Hide Out Cave), located north-west of Sedona but accessible from any high vantage point in town, was once a hideout for bandits and bootleggers, according to local folklore.

A film called Robbers’ Roost was shot near Sedona in 1932, but no scenes were shot in the town that bears its name. While it has never been verified, this off-the-beaten-path cave with panoramic views of the surrounding woodland would undoubtedly make an excellent hideaway.

The trail to the roost is short (0.8 mile round trip), but be careful as it is steep and rocky.

Cave of the Bells

This cave, located in Coronado National Forest’s Sawmill Canyon, is a fun spelunking adventure. Surprisingly, the cave’s interior is warm, and a permanent lake may be located only a short distance from the entrance.

Access to the cave is only authorized through the Forest Supervisor’s office due to the cave’s exceedingly delicate environment. It takes four miles on a dirt road to get here, and 4WD or a high-clearance vehicle is strongly advised.

The underground lake, which is around 80 meters below the surface, is the cave’s crowning glory. The entrance, like Onyx Cave, is gated, so you’ll need to call the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s office and put down a refundable $100 deposit to get the keys.

You are free to roam after you have the keys and have located the gate! The Lake Tunnel entry leads to the famous underground lake, and you’ll notice something peculiar as you walk deeper: the temperature of the lake and the air get warmer. This, according to experts, indicates that there is a heat source beneath the lake’s surface.

No fee for this recreation area, but there is a $100 deposit due when you pick up the keys to the cave. The deposit is refunded when the keys are returned. For additional Cave of the Bells information or to make reservations, contact the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at (520) 388-8300.

American Southwest Obsessed

Nicole is a travel expert who has been traveling to the American Southwest since 1992. There is so much to see and do in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California. I spend part of the year in Phoenix and travel around the area visiting all the best places and going on the best hikes. Check out my detailed destination guides, the best hiking in each state guides, and the travel gear you need for your next trip.

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