Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ

Cool Caves Near Tucson to Visit During the Hot Summer Months

One of my very favorite things about interacting with my guests is welcoming them back to the inn after their day of sightseeing and exploring and hearing about their adventures as they enjoy their wine or sparkling water during what we call our “Armory Hour”. I love hearing how much they enjoyed a particular experience that I most likely experienced as a kid on some sort of enchanting field trip. Some of my most memorable and enjoyable field trips as a girl growing up in the Old Pueblo were trips to some of the many fantastic caves found right here in the desert southwest. And what a great idea! When the outside temperatures soar into the 90s, the temps in these caves consistently hover around the 70-degree mark making them a great option on a summer getaway at our Tucson, Arizona bed and breakfast.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

The first cave I visited as a grade-schooler (and have returned many times!) is Colossal Cave located in Colossal Cave Mountain Park, about 22 miles southeast of Tucson. Colossal Cave is a large limestone cave that was formed millions of years ago and was used by prehistoric peoples for shelter and there are even swashbuckling tales of train-robbing outlaws hiding in the caves until the heat was off. And by heat, I don’t mean the summer desert temperatures. I mean law looking to get their man. Guided tours of the cave are available, and visitors to the park can also enjoy hiking trails, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities in the surrounding park. Their gift shop is also a wonderland for young visitors to the park.

Cave near Tucson, Arizona

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I had the chance to visit Kartchner Caverns, this time with my young children. This is an exquisite example of a cave that is still living, breathing, and forming. Extra special care is taken to not disturb this ongoing process. This is one of the most popular cave attractions in the Tucson area featuring two large, stunningly beautiful limestone caves, the Rotunda/ Throne Room and the “Big” Room. These caves are filled with a variety of unique rock formations including stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, and more. Some such formations have the nicknames of “soda straws”, “fried eggs” and “bacon” and one visit to those caves and you’ll know why they have those monikers! The caves in Kartchner Caverns State Park were discovered in 1974 by two spelunkers who kept the location a secret for several years to protect the delicate formations inside. Guided tours are available and the park offers a very informative visitors center, a gift shop, hiking trails, and camping spots.

Arizona-Sonora Desert View from Museum

Another “cave” experience that is near and dear to my heart is a trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This amazing attraction is so much more than a zoological institution. There is an aquarium, an art institute, and amazing aviary exhibits, and while not a traditional cave experience, one of my favorite exhibits to visit when I was a “camper” at the summer camp there as a school-aged kid, was a simulated limestone cave exhibit that is definitely worth checking out. The exhibit includes a variety of cave-dwelling animals, as well as interactive displays that explain the geology and ecology of caves and offer a cool respite from the brutal desert heat.

Cave Lake

One cave that I have not personally visited is the cave at Peppersauce Canyon. This cave is for the most expert of spelunkers and is located in the Coronado National Forest and is popular among experienced cavers. It features several chambers and passages as well as underground streams and waterfalls. Visitors must obtain a permit from the forest service to enter the cave and be prepared to face a challenging and potentially dangerous caving experience.

Tanque Verde Falls Canyon Wall near Tucson

For another non-traditional cave experience, I might recommend a visit to Tanque Verde Falls located in the Santa Catalina Mountains east of Tucson which features a natural rock formation that creates a small cave-like environment. While not a true cave, the area is still worth exploring and is a popular destination for hiking and rock climbing. And a word of warning, visitors should use caution when hiking and climbing in the area as the terrain can be steep and rocky, not to mention, when the water is running in the falls, the area is rumored to be a favorite of the skinny-dipping set. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

So, if you are looking for a cool thing to do during the hot summer days, exploring a cave seems like just the ticket.

Desert hills surrounding Tucson Arizona

Welcome Guests!

We at The Armory Park Inn are so excited to welcome you to Tucson for an authentic southwestern getaway. We have curated unique packages and experiences to enhance your romantic stay. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Cheers, Amy Draper
(Owner of The Armory Park Inn)

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