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Discover 18 Incredible Caves in Arizona

There is no better place to visit than Arizona if you are an avid spelunker. Home to many of the United States’ most renowned and recognizable landscapes, Arizona boasts not only Kartchner Caverns State Park, one of the largest caves in the state, but also the iconic Lava River Cave. 

Set in the southwestern part of the U.S., Arizona’s spectacular scenery is a treat to explore, with breathtaking mountains, rugged canyons, and awe-inspiring buttes.

While Arizona’s caves and caverns preserve numerous archaeological sites and settlements left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans, they also protect a plethora of fantastic scenery and nature. Let’s take a look at the 18 incredible caves in Arizona that are worth a visit.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Colossal Cave is a crystal-filled cave located at the Rincon Valley’s southeast end. It contains some of the top caves in the area. The cave offers two types of tours: the Classic Cave Tour and the Ladder Tour, where you can learn more about the cave’s geological composition and history.

The Classic Cave Tour takes about 40 minutes to complete. It’s approximately a half-mile-long guided walk that spans spectacular geological formations, including helictites, stalagmites, stalactites, and flowstones that were sculpted by millions of years of geological activity.

As the name suggests, the Ladder Tour involves climbing ladders and squeezing through tight passages. It takes you through some crazy, barely-seen cave sections that have been limited to public exploration since the 1950s. It’s an approximately 1.5-hour long rigorous and in-depth wild cave tour.

  • Address: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641, United States
  • Website: Colossal Cave Mountain Park
  • Phone number: +1 520-647-7275
  • Entrance fee: $22 for adults, $12 for children between ages 5 to 12, and $20 for active military adults with ID. Children below the age of 5 are not allowed on tour.
  • Google Maps link: Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts discovered Kartchner Caverns in November 1974. This caving system is home to the world’s longest stalactites structure and many other fascinating features in the Rotunda-Throne Room.

Ensure you view the travertine rock formations up close to better understand the geology and the eons of time. A guided tour is a must and should be booked in advance.

Grand Canyon Caverns

Widely considered one of the world’s wonders, the Grand Canyon Caverns boasts some of the most spectacular dazzling dimensions of the hollow canyon.

The Grand Canyon is considered the driest cavern in the United States. Therefore, geological formations, such as stalagmites and stalactites, are rare in the caverns because of the lack of water. Take a selection of walking tours once at the bottom to explore the cave.

Lava River Cave

Formed roughly 700,000 years ago when molten lava erupted, the Lava River Cave is a mile-long tube cave located in Coconino National Forest.

It’s mostly dry inside the cave, though a bit slippery due to too much condensation on the walls, ceiling, and floor near the entrance. It’s also a bit dark inside, so visitors are urged to have multiple light sources, along with sturdy hiking boots and warm clothing.

Water Holes Canyon

Unlike most caves and caverns in Arizona, Water Holes Canyon is a unique barren reservation area with delightful sandstone slot canyons. It’s a branched drainage cutting through the red Navajo sandstone rocks around Lake Powell. It consists of exceptionally awe-inspiring rock formations with curved, delicately colored sandstone, a common feature of this region.

Tonto National Monument

Situated in the Superstition Mountains in Gila County, Tonto National Monument is an awe-inspiring Salado Phenomena formed about 700 years ago.

It displays two Salado-style cliff dwellings and other artifacts that tell a story about the northern Sonoran Desert people who occupied the area during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. A Salt River cuts across the region, providing a rare, year-round water source within the area.

Coronado Cave

No permit is required to enter and explore Coronado Cave. It’s one of the few undeveloped public-accessible caves in southern Arizona.

The cave is around 600 feet long and about 70 feet wide, so visitors might be forced to crawl through some narrow passages. While inside the cave, you can admire the numerous stalagmites and stalactites formed over thousands of years by dripping water.

Massacre Cave Overlook

Nestled off of the road on the North Rim Drive in the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Massacre Cave Overlook is a rock shelter believed to have been used by a group of Navajo in 1805 during a battle against a Spanish military expedition. Several warriors are thought to have been massacred by the Spanish.

Aside from the Massacre Cave Overlook, there are two other overlooks within the area– the canyon overlook and Yucca Cave Ruins overlook. The trail leading to the third overlook is more primitive in nature than the other two. It’s made up of sand, slickrock patches, and a few rock steps that one must trek carefully.

Peppersauce Cave

Like most of Arizona’s caves, Peppersauce Cave is a limestone cave system located in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It’s one of the least visited places since it’s located in the most primitive part of the state, with no suitable visitor facilities. There is a lake inside the cave, which stays at a constant level most of the year.

Visitors must use a metal ladder to access the Big Room, which houses the lake. So, spelunkers are advised to bring ropes, non-slip shoes, and headlamps to illuminate pathways.

Wave Cave

Wave Cave is an ideal place for avid hikers and spelunkers. It’s a 3-mile hike in the Superstition Mountains up to a rock formation similar to a wave sticking out of the cave. The cave is large enough to accommodate many people all at once. It offers great photo opportunities for photographers, making it a unique and memorable trip.

Onyx Cave

Onyx Cave is a unique solutional cave located in the Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona. It consists of a maze of passages formed in Permian Limestone and rooms carved out of limestone outcroppings accumulated over millions of years. The cave is part of Coronado National Forest and was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.

The cave is gated, so visitors need to acquire the keys to access it. Escabrosa Grotto, Inc controls the cave’s access. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance before your visit.

Keyhole Cave

Spelunkers are required to hike Sugarloaf Trailhead to get to Keyhole Cave. It’s about 2.2 miles (3.5 km) moderately trafficked trail featuring spectacular flowers.

The trail can be accessed throughout the year and is typically utilized for hiking, walking, or running. While on the trail, you will notice a massive gaping hole in the mountainside. This will be your destination.

  • Address: Teacup Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336, United States
  • Website: AllTrails
  • Google Maps link: Keyhole Cave

Boynton Canyon Cave

It’s easy to miss Boynton Canyon Cave since it remains unmarked. Take the Boynton Canyon Trail, which initially runs alongside the Enchantment resort and climbs up the valley after passing by the resort. You will see a turnoff to the Cave, which is unmarked.

The trail may be pretty difficult to follow due to branches strewn across the path and a little overgrown. Nonetheless, the trail leads to the cave’s base. The cave is amazing on the inside. You will see Native American ruins on the ledges that run along both sides of the lengthy cave.

Birthing Cave

Birthing Cave derives its name from the indigenous Hopi people who inhabited Sedona. It’s believed that pregnant women came to deliver their babies in the cave. Birthing Cave was a spiritual and uplifting place for them.

It’s a shallow cave with a huge diamond-shaped opening overlooking the incredible Sedona’s red rocks. The cave is easily accessible, so both experienced and inexperienced spelunkers can explore. The trail is relatively wide and flat, with spectacular views in every direction.

  • Address: Deadman’s Pass Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336, United States
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • Google Maps link: Birthing Cave

Wind Cave

It’s a popular hiking area in Mesa, Arizona. The hike to the cave is typically a 4.7 km out-and-back moderately challenging trail with roughly 800 feet of elevation gain. Desert cacti and palo verde dominate the trail, and the area is densely forested with saguaros. It’s a popular hiking area, so you will encounter many people while exploring.

Soldier Pass Cave

The Soldier Pass Cave is one of the coolest caves to explore in Sedona, Arizona. To access the cave, visitors must hike a 2.8-mile (4.5 km) Soldier Pass Cave Spur Trail, which features magnificent wildflowers. The shade inside the cave provides some relief from the hot sun.

While inside the cave, you can enjoy the different colors, which keep changing depending on the sun’s position overhead.

Cave of the Bells

Situated in Sawmill Canyon in Coronado National Forest, Cave of the Bells is an outstanding fragile underground wilderness best known for its unique mineral suites and formations. It offers a fun spelunking adventure for those who enjoy cave exploration.

Like Onyx Cave, Cave of the Bells is gated, so visitors need to call the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s office and pay a $100 refundable fee to get the key. Thereafter, one is free to roam the cave and the area within.

Shaman’s Cave, also known as Robber’s Roost or Hide Out Cave 

Shaman’s Cave is located in northwest Sedona. According to local folklore, the cave was once used by bandits and bootleggers as a hideout. It offers panoramic views of the surrounding woodland, making it an ideal place for photography. The trail leading to the cave is a bit steep and rocky, so one must be careful while trekking this path.

  • Address: Robbers Roost Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336, United States
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • Google Maps link: Hide Out Cave Trail

Final Thoughts

Very few places in the world have such a diverse range of caves and caverns as Arizona, making the state an ideal place to capture your next photo. With so many different locations across the state, Arizona’s caves are all worth a visit. They offer interesting historical sights to check out and a wealth of outdoor activities to be explored.

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