When you live in Arizona, you tend to stay in AZ for the winter months when the weather is beautiful. This was our second trip this year that kept us within the borders of the state.
Kartchner Caverns is a state park about an hour south of Tucson. The entire park was created because of the desire to protect the caverns.
While photography isn’t generally allowed in the caverns (without a special $125 permit on one day per month), you can get a sense of the cavers by watching this YouTube video produced by PBS
Of course, the video doesn’t do it justice. It’s definitely awe inspiring.
We took the Big Room tour which is only available from Oct 15th to Apr 15th. It’s closed the rest of the year to protect the migratory bats that call it home and give birth during the summer months. The bats actually contribute to the health of the caves and are, therefore, highly protected.
The caverns weren’t discovered until 1974 and were kept a close secret for over a decade to protect the caves from those that would potentially damage the fragile ecosystem.
Kartchner Caverns State Park Campground Review
The deets of this campground:
Site Type: When commenting that it was nice to have a pull through, Jeff commented that he could back us up into a smart car parking spot. Ok, maybe he didn’t say that but he was probably thinking it. This campground has both pull through and back up sites.
Site Surface: Smooth sailing on these paved sites. Ours was fairly level but we could see many where we were trying to determine if it was an optical illusion or the sites were really that off level. There was plenty of space for us to park our rig and tow vehicle even if we had not chosen to disconnect. However, not all spaces are this large.
Power: Full power! 50 amp, but the back in sites were all 30 amp
Water: Water was included in the price and the pressure was decent.
Sewer: No, but they had a dump station
Space: You could probably play a game of frisbee golf between the sites. Maybe not really but there was a LOT of space between most sites. There were also a lot of mesquite trees but they were still leafless this time of year so there was little shade.
Wifi/Cell/TV: OK, I get it, for a lot of people, the idea of camping means being off grid. However, not so much for us. We still enjoy internet in our down time and have work to do as well. Wifi is offered for free through the park but it was hit or miss and not reliable. Cell service with Verizon was strong but the mobile data wasn’t great without a booster of some kind. Regular antenna TV provided 5 channels to choose from.
Additional Amenities: A step above the basics. The campground offered showers and bathrooms. The shower I used, however, had very low water pressure and even less hot water. I would have preferred to shower in my rig.
Because this is a state park, they offered a few programs to choose from. You could attend a campfire safety course on Friday or a Star Gazing event with several telescopes set up for viewing. Kartchner Caverns is designated a Dark Skies Park. All campers had to have outside lights off by 8pm. It definitely left some spectacular views of the stars!
The campground, located within walking distance of the Kartchner Caverns Discovery Center which is a nice benefit when you plan on doing one of the Cave Tours.
We took two hikes this weekend, both of which connected right from the campground. In all, it was almost 9 miles of hiking!
Foothills Loop & Ocotillo Trail
The first was Foothills Loop Trail to Ocotillo Trail. The trailhead was right off the camp grounds and easy access. Foothills Loop is approximately 2.9 miles but, since we added the Ocotillo Trail, we ended up hiking about 3.65 miles. I definitely recommend hiking shoes and a sturdy footing. It’s not a hard trail for a moderate hiker but isn’t suited for someone with balance issues.
Are the Views Worth It? There are some great views on this trail. You’ll be able to see across the desert for MILES! And being surrounded by ocotillos was quite the site.
Will your Doggie Enjoy it? Probably not well suited for smaller dogs but there’s nothing an average sized dog couldn’t handle. We left our 14 year old three-legger at the rig but our three year old four legger had a blast.
Social Distancing? This time of year, we saw only 3 other people on the entire trail.
Cardio Workout? This was a moderate elevation increase. Jeff regularly plays racquetball and did just fine. I’m still working on developing my cardio and struggled on the first part just a bit.
What about heights? Unless you are totally freaked out about heights, you’ll be just fine.
Can I wear my flip flops? Sure, if you want to stay at the campground. This trail though, is a bit too rocky for even average sneakers. You’ll want something more stable with thicker soles.
Guindani Loop Trail
The Guindani Loop Trail is listed as 4.1 miles on All Trails but the extra distance to get from the campground to the trail head made it 5.28 miles. This was definitely a more challenging hike with a total increase in elevation of almost 900ft with places that had an 8% grade. Most of the reviews suggest going counter-clockwise for an easier incline and steeper decline. However, I would argue that the reward is getting to the top and coming over the ridge to find the beauty that is on the other side. That’s not something you get to experience going the other way.
Are the Views Worth It? Not only will you get breathtaking distance views with mountains but, you’ll also see cows, deer, and trees you’d never expect to see in a desert.
Will your Doggie Enjoy it? There are some areas with a little bit of boulder jumping. It’s not major but smaller doggies might have some issues. And, if your dog has a little cattle herder in her, she’s gonna want to get to work with all the cows right off the trail.
Social Distancing? The trail gets super narrow in a few parts. While we only encountered a few people on the trail, if they had come on the narrow points, we would have had to get super cozy to pass.
Cardio Workout? The clockwise loop has steeper inclines with approximately 8% grade. Even the cardio fit Jeff struggled with the grade. Counterclockwise is more gradual but doesn’t have the wow moment at the top of the hill.
What about heights? Ya, if you are moderately fearful of heights, you may have an issue with this trail. There are points that get pretty narrow and close to the edge.
Can I wear my flip flops? Flips flops are great for the beach or going to the showers but not for hiking! Especially this trail. Hiking shoes are highly recommended.
We also made it to Tombstone, AZ, the town too tough to die. If you’ve never been, it’s definitely chock full of great old west stuff, a couple of gunfights, some stage coach rides, plenty of old west actors, and souvenirs GALORE!
At 14, Oreo has seen her last camping trip. She loves being with us and being outdoors but even the short walks to give her a potty break is getting to be too much on her old three legged bones.