Arizona is for adventure lovers. The beautiful city is home to one of the most impressive skywalks in the world and many fascinating caves.

Some of them remain untouched because they’re too delicate to tamper with. But luckily for tourists, most of these have been developed to be able to open to the public as tourist spots. 

Underground, swimming in the mysterious red light, you’ll find mesmerizing rock formations with never-before-seen fauna. Even if you’re visiting in peak summer, the caves generally stay at a cool temperature of 70°F degrees (21°C). 

Arizona takes its caves very seriously as they have historical and environmental significance. The National Park considers the tampering, meddling, or damaging of any part as a legal offense. 

Ready to embark on a journey to the center of the Earth? Keep scrolling for the 7 best underground caves and caverns near Phoenix in Arizona.

Check out this tour for a half-day adventure on a hot air balloon in Phoenix.

Best Underground Caves in Arizona

Cave Walls, Arizona

Most of the caves and caverns in Arizona are pitch black inside, to the point where there isn’t a speck of light to help you see. If you were to drop your torch, you wouldn’t even be able to see your hands.

For this reason, it’s recommended that you take a few light sources (with extra batteries to be safe) to help you navigate through the inky darkness.

Note: Only some caves and caverns host guided tours. The rest of the caves and caverns do not host tours but have signs at the site to help you navigate and get around. Check the cave’s site in advance for more information.

1.   Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Located southeast of Tucson, the Colossal Cave has various mapped passageways. These paths lead to interesting formations like stalagmites, stalactites, and helictites.

Except for one, touching these formations is not allowed because they’re incredibly delicate. That’s why it’s important to ensure you don’t miss “Old Baldy” (the only formation you can touch).

Watch out for the guano coming from the bats in hidden corners of the cave!

Colossal hosts a guided tour every hour that lasts 45-50 minutes. This informative tour enlightens tourists on the cave’s geology, history, legends, and formations.

If you’re keen to discover the partially-developed parts of the cave, opt for the “ladder tour” or “wild cave tour.”

2.   Lava River Cave

Lava River Cave, Arizona
Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Formed approximately 700,000 years back, this mile-long “lava tube” is located within the Coconino National Forest.

After a volcanic eruption in Hart Prairie, the molten rock from the volcanic vent flowed through here, cooled down, and solidified to form the cave’s ceiling, floor, and walls – creating an underground tube.

When visiting Lava River, dress warm and wear closed-toed shoes. This cave is cooler compared to most caves in Arizona, with summer temperatures ranging between 35°F (1,67°C) and 45°F (7,2°C). You may even see ice on a good day.

Please note: No guided hike, restroom, or food facilities are available here.

3.   Cave of the Bells

Cave of the Bells is located on the edgy eastern slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains.

The cave is not freely open to the public, nor considered an easy hike for the common person. However, you can access the hiking trails through the Forest Supervisor’s Office.

A refundable deposit of approximately $100 may be required to get the keys to the cave. Once you return the keys after your trip, you get your deposit back.

Unlike most caves, this one is quite warm on the inside. There’s also a permanent lake that can be found just a few meters into the cave.

4.   Peppersauce Cave

Catalina Mountain, Arizona

Located on the south of Oracle in the Santa Catalina mountains, Peppersauce is a mystifying limestone cave. A small passage leads you to many “rooms” inside.

The Big Room leads to the main lake via a metal ladder. The second half of the cave can also be accessed through the Big Room.

“The rabbit hole” is famous because it requires you to go head-down first. A smooth, high wall angled in a direction lets you slide down further into the cave. 

Red and Crystal Arizona Caves and Caverns

Looking for more caves near Phoenix? Keep reading this extended list.

5.   Kartchner Caverns

Located 165 miles southeast of Phoenix, the Kartchner Caverns is a vast limestone cave with passages measuring 13,000 feet and boasting formations in many different shapes and sizes. 

The cave has minerals from six different chemical classes. It is considered one of the top ten carbonate caves in the world when it comes to mineral diversity. The stalactite formation here is the longest in the world. This is one of the best red caves in Arizona.

You can choose from three tours:

  1. Rotunda/Throne Room: +/- 90 minutes.
  2. Big Room Tour: two hours.
  3. “Helmet and HeadLamp” Tour: Saturdays only.

6. Grand Canyon Caverns

Grand Canyon Sunset, Arizona

It’s speculated that the Grand Canyon Caverns were discovered in 1927 by a woodcutter hoping to find gold.

He didn’t find gold, but the discovery of the cave led to a wondrous adventure. This limestone cave is considered to be the largest dry cavern in the U.S.

Visitors take an elevator that transports them 21-stories (more than 200 feet) below the Earth’s surface into the spooky cave.

If you’re an experienced spelunker, choose the off-trail guided tour for two hours’ worth of trekking, seldom-seen areas, and eccentric formations. 

The caverns have been developed to feature a tourist stop with a restaurant and inn. The inn offers a unique “Cavern Suite” which can be booked if you’re up to sleeping 220 feet underground.

To tour the Grand Canyon National Park, check out this tour.

7. Cave on Cave Creek

Cave Creek, Arizona

Cave Creek is a town in Maricopa County which borders Phoenix. It’s believed that the town’s name originates from this cave in Arizona.

The Desert Foothills Land Trust is responsible for taking care of this cave. It’s not open to the public, but the Trust allows for (and supervises) six guided tours every year.

Three tours take place in the spring and three in the fall. Check out the Desert Foothill Land Trust website to find out more information on these tours and how to book them. 

The cave’s walls have pictographs and petroglyphs, which could be anywhere between 500 to 2,000 years old. 

Concluding Caves in AZ

While spelunking sounds like chaotic fun, these caves and caverns are of great historical and environmental importance. We mustn’t tamper with or damage them.

For this reason, the NPS advises wearing gloves while exploring. Touching cave walls and formations with bare hands can prevent the growth of new formations.

Rules vary from cave to cave, so check out the cave’s site in advance. 

Before embarking on your adventure, be sure to check out this post on the 24 common travel mistakes

7 Best Caves in Arizona - Near Phoenix, Arizona
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