The Colossal Cave is a dry or dormant cave. This means that there is a lack of water inside the cave. The lack of water creates an environment where the formations are no longer growing. This cave is unique in that it is dormant. The Colossal Cave Mountain Park is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Prehistoric people and animals have used the Colossal Cave for centuries. The first tours of the cave were in 1923. These tours were quite different from today’s tours. At that time, visitors came into the cave by ropes and used lanterns to see their way through.
The cave has been a point of curiosity throughout the years. There have been many stories about the cave’s history. One such story took place in the 1880’s, when a Southern Pacific train was crossing in the area near the Colossal Cave. Masked bandits robbed the train. The robbers got away with $62,000. After stealing the money, the robbers hid out in the recesses of the Colossal Cave. For three weeks, the sheriff’s posse waited at the mouth of the cave for the robbers to emerge. Unfortunately, they escaped out another exit. Three of the bandits were later captured in the town of Willcox and killed in a gunfight. The fourth robber was captured and sentenced to serve 28 years. After being released, the robber returned to the area. An agent for the Wells-Fargo Express Company followed the robber back to the cave and later found several empty money sacks. The robber was never seen again.
The cave has made changes since those early tours into its caverns. In the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built walkways and lighting to make the cave more accessible. The tour path is a half-mile long and takes visitors approximately 45 minutes to complete. The walk will take visitors down about 6 stories. During the tour, a guide retells the Colossal Cave’s history and geology. There are amazing formations inside the cave from stalactites to flowstone.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park is open all year round. Tours are given regularly with the promise that visitors will not wait more than 30 minutes after purchasing a ticket to go on the tour. There are no special requirements when venturing into the cave. However, if you would like to take photos it is recommended that you use high-speed film for cameras or a candlelight setting for video cams. The temperature inside the cave is at a constant 70 degrees and is very comfortable. Visitors should be prepared to climb up and down the 350 or more flagstone steps inside the cave.
Visitors will discover more than the cave at the Colossal Cave Mountain Park. There are picnic grounds, horseback trail rides and cookouts. The area is ideal for hiking and birding. Visitors will also have the opportunity to visit a gift shop and snack bar, during their visit.
The Colossal Cave Mountain Park is open Mondays through Saturdays from 8:00 to 6:00 pm and Sundays and holidays from 8:00 to 7:00 pm. The park does change its hours during the winter (from September 16 to March 15). The hours in the winter are Mondays through Saturdays 9:00 to 5:00 pm and Sundays and holidays 9:00 to 6:00 pm.
If you would like information on the riding stables, you may call520-647-3450. If you would like more information on the Colossal Cave Mountain Park, you can call 520-647-7275.
You can get to the Colossal Cave Mountain Park from Benson by taking Interstate 10 west out of town. Once you come to Exit 279 for Vail take it and then head north for approximately 6 miles. If you are coming from Tucson, you have two paths to the park. One path is to take Interstate 10 east out of town to Exit 279 for Vail. Take the exit and then head north for about 6 miles to the park. Or the other path is to travel on scenic Old Spanish Trail south for about 17 miles, until you come to the park.
The Colossal Cave is a wonderful experience. The views inside are memorable and the legends of the cave are interesting. It is a terrific trip.