Colassal Cave Mountain Park, in the Vail area south of Tucson, Arizona was a hub of activity when we visited. We took a hike through the hills and valley. Others attended the Pioneer Days special event at La Posta Quemada Ranch and still more toured the cave.
Address: 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail Rd, Vail, Arizona
Park Fees: Auto: $5.00 ($1.00 per person over 6 people), Motorcycle: $2.00, Bicycle: $1.00
Cave Tour Fees: Adults: $8.50, Children (6 - 12): $5.00, Children (5 & under): Free
Ownership: Privately owned.
About Colossal Cave
Colossal Cave, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, had been used for centuries by prehistoric peoples when it was "discovered" in 1879. The first tours were taken through the unimproved Cave in 1923. These tours involved ropes and lanterns. Thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps, we are able to enjoy paved pathways and stairs throughout the "dormant" cave. While this cave is not as impressive as Karchner Caverns, a nearby "living cave," it is a great way to introduce children to the basics of caves and get a sense of the difference between a "dormant" cave and a "living, breathing" cave.
La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum and Horseback Riding
The day we were there, mule-drawn and drafthorse-drawn wagons were taking visitors to a Pioneer Days special event. La Posta Quemada Ranch has been a working ranch since the 1870's. When we hiked there, we were allowed through ranch grounds and had to ensure gates were kept closed so the horses, bull and cattle would not roam.
The Ranch Headquarters House on La Posta Quemada Ranch was built by John S. Sullivan in 1967 (the original adobe Ranch house burned to the ground in 1965). Today it houses a museum with exhibits explaining the human history and the natural history—specifically that of caves—of Colossal Cave Mountain Park and the Cienega Corridor region.
You can take a guided trail ride from the ranch. Rides go out daily. Starting from the site of the historic Mountain Springs Hotel and Stage Station, you'll follow the National Mail Stagecoach route. Riders will see spectacular and complex geological formations and a Hohokam bedrock mortar site as you ramble through unspoiled Sonoran desert.
Hiking at Colossal Cave Park
Hiking and riding trails wind throughout the park. You can catch a great trail from the group camping area. It heads out into the valley just past the restrooms, at the end of the parking area. Be sure and carry water, wear shoes with good tread and use a hiking stick. It is a rocky trail with great scenery.
Overnight primitive camping is available. When we were there a group of Boy Scouts was enjoying an overnight with quite a few tents. Toilets were a bit odiferous. No showers or other campground ammenities.
This is a beautiful park with beautiful views. One of the highlights is the narrow road leading up to the cave entrance. The cave tour is interesting but not as spectacular or as educational as Karchner Caverns, for example. It is a "dormant" cave and some of the formations have been damaged by treasure hunters.
If you are going to Karchner, go through Colossal Cave first. You will then be able to compare the "dormant" cave with the beauty of a "living cave."