Colossal Cave Mountain Park has a Discovery Tour game that you can play. You can pick up a Discovery Tour game map at the toll booth, any of the gift shops or at the trail rides office for free. There are 18 icons on the map and 18 matching Discovery Tour stations around the park. At each station you will find a paper punch. All you have to do is punch the icon on the map that matches the location you are at. Once you have punched all 18 icons you will have seen just about all of the park. Then take your map to one of the gift shops for a treasure! You don’t have to tour the cave to complete the Discovery Tour map. We are saving the cave tour for another day!
We started our tour at the La Posta Quemada (Burned Stage Station) Ranch, a working ranch since 1878. There are 5,714 grazing acres that are leased around Colossal Cave Mountain Park. The ranch is currently a cow/calf operation with approximately 65 head of female cows grazing year round. There are two resident cowboys that handle the ranching operation.
These are the paper punch stations that you will be looking for throughout the park.
There are quite a few things to see and do at La Posta Quemada and you will punch most of your map’s icons in this area. Our first stop was an analemmatic sundial, which is a horizontal sundial and consists of a central calendar grid and an elipse showing the hours. A gnomon (vertical rod) is used to tell the time. You can also use your body to tell the time instead of the gnomon.
It was too cloudy so we didn’t see much of a shadow to tell us the time.
There is a butterfly garden that has been designed to provide for the full life cycle of butterflies. There are larval food plants for caterpillars and nectar providing plants for the adult butterflies. There is also shade and camouflage for protection from predators. For the humans there are benches for relaxing and enjoying the butterflies and flowers. The park has a list of butterflies that you can look for but I didn’t find it very helpful since there aren’t any photos to reference.
Looking for butterflies.
There are two Desert Tortoises but they must have been hiding because we couldn’t find them. They are of the Sonoran sub-species, going back nearly 230 million years…before dinosaurs existed!
Desert Tortoise Exhibit
There is a mining sluice where you can pan for gemstones, fossils or arrowheads.
Hey, there’s water in this sluice!
There are a few random exhibits, like this funhouse mirror from the 1934 World’s Fair. J thought her reflection was interesting! You will also find a windmill, caboose, water tower and some other old pieces of history here.
Looking slightly strange!
There are a few small museums here at the park. The CCC Museum (Civilian Conservation Corps) is in a restored adobe that used to be used as the CCC office for the Colossal Cave Project. The museum is dedicated to the men of camp SP-10-A. The museum is set up like a Camp Commandant’s office of the 1930′s complete with furniture built by the CCC. The CCC began preparing for the Colossal Cave Project in 1934. They developed the tour route, made the entrance larger, built bridges, put down the flagstone pathways and installed lighting and handrails. They created the picnic areas, roads and stone ramadas as well. Many of the buildings were also built by the CCC and are still in use today. You can learn more about the CCC inside the museum. Colossal Cave Mountain Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
The CCC Museum
There is also the La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum which is housed inside the Ranch Headquarters House, built in 1967. The museum focuses on the human and natural history of Colossal Cave Mountain Park and the Cienega Corridor region.
J was more interested in the cat than anything else in the museum.
The Ranch Headquarters House has a quiet courtyard that J had fun exploring.
Wandering around the courtyard.
There wasn’t any water in the fountain, much to J’s dismay.
The Colossal Cave Research Library is also located at the Ranch Headquarters House. J was happy to find a whole collection of children’s books. We had to take a reading break! The library is a source of information about the natural and cultural pre-history and history of Colossal Cave and the surrounding area for researchers and staff with over 800 books and thousands of historic photographs, journals and newspaper articles. The library is open daily. The library also schedules story times and other children’s activities.
The Children’s Collection had a nice assortment of books for all ages.
We left the Ranch Headquarters House and walked a short distance on the Bundrick Trail to see a few more things in this area.
Finding treasures along the trail.
There is a very small petting zoo with some goats, ducks, chickens and mules. Petting is free and you can feed the animals for $1.00.
If you have older children you can saddle up and take a leisurely guided trail ride along the National Mail Stagecoach route.
All saddled up and ready to go, but we just said hello.
After saying hello to the horses we got in the car and drove a minute or two to get to the next stop on our Discovery Tour, a life size sculpture called “The Cowboy” by Buck McCain. The sculpture is a tribute to the working cowboy. It was donated to the park by the Pima County Parklands Foundation.
There is a large parking lot in this area. We were looking for the playground so we parked and got out. It turned out that the playground was under construction so we went searching for a geocache along the other end of the Bundrick Trail.
Who needs a playground when there are cats around?
Taking a snack break while searching for the geocache.
I know this might seem like a lot but everything is close together (J walked most of it and only rode in her stroller while she snacked) except The Cowboy and that is even easily walkable but I drove because I didn’t realize it was so close.
However, you will definitely need to take the car up to the Colossal Cave area to finish the Discovery Tour unless you are prepared for a decent hike. It will take a few minutes by car to get there. Once there the view is amazing! We didn’t tour the cave – we will save that for a super hot day as a way to escape the summer heat. Here you will find six of the 18 Discovery Tour stations. There is a bit of a descent as you go from the parking lot to the cave area but you can either use the stairs or take the ramp if you prefer to bring a stroller.
Enjoying the view!
There is a bat garden.
Bummed that she didn’t see any bats.
Once we collected all of the paper punches that we needed we headed to the Bat Pot Gift Shop to claim our treasure. Our Discovery Tour map got an official stamp and we got to keep it for our scrapbook. J was excited to pick out two gemstones (one for each of us).
Deciding which two gemstones to pick.
You can start in either area and do the whole Discovery Tour in one day or do it over a period of time. You can even camp at one of the park’s campgrounds. Summer hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and there is a daily use fee of $5.00 per auto. Here is the fee list. There is a gift shop at the La Posta Quemada Ranch so you can also claim your treasure at that location. There are plenty of bathrooms along the way, plenty of places to sit and relax or eat and plenty to see and do. There are also places to grab a snack or something to drink.
The Discovery Tour game is definitely a fun way to see almost all of the park!