Arizona — Climbing ladders in Colossal Cave (Hold the farts please).

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The woman in front of me was wearing the wrong shoes, and I wondered if this Tucson cavern would be her final resting place. She was in agony.

We were taking a special tour through Colossal Cave, located southeast of Tucson. It was called the Ladder Tour and the girl who took my phone reservation warned

The Ladder Tour at Colossal Cave lets you explore otherwise inaccessible areas.
The Ladder Tour at Colossal Cave lets you explore otherwise inaccessible areas.

me that I needed sturdy footwear. Well, duh, I thought. It’s a cave. Apparently, the woman in front of me did not get the memo.

You could only call what she was wearing “shoes” because they covered her feet from heel to toe. They were really just slippers, and the ladders referenced by the tour’s name were made of welded rebar steps. Her feet bent at the arch over the thin, steel bars with each step until she suddenly moaned in despair that she couldn’t climb any further. The problem was that we were both half way up a ladder with people behind us.

When people are looking for a cave in Arizona, Kartchner Caverns gets top billing. And it certainly deserves it. Yet just about 40 miles west of those caverns is another cave that is less spectacular, but certainly provides some great entertainment if you’re looking for things to do in Tucson.

Colossal Cave is part of Colossal Cave Mountain Park located at the base of the Rincon Mountains, next to Saguaro National Park East. Besides the limestone cave, the park features hiking, camping and trail rides.

But the cave provides the best opportunity for adventure, especially if you take one of the special tours: The Candlelight Tour, Wild Cave Tour or the Ladder Tour.

We booked the nighttime Ladder Tour because of a Groupon discount. Normally, the cost is $25 per person in the day, or $45 per person at night with a steak dinner included.

Both the Ladder Tour and the Wild Cave Tour take you to locations not open to the standard tour. When we checked in, they issued us a hard hat and headlamp. While we waited for our guide to call us, we looked out over the foothills from the covered patio in front of the cave entrance. There’s a castle, called Agua Verde, on top of one of the hills and you can use a pay telescope to get a closer look.

Our guide collected us and we entered the cave. The average temperature of the cave is 70 F which is nice when it’s a hot summer day. The cave is called a “dry” cave because the formations are no longer growing from water deposits.

Travelinas on ladder in Colossal Cave
Julie climbs one of the many narrow-rung ladders.

After awhile, we left the standard tour route and climbed some ladders through narrow passages. The ladders aren’t very long, and it would be difficult to fall off. Unless you’re in agony from wearing the wrong shoes. Which brings me back to the woman in front of me.

Using my best motivational skills plus a couple of strategically-placed helping hands, I talked the woman to the top of the ladder. I know she was relieved because just as she topped out, with her rear end in my soon-to-be-mortified face, she farted and then giggled and looked at me with an unspoken “whoopsie daisy!”

There was no room to push past her and I couldn’t descend because people were on the rungs below. So I held my breath until I got off the ladder and into my own space. Which seemed to take a very long time.

The woman was through with the tour, and fortunately we were at a spot where the guide could escort her back to the entrance while the rest of us waited. We finished the tour, including sliding through a narrow passage that the guide had not visited before, then emerged for fresh air and our steak dinner on the patio.

The Ladder Tour


  • Friendly and knowledgeable guide.
  • The cave may not be as interesting as other, more famous caverns but has some nice passageways and rooms.


  • Coming out of the cave dirty and sweaty, I didn’t feel like eating with a bunch of strangers.
  • Food was mediocre.
  • Guide should have known the woman had inadequate footwear.
  • Being farted on.

 How to get to Colossal Cave Mountain Park:

From Tucson, just follow Old Spanish Trail east to its end.

From I-10 take the Vail/Wentworth exit (Exit 279), turn north and follow the signs.


6721 E. Old Spanish Trail
Vail, AZ 85641



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