After being closed for an extended period, Mitchell Caverns reopened just a year ago.
I tried to book them last year planning our southwest trip. And it was a shock for me that it was scheduled entirely until March! This August I called them again. They have very strict instruction on how one can book a tour. You need to call on Monday after 8 AM. Their site has a schedule when they accept reservation and what month are in the booking right now. I was lucky that time.
Mitchell Caverns is a part of Providence Mountains Recreational Area which is surrounded by Mojave Monument. Our tour was the second tour of the day, and we met cars returning from the park. Yo need to check in and pay for visit and car parking at least 30 mins before the tour start. They have just two daily tours Friday through Sunday, one 11.30 AM and the second at 2 PM. I booked for 2 PM. We stayed at Yucca Valley, so we needed to drive all the way to Mojave – it took more than an hour.
There is also an option to come and wait if someone will not show up for their booking. It was the issue in our group. A family of 5 decided to expect, and to their luck, another big group didn’t join.
The tour is guided and very interested, the ranger tells about the history of the place, some geology, and all other exciting staff. You need to hike to a short and easy trail that leads to El Pakiva Cavern. Mitchell Caverns contains two big caverns connected with the corridor; the first one is El Pakiva (the Devil’s House) and Tecopa.
It’s a fantastic experience to enter a vast dimly lighted cavern. The eyes slowly adapt and start to see the impressive stalactites.
And depending on your luck and rangers accompanying your group you could see some of the animals leaving in the caves. I was shown a small bat sleeping on the wall on the cavern right near the entrance.
Tour spend the longest time at the El Pakiva. It’s from my point of view the most impressive room on tour. At first, the cavern is dimly lighted, but after 5 minutes, the ranger switched all light on, and then it was magic.
Then tour leads to the Queen’s Chamber, a small room with the stalactites of exciting form. From here, rooms will be smaller, you will need to walk in a tight corridor and try not to touch or step on anything.
After walking a long corridor of Solution Tube, the path leads over the Bottomless Pit, which has a bottom but has a funny history. It’s the last room of El Pakiva. Next is the connecting tunnel, that was built by State Parks to the southern Tecopa Cavern.
If El Pakiva is more colder and drier, a south-looking Tecopa is much warmer and humid. It has two rooms: Fallen Stalactite and Hollow Floor. Both small but very interesting. The tour spends more time in the Hollow Floor Room; the guide tells a bit of the history of the name and some creatures that live in the cavern.
The main room of the Tecopa could be explored only from the observation deck. The cavern is huge. The light passes through the natural entrance and colors the wall with blue shade. Here you feel the moisture and warm. We’ve been there on a cold November day, and it was still warm inside, so I took off my jacket. From here you exit the cave and returns to the same trail back to the car parking.
- Official site of Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and information about the reservation: link
- Mitchell Caverns on Google Maps