The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.Joseph Campbell
About the Park
Carlsbad Caverns contains 113 caves, including North America’s most extensive cave chamber and the deepest in the United States. As you drive through the Guadalupe Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas and New Mexico, it is hard to imagine the unseen world of caves beneath you. We combined our visit to the area with a trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, just south of Carlsbad Caverns.
Check out the view from inside the cave!
Live it up!
Best Things to do in the Park
- Hike down through the Natural Entrance Trail, and take the elevator up!
- Experience the Big Room, the largest cave chamber in North America
- Explore the exhibits at the Visitor Center
- Hike one of the surface trails and see the Guadalupe Mountains in the distance
- Watch as thousands of bats emerge from the cave at the Bat Flight Amphitheater
- Stay at the park until night for some great stargazing
We had a great visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It was more extensive and more magnificent than we were anticipating. We took the Natural Entrance down into the cave and enjoyed the Big Room and many great cave features. We ended the tour by riding the elevator back up. This picture was from when we passed through West Texas on our way there.
Size of Park
The Big Room covers 8.2 acres, which is the largest accessible cave chamber in North America
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park features more than 119 caves, some of the best-preserved cave complexes. This cave system is located in the Guadalupe Mountains of southern New Mexico and is not only available for scientific study but also accessible to the public.
The Carlsbad Caverns is a popular tourist destination in New Mexico, where you will find beautiful caves. The country’s second deepest cave, the Lechuguilla Cave, is also located in the Carlsbad Caverns. These caves were formed 500,000 years ago when the limestone was dissolved by sulfuric acid and left behind the caverns.
The park is situated over 46,770 acres of land and has two entries, but the above-ground has many hiking trails to enjoy, too.
The caves are also home to 17 species of bats that number between 200,000 to 500,000. They migrate but make the caves home between April and October. The best time to see the flights are between August and September when the baby bats take flight. You can catch a bat program in the amphitheater in the evening.
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park is famous for its caves, but it also contains miles of self-guided hiking trails. You can choose from several trails on the surface, which can be a rewarding way to experience the Chihuahuan Desert and the Guadalupe Mountains. The park also has underground trails.
Most tourists spend their time below ground in the caverns, where the underground trail system includes six interconnected tour routes. The Carlsbad Caverns National Park has two self-guided tours and five ranger-guided tours. The ranger-guided tours have additional fees, varying from short and easy walks to longer hikes where you have to crawl through narrow tunnels.
Natural Entrance Trail
Natural Entrance Trail is considered a strenuous hike because of its several switchbacks. The trail is 1.25 miles long and 750 feet underground.
There are cave swallows at the beginning of the trail, along with various rock formations. The trail ends in the Big Room, and many hikers combine the Natural Entrance Trail with the Big Room Trail, which can take up to 3 hours. This is a self-guided tour, meaning that tourists can explore the cave at their own pace. This is the path we took.
King’s Palace Tour
This one-mile underground trail comprises a concrete pathway with many stairs. There is an entrance fee, while restrooms are also available underground at the lunch area. It takes one and a half hours to complete the trail, which is more than 800 feet below the surface.
Through four cave chambers, you will go to the deepest part of the cavern open to the public, where you can see cave formations, including draperies, helictites, and columns.
Big Room Trail
Big Room is the most popular route in the caverns and is the largest cave chamber in North America. Due to its huge volume, Will Rogers called the cavern ‘The Grand Canyon with a roof over it.’
This self-guided trail is 1.25 miles long and is relatively easy because it is flat and fitted with handrails and low lighting. It takes about 2 hours to complete this trail showcasing stalagmites, stalactites, cave formations, and some interesting views.
Old Guano Trail
The trail begins at the dirt road adjacent to the Carlsbad Caverns’ natural entrance. The trail follows the old road used to haul guano from the caves in the 20th century. You can also see debris and ruins from the mining operation near the entrance.
This trail is almost 3.7 miles long with an elevation of 750 feet, and its one-way hike takes nearly two hours.
Walnut Canyon Trail
Walnut Canyon Trail is a paved pathway from where you will have a scenic view of Walnut Canyon. The trail is short and easy. The track has an elevation gain of only 22 feet, and the trailhead is located along the road to the visitor center.
Camping in the Park
Unfortunately, Carlsbad Caverns National Park has no campgrounds, and overnight RV parking is also not allowed in the parking lot. However, in some areas, basic tent camping is allowed in the backcountry exclusively, but only with a permit. You can get a free permit at the park’s visitor center.
Camping options near the park
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located near White City and Carlsbad, both of which have amenities and campgrounds. Carlsbad, however, is larger and offers more options. The three campgrounds nearest the park are Carlsbad RV Park & Campground, Dark Canyon Dispersed, and Carlsbad KOA.
The Carlsbad RV Park & Campground is 16 minutes away from the national park and easily accessible. There are tent sites and areas big enough for rigs with slide-outs. All the sites claim to have Wi-Fi and cable TV hookups. You will also find a game room, an indoor heated pool, a playground, and a kitchen. A convenience store also sells RV supplies and groceries.
The Dark Canyon Dispersed is located 40 minutes from Carlsbad Caverns and is a great stop if you have to spend the night. However, you will find a few large sites for an RV. Moreover, this is a dispersed campground with no shade, amenities, or campground.
Carlsbad KOA campground is located near the Carlsbad Caverns and has a pool, game room, and food. Laundry is also available, a big plus point for any campground.
King’s Palace is an excellent viewpoint because of its stalactites and stalagmites collection. This majestic cave has to be visited with a guide as the aim is to protect the natural caves by conducting limited tours. The tour also needs to be booked 30 days in advance.
Slaughter Canyon Cave
While the name may scare you away, the cave itself is the opposite of what the name might imply! This dark cave has no modern conveniences or electricity, but plenty of remarkable sights exist. You can see a stunning Christmas tree-like column, an 89-foot column, and a rimstone dam. Guided tours to this cave must be booked in advance. Despite being strenuous, the hike is still feasible for many people.
The Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns needs extra time for exploration. This cave is also for experienced spelunkers who are not claustrophobic, as you will need to stretch your body through tight spaces or deep chasms. While crawling and sliding through narrow passages is not for the faint-hearted, more daring people will also find it challenging.
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