Perhaps one of New Mexico’s most notable attractions, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a haven for outdoor lovers, photography buffs, and cave fanatics of every kind. The vast and wild terrain carved out by ancient sea ledges, displays an expansive landscape in the Chihuahuan Desert with more than 100 underground caves and dozens of rock formations.
Unique Caves Attractions & Rock Formations
Among the most notable sites within Carlsbad Caverns National Park are numerous caves and stalagmites first discovered by Park Ranger, Jim White, when he was just a teenager. Favorites, named by White himself include the Big Room (a 4000 sq foot chamber, known to be the 5th largest chamber in North America), the Queen’s Chamber (a scenic cave with impressive stalagmite formations including a 40-foot tall drapery column), the King’s Palace (known for castle-like formations and the Bashful Elephant), Bottomless Pit (140 foot deep hole), and Green Lake Room (a cave with a bright green lake tinted by copper minerals).
Junior Ranger Programs & Kid-Focused Activities
Although the caves were once difficult to explore for the young of heart, these days elevator access, a Junior Ranger program, and exciting tours make The Carlsbad Caverns National Park a favorite place for explorers of any age.
The park offers a speleothem, matching activity, providing entertainment and educational value for kids and adults alike. The activity helps participants to identify 10 varieties of speleothem, which is a broader term for stalactites and stalagmites formation found in limestone caves. Some fascinating features include formation with funky names like soda straws, cave pearls, boneyards, and popcorn.
Many visitors also enjoy special presentations in the Bat Cave, when evening rangers put a special focus on the Brazilian free-tailed bats who emerge from the Carlsbad Caverns just after sunset. In addition, the after-dark The Bat Flight Program happens at 8pm every night from May through October.
Independent & Ranger-Guided Tours
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park can be explored independently with two main trails, the Big Room Trail (1.25-mile trail that takes about 1.5 hours to walk) and the Natural Entrance Trail (a challenging, steep 1.25 mile which takes about an hour). Or, Park Ranger guided trails (suitable for kids ages 4 and up) include tours to King’s Palace, Slaughter Canyon Cave, Spider Cave, Lower Cave, Hall of the White Giant, and Left Hand Tunnel.
Things to Know Before Visiting
There are a few important things to know, to prepare for a day at the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater, as visiting the park involves a lot of walking and cool temperatures (56º F) inside the caves. Do not bring a stroller or food inside, but do bring plain water, flashlights if desired (caves are dimly lit), and cameras (flash is permitted, tripods are not allowed on guided tours).
On-site Food Spots
Extensive exploring and excitement will inevitably lead to hungry bellies! Eating and drinking (except for plain water) is not allowed inside the cave network, except in designated areas. There are two places to eat inside the park, Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company and the Underground Rest Area. There are many food options within including sandwiches, salad, yogurt, snacks, and made-to-order hot and cold meals. In addition, there is a picnic area at Rattlesnake Springs, about 15 miles from the park’s visitor center.
For those who would like to dine off-site, the nearest options are in White’s City at Cactus Cafe, about 7 miles away. Otherwise, Carlsbad (a 30-minute drive) has many choices including Chili’s Grill & Bar, Buffalo Wild Wings, numerous pizza and drive through spots, plus ample Mexican food restaurants and barbecue places.
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