Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

Just a few minutes north of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX is Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. Before you walk through the caverns you really need to peruse the visitor center to fully understand what you are about to embark upon.

Carlsbad Caverns display

This 3-D map shows the details of the full 2.5 hour walk you’ll be taking. Arrive before 2:30 pm in order to complete your hike before their closing time.

The entire walk is paved and (mostly) lighted with no actual stairs, just somewhat steep switchbacks throughout the caverns. There’s a surprising level of elevation involved.

 

caverns entranceway

 

 

The entrance is impressively large.

 

entrance down into the caverns

 

 

 

 

The entrance as seen from below:
cavern entrance

There are swallows and bats living here; the swallows are a constant sight and sound of pleasant chirping. In the evenings, they hold a special ranger-led bat watching event when they exit en mass from the cave entrance. We weren’t able to stay, but it sounded really neat.

You’ll see all the usual cavey stuff: stalactites, pooled water, etc.
cavern pool

Although, it seemed to us that Carlsbad had fewer features and basically no visible critters as compared to other caverns we’ve visited. However, these are by far the largest underground caverns I’ve ever witnessed. The sheer size of Carlsbad Caverns is amazing.

Rather than do the full 2+ hour hike, you’ll see everything you need to see if you simply walk about 30 minutes down into the first huge cavern area; the rest is simply more of the same.

Unfortunately, we found out afterward that there’s an elevator you can take from the visitor center to go down 750 feet straight to the “Big Room”. This would’ve been a better option for us, but sadly the elevator is closed until May 31st.

Carlsbad Caverns is another of those national parks everyone has always heard about. It is impressive and unbelievably massive. It is also a victim of its early origins, with paved walkways and metal pipe railings marring the view for most of the way.

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