Nestled in the Guadalupe Mountains of southern New Mexico is the Carlsbad Caverns National Park that is home to the world-famous Carlsbad Cavern. The cavern is a true relic, one of 300 limestone caves in the area that is believed to have been formed nearly 265 million years ago.
The cavern itself is a large limestone chamber covering a massive 4000 feet and aptly named the ‘Big Room’. While the park is home to over 119 caves, Carlsbad Cavern is the most popular and comes equipped with paved trails, lights, and elevators that allow visitors to explore the cavern thoroughly.
Things to do in Carlsbad Cavern, New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns Self-Guided Tour
You can opt to explore the Carlsbad Cavern on your own, by crossing two trails that give you access. You can either take the elevator or choose to hike, once you’ve bought a ticket at the Visitor Center. Visitors can explore the Big Room Trail and the Natural Entrance Trail. Set aside an hour and a half to hike to the Big Room Trail, which is also the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America.
Natural Entrance Trail
The Natural Entrance Trail is far steeper than the Big Room Trail and takes about an hour to complete. To give you an idea in terms of how strenuous it is, it’s like climbing up and down a 75 story building. But the hike is worth it as you will be rewarded with seeing formations like the Devil’s Spring and the Iceberg Rock.
If you want a more in-depth experience of the caves, then book a Ranger-Guided tour to explore the Carlsbad Cavern, along with your entrance ticket. The advantage here is the information you’ll get when you explore the various rocks and formations. Rangers provide in-depth knowledge of the history and geology of the caves, thus providing a far more informative experience.
Night Sky Program
This is an exciting activity to do, but you will have to time your visit to the park’s calendar to catch a Night Sky Program. The park offers a range of programs including Star Walks, Moon Hikes, and Star Parties. While the programs are free, they are limited to a certain number of participants. With the use of a telescope, rangers guide you to explore the night sky.
Watch Bats Fly Out of Caves
Limited to certain months in the year (usually May to September), the Bat Flight Program runs daily, in the evening, with slight changes in timings as per the sunset. Park rangers tell you about the bats in the park and the significance of their movement of migration and exiting of the caves.
This wonderful spectacle can be viewed at the amphitheater located at the mouth of the Carlsbad Cavern. No prior reservations or bookings are needed, and it’s a free program. Alternatively, you can also choose to watch the bats return to their caves at dawn, during the Dawn of the Bats Program, which takes place on the third Saturday of July each year.
Camping at Carlsbad Cavern New Mexico
Camping options are limited to the backcountry area of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Users need to get a permit (which is free) from the Visitor Center if you choose to camp there. Keep in mind that open fires are not permitted anywhere in the park, only small cooking stoves can be used. And you can’t bring your pets with you if you choose to camp here.
Carlsbad Caverns Getting There
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is about a 4-hour drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A two-hour drive from El Paso, Texas. Address 727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway Carlsbad, New Mexico. Website.