Explore the Depths of Carlsbad Caverns

Jason Miller standing at bottom of shaft of light in Carlsbad Caverns

Descend into Carlsbad Caverns via the Natural Entrance

If you find yourself in Southern New Mexico, you have to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park. These beautiful caverns have over 30 miles of passages and the deepest chamber is 1,037 feet below the surface (however, visitors cannot access all of this).  There are two ways to enter the caverns, the Natural Entrance Route or the elevator. We cannot recommend the Natural Entrance enough! It follows the original explorers’ route into the cave and descends over 750 into the Earth. It is a 1.25-mile trail and all downhill, so make sure to bring good shoes. It’s extremely fun to picture yourself as one of the original explorers of the caverns on this trail (minus all the lights, of course).

Tip: For $5 you can buy a self-guided tour. Do it! It explains everything you’re looking at.

Discover why they call it the Big Room

Once you finish the Natural Entrance Route you’ll find yourself in the underground rest area. Here they have a small lunchroom, restrooms, the elevator, and the Big Room Route starting point. We continued on the Big Room Route and were not disappointed. This route is also 1.25-mile trail but completely flat; some parts are even wheelchair accessible. This trail has many of the famous features, including Giant Dome, Painted Grotte, and Bottomless Pit. The Big Room is 8.2-acres and a must-see when you visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

You can also take a Ranger guided tour called the King’s Palace. This tour is 1.5 hours and goes through four scenic chambers. It is a mile long tour and descends to the deepest portion of the caverns accessible to visitors, 830 feet below Earth’s surface! Unfortunately, we did not get to take this tour as they were all sold out. We were super bummed about this since we’ve heard most tours will conduct a “blackout” – where they turn off all of the artificial lights to showcase the total darkness inside the cavern! Can you imagine how cool that would be?

Tip: If you want to take a Ranger guided tour of the caverns, book ahead online.

The Flight of the Bats

Lastly, if you go between early spring through October you will be able to catch the evening flight of the bats that reside in Carlsbad Caverns. At dusk, thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats fly from the cave to hunt insects. Carlsbad Caverns has an amphitheater they’ve built outside of the Natural Entrance for this awesome experience. We went during the offseason when the bats winter in Mexico so we missed this spectacle. Maybe that’s a good reason to go again. Have you been to this national park?

A few additional things to note about Carlsbad Caverns National Park:

  1. The cave’s temperature is a constant 56 degrees F.
  2. Kennel services are available in the Visitors Center if you are just passing through and have your fur babies with you.
  3. Please do not touch anything inside the caverns. The oils from your skin may permanently discolor the rock.
  4. This park is open daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year Day. They have summer and non-summer hours so it’s best to check their website before visiting.

Since you in the area, head up to Roswell, NM and explore the International UFO Museum!

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  1. The summer I was 20 yrs old (1974) I worked in Sequoia Nat’l Park. One of the park’s attractions is Crystal Caverns. They only do guided tours, but as a park employee I got to know other park employees and one just happened to be the ranger who conducted the guided tours of the caverns. He took a few of us down to the caverns late one night and gave us a personal tour, complete with the total blackout experience, which scared the heck out of me. I found the total absence of light to be very disorienting and it made me very dizzy, I almost fell over. Many years later I again visited the caverns, this time with my son and his wife and when it came time for the blackout, I crouched down so I could feet the ground with both hands and feet. The second experience was much less disorienting and therefore less scary. Beware tho…it’s a steep hike down a canyon to reach the caverns…which means a steep hike UP afterwards. The trail is not accessible for folks w/mobility challenges and it’s the only access to the caverns. Folks w/heart/lung issues are also cautioned.

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