Speaking about hidden wonder that make your jaw drops, New Mexico has one called Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This park consists of more than 119 known caves – all formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, leaving behind caverns of all sizes.
There are two ways to enter this hidden wonder, by walking the Natural Entrance (steep, 1.25 miles) or taking the elevator down into the Big Room.
It was 2.30 in the afternoon by the time we got there. And we think we wouldn’t have enough time to enter through Natural Entrance and came back through the elevator. Because, we wanted to explore the cave with no rush. So, we decided to do the Big Room tour via elevator in the visitor center and came back again the next morning to enter the cave through the Natural Entrance.
Carlsbad Caverns NP: The Big Room Tour
The Big Room route is a self-guided tour where you can rent an audio guide to learn about the cave and the rocks. Fortunately, my husband is a walking geology encyclopedia so we could do it ourselves.
And what a spectacular underground view we found there! We saw stalactites and stalagmites in different shapes and sizes. Lion’s tail, soda straw, lace, and witch’s fingers to name a few.
Also, we passed many large and famous features like Bottomless Pit, Giant Dome, Rock of Ages, and Painted Grotto.
And of course, we saw the rope ladder used by the explorers back in 1924!
The Big Room route is also the basic tour through Carlsbad Caverns NP. It is one-mile, relatively flat, well-lit, and take about 1.5 hours (on average) to walk through it. There’s even a shortcut that reduces the amount of the trail by approximately half a mile. And, about two-thirds of the Big Room trail is wheelchair accessible. An ideal tour for visitors with limited time or walking difficulties.
Furthermore, there’s an eating area and restrooms by the elevators that you can use before or after the tour. Don’t forget to use that underground facilities. Then like me, you’ll be able to say I’ve been done that.
Carlsbad Caverns NP: The Natural Entrance
The next morning, we went back to the park. This time, we entered the cave through Natural Entrance. Walking towards that large opening, I felt like walking into the giant mouth of the earth. The trail was extremely steep, descending about 750 feet. However, it was less crowded than the Big Room entrance.
This 1.25-mile tour follows the traditional explorer’s route. We walked into the earth following steep and narrow trails through a tall and spacious trunk passage called the Main Corridor. Once inside, we could smell and see the bats drops all over the ground.
As we went deeper and deeper, I told my husband I couldn’t imagine how brave was the first explorer who found the cave; walking in the dark with just lanterns as his sources of light without knowing what awaited him under there. Aren’t we lucky to have explorers like that, so now we can explore the cave with no or less worry?
Bat Cave, Devil’s Spring, Green Lake Overlook and the Boneyard, and the Whale’s Mouth were some of the formations we saw along this route. They were spectacular as well! We were so grateful to be able to explore this hidden wonder.
Once we hit the Big Room, we took the elevator to take us back to the visitor center. Wish we had extra time to do one of the guided-tour though.
Carlsbad Caverns NP: the Bat Flight Program
One thing you shouldn’t miss when visiting Carlsbad Caverns is to watch the bats emerge from the Natural Entrance. That’s what we did the evening we arrived there.
After shower and supper, we went back to the park to join the Bat Flight Program. There’s no exact time, but they said it would start closer to sunset. My husband was so excited because he really wanted to see the bats coming out from the cave.
The Bat Flight Program took place at the amphitheater. We joined the other park visitors and listened to the ranger talking about the program and the bats. Unfortunately, in the middle of her explanation we heard a siren and it meant we had to leave the vicinity because the storm was coming. Agh…
We were disappointed because we missed our chance to see the bats in Carlsbad Caverns NP. When we arrived back at our hotel at the lower elevation, the weather was nice.
All in all, we were pleased with our adventure in this hidden world even though we had to miss the Bats Flight Program. I think you should plan a visit here on your next vacation trip.
– Surprisingly, it’s just 7 hour drive from North Texas. So North Texan, plan your next vacation here.
– Try to arrive in the morning or noon. Start with the Natural Entrance route, tour the Big Room, and go back through the elevator.
– The Natural Entrance is not an accessible trail. Make sure you are in a good condition before attempting this strenuous walk.
– Baby strollers are not permitted; bring a baby backpack.
– The temperature inside the cave is around 56ºF (13ºC) year round. You may want to bring a light jacket or sweater.
– Comfortable, rubber-soled with good fraction shoes are appropriate as you will like hitting the brake when walking the Natural Entrance.
– If you have been in any cave in the past 10 years with the same shoes/equipment you are bringing to Carlsbad Caverns, they will ask to clean your items to protect the bats from the spread of a highly contagious and fatal bat fungus.
Operating Hours & Seasons
– The park is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days.
– For more detail on hours and seasons, visit their website.
Adults (16 and older) $10, Children (15 and under) Free and it good for 3 days. You can always use your America the Beautiful National Park pass.
Accommodations & Meals:
We stayed at Rodeway Inn and ate dinner at Velvet Garter Saloon and Restaurant by the entrance. Both places were pretty bad but we came for the caverns and after a long day didn’t think driving another 30 minutes for better hotels and restaurants were an option.
If you choose to stay at that hotel, bring your own room fragrance and breakfast. I don’t think they prepared enough breakfast for everyone and its only individual wrapped muffin and donuts. No juice and coffee. All was gone, and it was only 8 am.
As for the restaurant, the service was so slow. A family who came after us got their food first and when they left we didn’t get ours yet. When food finally arrived, I got the wrong order and our son’s grilled cheese came last. They tasted below ok. You may try the restaurant across the street, maybe they’re better.
Address for GPS: 727 Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88220
Visited: June 2014.
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