Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is one of those National Parks I was trying to cross off my list to say I had been there. After visiting this pretty unique cave system, I have to admit a trip to New Mexico isn’t complete without visiting the caverns.
The caverns are located around 18 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico, and offer a decently lovely drive if you enjoy the desert’s open views. Once you arrive at the park, it is a very accessible drive up a small mountainside to the park entrance.
Once you arrive at the park and pay your entrance fee, you have a few options to experience the caverns. You can enter after paying the entrance fee or using your park pass and can enjoy most of the cave at your own pace.The first option you must decide on is if you want to take the elevator down which I recommend or hike down the steps into the cavern system. Depending on maintenance the hike down might be close. This allows you to walk through a very well marked path into the Big Room and wander through most of the upper cave system.
This is an acceptable option, and for someone not looking for a lot of adventure, this will give you a great perspective of the cave system. I would suggest the Big Room trail to get the best views and scenery, and at just 1.25 miles long, it is something most everyone should be able to tackle.
While doing a self-guided tour at your own pace is fine, I would highly suggest a much more adventure-filled morning if you are up for it.
Ranger Guided Tours
The Carlsbad Caverns Ranger team offers quite a few guided tours and are all an excellent bargain for how cheap they are.
When I visited the park, they offered five guided tours, but that might be changing due to covid protocols and wear/tear on the cave system.
Every tour offers something specific for all National Park lovers and all levels of fitness. However, some of the tours require a level of adventure that might not be what everyone is looking for.
My recommendation for anyone looking for a leisurely guided tour but something you cannot get during a self-guided tour, the King’s Palace Tour is your best bet. The tour is labeled as moderately easy and almost entirely on a paved pathway, so there is no need to worry about footwear.
If going on the path less traveled is what you aim for, then the Lower Cave Tour and the Hall of The White Tour are what you are looking for. Sadly, I could not get a ticket for the Hall of The White Tour, but the Lower Cave Tour did not disappoint.
I will be going into much more detail on Carlsbad Lower Cave Tour soon since if you are physically able to, there is no reason to skip one of the best ranger tours I have ever been on. The tour is decently challenging, and if you do not like dark places, you might have some issues. On the other hand, this offers views into some of the least traveled areas of the entire cave system, and something most people will never experience.
Carlsbad Caverns is one of those National Parks that offer unique experiences and scenery. You do not get the fantastic hikes you get at places like Grand Canyon or Zion, but you get to go deep into the Earth and see what lies under it all. The experience of being underground in such a dark and mesmerizing place is eye-opening.
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