Carlsbad Caverns
Carlsbad Caverns National Park,  Destinations,  New Mexico,  U.S. National Parks,  United States

Lower Cave Tour – Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers a series of Ranger Guided tours that provide you some fantastic adventures besides what general admission into the park can. If this is your first time at Carlsbad Caverns, I would suggest checking out my original post HERE.
During my visit to Carlsbad Caverns, I could only squeeze in one Ranger Guide tour due to time constraints, but I think it is a must do for anyone visiting the National Park and looking for something off the beaten path.

The Briefing

When you arrive at the park and check-in with the Rangers, you are directed to a waiting room to meet your guides, test your equipment and get an overview of the rest of the day.
During our briefing, we met our two Ranger Guides, who would take us into the Lower Cave and make sure we did it safely and responsibly, not just for ourselves but also for the cave system’s health.

Once the briefing is over, you grab your assigned helmet, headlamp, and gloves and are ready to descend the elevator into the primary cave system.

Carlsbad Caverns

The Descent

Once you arrive in the primary cave system, it is a quick walk to the Lower Cave’s entry point.
The first part of the descent into the lower cave is a quick rope slide down a small slope into the more challenging part of the drop and later on the exit. The rope slide is relatively simple, but I would highly recommend good traction shoes and not necessarily running shoes since slippery.
Now that the easy part is done, you must shimmy through some tight rock formations until you hit a ladder that will take you the rest of the way down. This is by far the most challenging and scariest part if you do not like heights. Even though it isn’t easy, I think almost anyone can complete this part of the descent.

The Lower Cave

Now that the hard stuff is over, you get to see something very few people will ever experience. Most of the Lower Cave is pitch black, and the only light source will be your headlamps and flashlights, but there are sections with spotlights that will boggle your mind at how large of a cave system this is.

After exploring the Lower Cave for a while and seeing the most fantastic rock formations, we get to my favorite part of the tour. This might not be what everyone wants to do, but there is a solo cave opportunity where you enter one at a time to experience what semi-true caving feels like.
There is a small passageway where you wait until you can no longer see the person’s light in front of you, and then you proceed. This was one of the most surreal moments during this cave experience since you cannot hear anyone, you cannot see anyone else, and the only thing guiding you is your headlamp. When you truly realize just how dark this cave is and scary, it would be to get lost or even be the first person exploring this.

The Ascent

You will exit the cave the same way you came in through the metal ladder that takes you back to the rope slide into the main cave. The exit was much more comfortable than entering the Lower Cave, but mixed feelings from the group I went with.

According to our Ranger Guides, the cave is pretty much the same temperature and moisture year-round, so expect it to the slightly slippery on the metal ladder and the smooth rock surfaces.
The Lower Cave Guided Ranger Tour

Carlsbad Caverns

I cannot recommend Ranger Tours at Carlsbad Caverns enough and think a visit is just not complete without one. The Lower Cave Tour is by appointment only, and they usually take only less than 20 guests down at a time, a max of two times a week when I went. During Covid, the tours have been canceled without an ETA of when they will open again.

Please make sure to put aside three-plus hours for the entire tour and be careful not to hydrate too much since there are no bathrooms while in the Lower Cave and no easy or fast way to exit back to the main cave floor to the public restrooms.

Have you been to Carlsbad Caverns National Park? Did you participate in any of the guided Ranger Tours?

Follow along the adventures on:

Instagram @gusontherun or Twitter @gusontherun


  • Emma

    I’ll admit the first pictures showing a bit of a long descent and some tight looking spaces had me a little nervous but getting down into the cave and seeing this awesome place would win out. What a great experience

  • Riana.AngCanning

    Wow, so cool that you got to do this! I don’t do great in enclosed spaces so I think I’d pass on this one – you lost me at rope and shimmying through rock formations. But to see those caves up close must have been so cool!

    • Gus

      I got lucky and we didnt! They actually have a bat tour in the afternoons during certain seasons but my understanding is they had migrated when I arrived in the winter months.

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