New Mexico July 31, 2017
One Of New Mexico’s Most Beautiful Attractions Is Hiding Deep Underground
As you drive towards Carlsbad Caverns, the surrounding desert provides no hint of the treasures that lie beneath it. The landscape above ground has a stark appeal that could not be more different from the elaborate rock formations hidden 750-feet below New Mexico’s lone national park. The beauty and scale of the caverns cannot be overstated – you simply need to see them for yourself.
There are two ways to reach the caverns. The first is to take the elevator in the visitor center - the best option if you’re impatient to view the caves or if you have any physical limitations.
The second option is via the natural entrance. This 1.25-mile long trail consists of a serious of steep switchbacks descending lower…
…Until the earth seems to swallow you up.
This is how people entered the cavern in days gone by. It provides a dramatic introduction to one of New Mexico’s best natural wonders.
In addition to being spectacular, these caves are unusual because they were formed as a result of sulfuric acid erosion rather than by water erosion.
Sulfuric acid, it seems, is a gifted sculptor!
Most visitors’ first destination is the Big Room. This vast cavern stretches on for 1800 feet and its ceiling is 250 feet high!
Follow the path through this subterranean wonderland to view stalactites and stalagmites.
The route is 1.25-mile long but there is a shortcut that makes the tour a half mile shorter.
Check out the old ladder that explorers used in the 1920s to investigate the caverns.
A gutsy lot weren't they?!
And marvel at the intricate natural decorations adorning the walls.
Aside from audio guides that you can rent, The Big Room is a place that you explore on your own. That’s not the case with the remaining caverns open to the public.
Although there are hundreds of caves down here, a just handful of others can be viewed on a ranger-led guided tour. This requires booking in advance
and paying extra fees, which vary depending on the cave tour you select.
Prices are higher for the more physically challenging cave adventures.
The easiest of these tours is the King’s Palace. Travel into the deepest depths of the caverns accessible to the public.
There you can admire rock formations known as the Queen’s Draperies and perhaps even see how very dark it is when the rangers extinguish the lights! Tickets for this experience typically cost $8 per adult and $4 for kids.
The Left Hand Tunnel is rated "moderately difficult" and involves a tour illuminated only by lanterns.
The Lower Cave and Slaughter Canyon Cave (the latter is in a separate part of the park) are "difficult." If you’re in good shape, you may well find that the opportunity to wonder at the Monarch, an 89-foot high formation in Slaughter Canyon Cave, makes this worthwhile.
Calling all daredevils… for a belly-crawling, rope-climbing adventure, check out Spider Cave or Hall of the White Giant!
You don’t even need to enter the caverns to experience one of the park’s impressive sights. Simply show up at the amphitheater around sunset for the Bat Flight Program (May through October)…
…And watch hundreds of thousands of Brazilian free tailed bats stream out of the caverns to begin their nightly hunt.
The park also holds sporadic star-gazing parties.
When visiting the caverns, remember to wear good walking shoes and bring layers of clothing – the temperature below ground is 56 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity. For more information, visit the official website
Have you been to Carlsbad Caverns yet?
Here are some
fun facts about New Mexico’s national park.