Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Location: near Carlsbad, New Mexico
Date: November 5, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico just north of the Texas border in the Chihuahuan Desert.  The Guadalupe Mountains are an ancient limestone reef, once at the bottom of an inland sea, making them very conducive to the formation of caves.  Carlsbad Caverns National Park has 116 known caves, the showpiece of which is of course Carlsbad Caverns.  There are additional caves in the area just to the south of the park in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. See photos from my November 2012 visit here.

Just inside the natural entrance

The park is located about 35 miles southwest of the town of Carlsbad New Mexico.  There is a seven mile park road from the highway at Whites City that travels through a small canyon to the top of the ridge where the visitor center and cavern entrance are located  The area along the road was recently burned, and there are several pullouts for you to stop and look at the surroundings.  Shortly after entering the park I noticed a small cave entrance off the side of the road, and on second look I noticed several Barbary sheep standing at the entrance to the cave.  Some of the sheep went in and out of the cave in the short time I watched them.  

Barbary sheep at their cave

Before entering the cavern you should purchase a ticket for $6 (or present your pass), which is good for three days.  If you have visited any other caves or areas where bats roost recently you should ensure that everything you are taking into the cave has been cleaned recently.  This is important because of white-nose syndrome, which is a fungus that has been decimating bat populations in parts of the United States and Canada.

In the Big Room

There are two miles of paved trails with railings in Carlsbad Caverns that can be walked on your own.  To enter the cave, the main portion of which is at 700 feet below the surface, you can either take the elevator to the bottom or walk down the natural entrance.  I strongly recommend starting at the visitor center and walking down the natural entrance because this first mile of trail takes you through the main corridor with its incredibly high ceilings, but the trail can be steep.  

The Rock of Ages

After the one mile walk from the natural entrance you reach the location near where the elevator takes you to.  From here you can walk the one mile loop trail through the Big Room, which at nearly 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 350 feet high is the seventh largest underground chamber in the world.  The trail through the Big Room is mostly flat and takes you by features such as the Hall of Giants, Rock of Ages, Bottomless Pit, Top of the Cross, and Crystal Spring Dome.  After your hike you can stop at the underground cafe and ride the elevator back to the top.  

In the Big Room

There are several other guided tours that the park offers in Carlsbad Cavern for an additional fee year round.  All of these tours take you to places that you cannot go on your own and vary in difficulty from walking on paved trails with railings to crawling on your belly through tight places.  In another section of the park is Slaughter Canyon Cave, which you can also take a guided tour of.  The park also has many miles of hiking trails and opportunities for backcountry camping as well as an unpaved scenic loop drive through the desert. 

In the Main Corridor

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


  1. Hi, it was very informative post.I think Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a naturally occurring world heritage site that is located deep in the mountains of New Mexico.

    carlsbad caverns | carlsbad caverns national park


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