Carlsbad Caverns has given the nickname “Grand Canyon Underground” and its enormous size is just one of the reasons people visit.
Located in southern New Mexico, near the border with Texas, is the beautiful Carlsbad Caverns National Park nestled in the beautiful Guadalupe Mountains. The park is located just 18 miles from Carlsbad. Actor and comedian Will Rogers called the park caves “The Grand Canyon with a roof on it.“
The main attraction of this national park is the spectacle cave – the Carlsbad Cavern (and the Great Hall in particular). Unlike most caves in the country, it is not necessary to take a guided tour to explore the cave, instead visitors can hike on their own through the natural entrance or by taking an elevator from the center reception. See here to explore the breathtaking Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.
About Carlsbad Caverns National Park
The Guadalupe Mountains are formed from an elevated portion of an ancient reef – this reef once thrived on the edge of an ancient inland sea around 250 million years ago. In the rocks, one can find a myriad of marine fossils (like sponges, nautilus, snails, etc.).
- Address: 727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88220
The main attraction of Carlsbad Cavern is the large limestone chamber – known rather descriptively as the Big Room (New Zealand continues the tradition of descriptive names, its two main islands being simply the North Island and the ‘South Island).
Large room size:
- Length: Almost 4,000 feet (or 1,220 meters)
- Width: 625 feet (or 191 meters)
- Height: 255 feet (78 meters)
- Save: It is the largest known chamber in North America (although only the 31st largest in the world)
Visit the park and go to the great hall
Visitors can choose from the steep paved path that descends into the cave (it is a quarter of a mile long). Or just take the elevator to the Big Room Trail.
The 1.25 mile long natural entrance trail is extremely steep (it gains (or loses) about 750 feet or 229 meters in elevation. This is equivalent to climbing a 75-story building. It takes about an hour to do so. End. Once down the caves there is the Big Room trail to the popular Big Room. It is also 1.25 miles long but is relatively flat. It takes about an hour and a half to hike it. seems a bit of a hike, there is a shortcut that cuts the walking distance to about 0.6 miles or 1 mile and cuts the hike time to about 45 minutes.
- Reservations: It is possible to take a self-guided tour for $ 1.00
Entrance fees and hours
- Adult: $ 15.00 (16 years old and over)
- Child: $ 0.00 (free for ages 15 and under)
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Last admission 2.15 p.m. and last admission 2.30 p.m.)
- Guided tours by the forest guards: At the time of writing, guided tours of the range are temporarily suspended until further notice
- Audio guides: Informative audio guides are available for hire
Things to know
- Outfit: Remember to wear closed-toe shoes with good traction (trails are wet and steep)
- Lighting in the cave: The cave is lit but dimly so don’t hesitate to bring a flashlight or headlamp
- To eat: There is food and drink at the Visitor Center, but options are limited (open 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily)
- Accommodation: There is no accommodation in the National Park (except for primitive backcountry camping) – See here for luxury accommodation in the Ozarks Caves in Arkansas
- VR: No overnight RV park in the park
- Where to say: There is a campground in the town of White (7 miles) and many accommodation options in Carlsbad (20 miles)
Hiking in the national park
While the main attraction here are the caves below the surface, there are also hikes (and backcountry camping) in the park.
Guadalupe Ridge Trail
The Guadalupe Ridge Trail is designated as a National Recreational Trail and offers hikers and backpackers a true wilderness experience. 100 miles (or 161 kilometers) long – no one finishes this in a day! It starts at the top of Texas’ highest point (Guadalupe Peak) and winds through the Lincoln National Forest to end at the eastern edge of Carlsbad Cavern National Park.
- Length: 100 miles (161 kilometers)
- Segment in Carlsbad: 21 miles (or 34 kilometers)
A fifth of this trail winds through Carlsbad Caverns National Park and changes approximately 2,700 feet in elevation over rugged desert terrain. See here for the Guadalupe Ridge Trail brochure.
Other hiking trails in the desert
Of course, you don’t have to embark on a 100 mile trail to hike the desert. There are many other desert trails that run through the national park. With these one can go out and explore the Guadalupe Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert. Remember to be prepared as you will be walking in desert conditions – take plenty of water! Some of the trails are:
- Walnut Canyon View
- Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail
- Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail
- Old Guano Trail
- juniper ridge
For more information, see the National Park Service website.
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