Spotlight: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Hidden deep beneath the Chihuahuan Desert in southeastern New Mexico lays a spectacular, sparkling world
What You’ll Find
Shaped by sulfuric-acid dissolving along fractures in an ancient limestone reef, Carlsbad Caverns boasts the largest single cave chamber in North America. Fanciful cave formations — stalactites, stalagmites, popcorn and columns decorate nearly every square inch of Carlsbad Caverns.
You’ll find a variety of ways to experience this subterranean wonderland. Walk the 2.5 mile (4 km) paved trails on a leisurely self-guided tour through the Big Room and Main Corridor of the cave (pick up an audio guide at the Cavern Bookstore for a small fee) or reserve a spot on one of many ranger-guided tours that offer something for nearly everyone’s interests and abilities, from the easy 1.5 hour stroll through the Kings Palace to the crawling, squeezing and face-down-in-the-dirt adventure of Spider Cave or Hall of the White Giant.
Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center and the cavern entrance are just 7 scenic miles (11 km) from White’s City, just off U.S. Highway 62/180. Visit the Carlsbad Caverns National Park directions page for more travel information.
The nearest lodging and camping are in White’s City or in the city of Carlsbad, 30 miles north of the park. Visit the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce website for lodging information or call 575-887-6516. There are no overnight accommodations within the park, but overnight backpackers can enjoy camping in the park’s vast wilderness areas. You must obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center for all overnight trips.
Make Sure You
Book your reservations early for the popular ranger-guided tours of the caverns! Read each tour description carefully to make sure you choose the right tour for you. If you have children, check the age limit for the tours.
If you visit Carlsbad Caverns between May and October, you are likely to see the famous colony of Brazilian free-tailed bats that make the cave their home in the summer. Thousands of female bats give birth to their single pup around late June in the dark recesses of the cave. Each evening around sunset, the nursing mothers fly out of the cave in search of food. Often this exodus resembles a whirling cloud of smoke rising into the night sky! The park offers a free Bat Flight Program each evening before the bat flight.
Enjoy some quiet time! Leave your technology behind while you watch the bats be truly wild — the park prohibits all electronics at the Bat Flight Program including cameras, cell phones, iPads and iPods. Did you know that researchers have observed dramatic changes in the bats behavior after exposure to bright lights and noise? Remember, we are the visitors; the bats call this cave home.
Just 35 miles (56.3 km) from Carlsbad Caverns, explore the beauty and serenity of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas.
Summers days at the park (and in the Chihuahuan Desert) can be brutally hot while the winters can be frigid, so plan your clothing accordingly. Keep in mind that the cave stays a pleasant 56 degrees Fahrenheit (13.3 degrees Celsius) all year.
Get Started!Visit the park’s website today to begin planning your trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. See you underground!
Did You Know?
There are more than 119 caves within Carlsbad Caverns National Park, including Lechuguilla Cave discovered in 1986. Lechuguilla is the fifth longest cave in the world (third longest in the United States) and the deepest limestone cave in the country. Since then, researchers and cave explorers have surveyed and mapped close to 140 miles (225 km) of cave passages with still more to be found!