Located in southern New Mexico near the border with Texas is the stunning Carlsbad Caverns National Park nestled in the stunning Guadalupe Mountains. The park is located just 18 miles out of Carlsbad. Actor and comedian Will Rogers called the caverns within the park, "The Grand Canyon with a roof over it."

The main attraction of this national park is the show cave - the Carlsbad Cavern (and the Big Room in particular). Unlike most caves around the nation, one does not need a guided tour to explore the cave, instead, visitors can hiking on their own through the natural entrance or by taking an elevator from the visitor center. See here for exploring the mind-bending Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.

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About Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The Guadalupe Mountains are formed from an uplifted portion of an ancient reef - that reef once thrived on the edge of an ancient inland sea some 250 million years ago. In the rocks, one can find a myriad of marine fossils (like sponges, nautilus, snails, and more).

  • Address: 727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88220

The main attraction in Carlsbad Cavern is the large limestone chamber - which is known rather descriptively as the Big Room (New Zealand continues the descriptive naming tradition with its two main islands being simply the North Island and the South Island).

Big Room Size:

  • Length: Almost 4,000 Feet (or 1,220 Meters)
  • Width: 625 Feet (or 191 Meters)
  • Height: 255 Feet (78 Meters)
  • Record: It is the Largest Known Chamber In North America (Although Only the 31st Largest Globally)

Related: This Is America's Newest National Park, And Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting

Visiting The Park And Getting to The Big Room

Visitors can choose from the steep paved trail making its way down into the cave (it's a quarter-mile long). Or just take the elevator directly down to the Big Room trail.

The 1.25-mile long Natural Entrance Trail is extremely steep (it gains (or loses) around 750 feet or 229 meters in elevation. The is equivalent to walking up a 75-story building. It takes about an hour to complete. Once down in the caves, there is the Big Room Trail leading to the popular Big Room. This is also 1.25 miles long but is relatively flat. It takes around 1.5 hours to walk it. If that seems a bit of a hike, there is a shortcut that reduces the walking distance to around 0.6 miles or 1 kilometer and cuts the hiking time to around 45 minutes.

  • Reservations: It Is Possible To Make A Self-Guided Tour For a $1.00

Entrance Fees & Hours

  • Adult: $15.00 (Aged 16 and Over)
  • Child: $0.00 (Free Aged 15 and Under)
  • Hours: 8.00 am To 2.30 pm (Last Entrance Ticket Sold 2.15 pm and Last Entrance 2.30 pm)

Tour Info

  • Ranger-Guided Tours: As At The Time Of Writing, Range-Guided Tours Are Temporarily Suspended Until Further Notice
  • Audio Guides: Informative Audio Guides Are Available For Rent

Things To Know

  • Attire: Remember To Wear Closed-To Shoe With Good Traction (The Trails Are Wet And Steep)
  • Lighting In The Cavern: The Cavern Is Lit But Dimly So, Feel Free To Bring A Flashlight Or Headlamp
  • Dining: There Are Some Food And Drinks At The Visitor Center, But Options Are Limited (Open 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Daily)
  • Accommodation: The Is No Accommodation In the National Park (Except For Primitive Backcountry Camping) - See Here For Luxury Accommodation In The Ozarks Caves In Arkansas
  • RVs: No Overnight RV Park In The Park
  • Where To Say: There Is A Campground In White's City (7 Miles Out), And Plenty Of Accommodation Options In Carlsbad (20 Miles Out)

Related: Zion National Park: When To Visit, And Why It's Definitely Worth The Awe-Inspiring Hype

Hiking In The National Park

While the main attraction here is the caverns beneath the surface, there are also hiking (and backcountry camping) in the park.

Guadalupe Ridge Trail

The Guadalupe Ridge Trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail and provides hikers and backpackers with a real wilderness experience. At 100 miles (or 161 kilometers) long - no one's completing this in a day! It begins at the top of the highest point in Texas (Guadalupe Peak) and winds its way through the Lincoln National Forest ending at Carlsbad Cavern National Park's eastern boundary.

  • Length: 100 Miles (161 Kilometers)
  • Segment In Carlsbad: 21 Miles (or 34 Kilometers)

A fifth of this trail meanders its way through Carlsbad Caverns National Park and changes around 2,700 feet in elevation over rugged, desert terrain. See here for the Guadalupe Ridge Trail brochure.

Other Desert Hiking Trails

Of course one needn't embark on a 100-mile trail just to hike in the desert. There are numerous other desert trails making their way through the national park. With these, one can get out and explore the Guadalupe Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert. Remember to be prepared because one will be hiking in desert conditions - take plenty of water! Some of the trails are:

  • Walnut Canyon Overlook
  • Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail
  • Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail
  • Old Guano Trail
  • Juniper Ridge

For more information see the National Park Service website.

Next: Ranked: 10 Best Nature Parks In The United States