Underground Exploration: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

For a destination that is just as beautiful above ground as it is below, check out Carlsbad Caverns National Park! Spanning 46,000 acres, this park is located in Eddy County in the southeastern corner of New Mexico and it offers some unbelievable opportunities for underground exploration! Carlsbad Caverns was officially recognized as a national park on May 14th, 1930 and today it remains as a breathtaking natural wonder that continues to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year!

What To Expect

When you pull through the main entrance of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, you’ll be greeted by the visitors center. Here you’ll find a kennel where you can board your pets as you explore the caves. You’ll also find a gift shop, a collection of educational exhibits, and the Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company which is a restaurant serving everything from made-to-order meals to grab-and-go snacks!

Exploring the Caves

There are 119 known caves hidden beneath the surface of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. These caves form from sulfuric acid that dissolves the surrounding limestone to create expansive underground rooms. Three of the 119 caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park are able to be safely explored by visitors.

The first and most popular cave is the main section of the cavern known as the Big Room. This section spans approximately 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet tall at its highest point, making it the fifth largest chamber in North America and the 28th largest in the world. There is elevator access to get into and out of the cave, or guests can hike into the cave using the natural entrance which requires a steep 1.25-mile descent.

Visitors are also welcome to explore Spider Cave and Slaughter Canyon Cave as well, although it is recommended that you be in good health to do so as some areas require you to crawl through narrow passageways. As you prepare for your journey underground, make sure you wear appropriate footwear, and dress warm as the caves are at a constant 56º F.

Bat Flight Program

If you’re in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, you’re not going to want to miss out on the Bat Flight Program! This free presentation takes place at dusk in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater near the mouth of the cave. Here, rangers lead a discussion and present educational information on the bats, and attendees witness the bats as they make their nightly exit out of the cave in search of yummy insect dinners! To get the best bat flight viewing, plan your trip sometime between August and September.

Other On-Site Activities

  • HikingWalk the trail system, tour the vibrant desert scenery, and catch a glimpse of the active wildlife population in this thriving ecosystem.

  • Star GazingSee a spectacular nighttime sky and marvel at the endless display of stars which shine over the Chihuahuan Desert after dark.

  • PicnickingThere are three picnic areas within the park that offer shade and tables so you can enjoy a pleasant meal in the fresh, open air.

Overnight Accommodations

While backcountry camping is allowed in the park for those who have obtained a free permit from the visitors center, not everyone is so keen on roughing it in the great outdoors. So for RV-friendly accommodations, check out these two campgrounds located near Carlsbad Caverns National Park:

White’s City RV Park

Located just 7 miles from the visitors center, you won’t find another campground closer to the caves than White’s City RV Park. While its proximity may be ideal, reviews slam this park for its poor upkeep, dirty bathrooms, and tightly-packed sites. It is located on a flat, open field so privacy is limited. Guests who stay here claim there are no doors on the shower, and virtually no managerial presence on site. The location of this RV park is by far its biggest advantage, and if you’re just looking for a place to crash while you check out the caves, this place might not be a bad idea. But we wouldn’t recommend an extended stay!

Carlsbad RV Park and Campground

If you want more hospitable accommodations than what White’s City RV Park has to offer, just head 15 minutes up the road to Carlsbad RV Park and Campground. Here you’ll find over 100 RV sites with different hookup packages to choose from. Pull-through sites are offered, as well as free Wi-Fi, a video game room, a community fire pit, and a heated indoor pool. Two large pet areas give you a place to exercise your dog off leash, and this campground is conveniently located right next door to a fully-equipped RV service center in case your rig is in need of some maintenance.

Nearby Attractions

If you’re visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park and you’re looking for other fun things to do in the area, check out some of these nearby attractions and activities:

Sitting Bull Falls—Located a little more than an hour away from the visitors center, this series of waterfalls is simply beautiful and well worth the drive!

Guadalupe Mountains National Park—Located 40 minutes from the visitors center, just over the border into Texas, this national park is bursting with pristine wilderness areas!

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park—Located roughly 45 minutes from the visitors center, this park is home to more than 40 species of native animals!

Have you ever explored beneath the surface of Carlsbad Caverns National Park? Let us know what you thought by leaving a comment!