Carlsbad Caverns National Park Things to Do

  • Things to Do
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  • Looking Out Through the Natural Entrance
    Looking Out Through the Natural Entrance
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    Rock of Ages- Big Hall Walk- courtesy...
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Best Rated Things to Do in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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    Lion's Tail

    by e7forever Updated Jun 13, 2005

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    Lions Tail

    These two "Lions Tails" are actually hanging from the cavern. This is one of the sites you will see if you take the Natural Entrance route.

    Hours: Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 8am to 7pm. Tours available 8:30am to pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 5pm

    After Labor day until Memorial weekend, 8am to 5pm. Tours available 8:30am to 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 2pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 3:30pm.

    Carlsbad Caverns is on Mountain Time.

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    Natural Entrance

    by e7forever Updated Jun 13, 2005

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    Natural Entrance

    The Natural Entrance is a great way to get down to the bottom of the caverns. While the main attractions are in the bottom of the cave there is still plenty to see on the way down.

    Hours: Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 8am to 7pm. Tours available 8:30am to pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 5pm

    After Labor day until Memorial weekend, 8am to 5pm. Tours available 8:30am to 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 2pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 3:30pm.

    Carlsbad Caverns is on Mountain Time.

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    Whales Tail

    by e7forever Updated Jun 13, 2005

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    Whale Tail

    This is one of the formations that you will see if you take the natural entrance route.

    Hours: Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 8am to 7pm. Tours available 8:30am to pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 5pm

    After Labor day until Memorial weekend, 8am to 5pm. Tours available 8:30am to 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 2pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 3:30pm.

    Carlsbad Caverns is on Mountain Time.

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    Discovery

    by e7forever Updated Jun 13, 2005

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    Ladder

    A ladder leading down to a deeper part of the cave. Many parts of the cave are still being explored and discovered today.

    Hours: Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 8am to 7pm. Tours available 8:30am to pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 5pm

    After Labor day until Memorial weekend, 8am to 5pm. Tours available 8:30am to 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 2pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 3:30pm.

    Carlsbad Caverns is on Mountain Time.

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    Whale's Mouth

    by e7forever Updated Jun 13, 2005

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    Whale's Mouth

    This is said to look like the mouth of a whale. It's kind of hard to tell from the picture but it really does. One of the things you will see in the Big Room at the bottom of the cave.

    Hours: Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 8am to 7pm. Tours available 8:30am to pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 5pm

    After Labor day until Memorial weekend, 8am to 5pm. Tours available 8:30am to 3:30pm. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 2pm. Last entry into cave via elevator is at 3:30pm.

    Carlsbad Caverns is on Mountain Time.

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    The Bat Amphitheatre

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Jul 30, 2009

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    Bat amphitheatre stone seating by the entrance

    A short stroll from the Visitors Center will take you to the Bat Amphitheatre, located beside the natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns. In ~1898, it was the nightly exodus of millions of bats that drew young 16-year old Jim White, a local cowhand, to this site and thus Carlsbad Caverns were 're-discovered' (native Americans had explored the caves more than a 1000 years ago and their etchings still remain in places).

    A colony of Mexican Free-tailed bats inhabit a dark part of the cave near the surface, with as many as 300 bats per square foot hanging from the cave ceiling during the day as they sleep. As darkness begins to fall, each evening the entire colony begins to trickle out through this natural opening, with the exodus gradually turning into a torrent as thousands of bats take to the skies in search of moths and other flying insects. There are so many bats that their mass resembles a giant snake as they make their way up and away into the night before returning at dawn. Their return is quite a show as well, thanks to the bats folding their wings and dropping like dive bombers back into the depths of Carlsbad Caverns. Although Mexican Free-tailed bats are the most numerous of any mammal species in North America, their population has declined drastically due to the use of pesticides and eradication attempts (Carlsbad's colony dropped from about 9 million in 1936 to just over 0.2 million [200,000] by 1973 but is now on the upswing).

    The best time for viewing the bat flights is during July and August. There is no charge but, due to the disruptive effects flash photography has on the bats, no cameras, including video cameras, are permitted at the bat flight program area.

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    Natural entrance vs. the Elevator

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Visitors are dwarfed by the entrance hole
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    This entrance to the cave has been used over the past 100-years to gain access the the secrets of Carlsbad Caverns, with the original cowboy discoverers descending with buckets to harvest the rich fossilized fertilizer of bat droppings left over the centuries by the bat colony. Not much attention was paid to the cave by the outside world until the first photographs inside the caverns were taken between 1915-18, enabling word of this supposed wonder to gradually reach Washington. Following the dispatch of an official government team to assess the site, it was declared a National Monument in 1923 and finally made a National Park in 1930.

    I found this to be a very enjoyable way to enter the Caverns, gradually descending into the coolness of the cave as the footbath zig-zagged back and forth with nice solid hand-rails taking away any sense of danger for the faint of heart! This self-guided tour is about a mile long as you descend over 750-feet into the depths of the caves with soft lighting guiding you along as you pass one geological marvel after another.

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    Guadalupe Mountains National Park

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Feb 12, 2009

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    Guadalupe NP as seen from Carlsbad Caverns NP

    I was really surprised to see the impressive Guadalupe Mountain range off in the distance as I stood in front of the Visitor's Center at Carlsbad Caverns and even more surprised to find out that it is also a National Park within easy striking distance. According to the National Parks Service:

    "Guadalupe Mountains National Park safeguards the world's finest example of a fossilized reef, a surprisingly complex and unique assemblage of flora and fauna, and West Texas' only legally designated wilderness. Here, one can experience solitude, tranquility, and the joy of finding plants and animals whose mastery of survival renews our sense of wonder. As a hikers’ paradise, you will find more than 80 miles of trails that meander through woodland canyons and lush riparian springs, or zigzag up steep switchbacks directly into the park’s rugged wilderness. Many trails are available for horseback riding if you bring your own stock. The park is a wonderful place to look at fossils and learn about Permian Age geology, enjoy bird watching and wildlife observation, delve into nature photography, or enjoy unlimited opportunities for stargazing under pristine night skies."

    This view shows where the mountain range comes to a sudden end as the 8,085 feet (2,464 m) El Capitan limestone rock face suddenly drops down to the level of the desert. The highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 ft (2,667 m), can also be seen just to the right of El Capitan (under the first cloud). Not bad considering that the city of Carlsbad is only at an elevation of about 3,200 feet! I may have to give this park a try too if I manage to get back to Carlsbad again!

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    Audio Tours - A good thing :)

    by kymbanm Updated Jun 14, 2005

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    A dried out pool - evaporation in the cave

    I hightly recommend spending the extra $3.00 for the audio tour. You watch for the numbered placards along the route and when you see them, type in that number. The handheld audio device will provide very helpful information about that part of the cave. I like it because I can skip a section, or get ahead of where I am if I choose.

    I found these little devices much more helpful than the informational signs along the route - more informative, and I could stand to the side away from the group trying to read said small sign :)

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    Enjoy the drive to the Caverns

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 23, 2008

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    Walnut Creek Drive from a scenic pull-over spot
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    Once you arrive in Whites City, New Mexico it is quite obvious where you should turn off to reach Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The 7-mile paved highway into the park takes you along a scenic creek bed (dry when I visited) in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains. There are several places to pull over to view interesting things (such as ancient native dwelling areas) and even a one-way 9-mile very scenic gravel loop road through the park backcountry as you near Carlsbad Caverns itself.

    In my case, I stopped to admire a few of the views and read some descriptions of the area as I headed toward my main objective of the Caverns themselves. I had to be back in the city of Carlsbad later in the day to pick up a new member of the work crew arriving at the airport, so unfortunately did not have time to take the scenic loop itself. At one of the pull-outs on the main road, a group of young people were enjoying themselves so I offered to take a group photo of them and they reciprocated for me! As I was driving back out of the Park, I noticed a major increase in the incoming traffic in the 2 hours since I had arrived at about 9 AM on a Sunday!

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    Goodbye world !

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Looking out the entrance hole as I descend

    I could not help but take one look back at the surface as I continued deeper into Carlsbad Caverns. Those dark specks in the sky are Cave Swallows wheeling about as the 'daylight shift' takes over the insect feeding while the bats sleep! These small birds are related to Cliff Swallows and first began nesting in Carlsbad Caverns in 1966.

    Park literature says that the temperature in the depths of the cave stays close to 56 F (13 C) and that it is advisable to take a light jacket. I debated this before entering but in the end went wearing jeans and a simple long-sleeved cotton pullover. It must be my overheated Canadian blood but, even though I was not expending much energy as I descended, I was soon sweating profusely, even though I pulled my sleeves up as far as I could! A simple T-shirt would have been a better choice for me.

    I took a few photos of the formations as I continued my descent but, when I took a glance at them on my digital camera there seemed to be just a lot of blackness instead of award-winning shots. The weak flash unit seemed to be having a hard time dealing with the vast distances and near total darkness of the caverns, so I stopped trying to take many photos and just enjoyed the tour. Later though, my photo editing program was able to brighten up some of the shots into something half decent - so don't give up on the photography too early in your trip!

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    The formations are mind-boggling

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Flowstone formation as dripping water crystalizes
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    Although I mostly gave up on the photography, my walking tour through Carlsbad Caverns was extremely enjoyable. There were so many different kinds of interesting formations, deep drop-offs into inky blackness and very informative descriptions of everything along the trail. The 'Bottomless Pit' is in fact only 140-feet deep but it has a soft earth bottom that deadens the sound of any rocks dropped into it - making it seem bottomless. 'Iceberg Rock' is a huge 200,000 ton piece that broke loose and dropped to the floor of the caverns, now requiring a detour around it.

    These two photos show a flowstone formation that developed over the years as dripping water containing minerals gradually hardened as the water encountered different temperature conditions in the cave. Also, the Rock of Ages in the Big Room (the largest in the cave system) was quite interesting as I neared the end of my tour. Really, you cannot even begin to describe how amazing the whole experience is - the size of the caverns totally dwarfs all visitors and there are amazing sights to see no matter where you look.

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    Extremely well sign-posted and organized

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Sep 28, 2008

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    A sign explaining some of the geology
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    I was very pleased with the quality of the sign-posts placed strategically throughout the caverns to explain the various geological features that cropped up one after the other. This one is describing 'speleothems', a type of cave formation caused by water percolating downward through limestone. During its passage, the water absorbs chemicals from the surrounding rock and, when the water finally breaks through into the air of an underground cavern, these dissolved chemicals separate from the water and harden, gradually forming longer and longer columns over the years.

    Being an electrical engineer, I was also impressed by the extensive lighting system throughout the caves as it cast a soft light over the various spectacles. I was wondering how they managed to run the wiring all over the place in these caves, especially since they told us that it was forbidden to even touch the formations because of the damaging chemical reactions that it would start. The first lighting system was installed in part of the cave in 1926 and was subsequently replaced and expanded in 1975-77. Having investigated a lot of electrical blackouts in my time, the second sign was comforting in that it indicated all would not be lost if there was a power outage on the surface - it would not be much fun down there in pitch darkness!

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    Tour the caves of course!

    by kymbanm Updated Nov 29, 2005

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    Headin' on down .....Natural Entrance

    There are 3 well known cave tours at this location.

    The natural entrance self-tour is my favorite, it's about a 1-2 hour walk steeply downhill. Some portions are a bit slick from moisture.

    At the end of the Natural entrance tour, you can go over to the rest area, or continue around to the Big Room Tour. This portion is the same self guided tour you'd get if you took the elevator down.

    Every day at 0900 is another, lesser known tour known as the left hand tunnel. This is a guided tour through an essentially unimproved section of the cave. Reservations are usually needed, and the youngest visitor allowed on this tour is 6.

    For the more adventurous, you can make arrangements to go to the unimproved, and most recently discovered Lachuguilla caves.

    Another guided tour I have yet to take .....a guided tour into rooms with the most photgraphed features found in local art... I tend to hate large crowds and tours in general - so I have chosen to avoid this one as it is quite popular and usually sold to capacity.

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    Visitors Center

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    The new Visitors Center at the Caverns

    The Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center is a brand new building that took about $9 million to build between May, 2007 to the present. It is not yet officially open (that is supposed to happen on October 25) but everything seemed to be working quite nicely when I arrived at about 9 AM on a Sunday morning.

    Because I was there quite early, I had almost no wait when I approached the counter to purchase my $6 ticket for a self-guided walking tour via the 'Natural Entrance' to the caverns, as opposed to the easy way of taking the elevator 750-ft. down to the heart of the cavern complex. At the cost of a few dollars (presently $3), it is also possible to rent individual headsets you can take with you on the walking tour - they describe in detail the various features that you will come across during your walk. With its restaurant, gift shops, new washrooms and expansive parking areas it seems the money to refurbish the Visitors Center was well-spent.

    NP staff pointed me in the direction I should take to access the walking path leading to the original opening that led to the discovery of Carlsbad Caverns by one of the local settlers in ~1898. My visit was officially underway!

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