Fan of geology and caving? Love exploring off the beaten path? Look no farther… Carlsbad Caverns National Park needs to be on your travel list.
Carlsbad Caverns is home to over a million bats during the summer months and is largest open cavern in North America.
Our family had a great time visiting Carlsbad Caverns. Keep reading for our tips on making the most of your trip!
Planning Your Trip
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in Southeast New Mexico on U.S. Highway 62. You can fly into the regional airport in Carlsbad, New Mexico. However, we thought it was expensive. Larger airports are located in El Paso, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. It takes just over two hours to drive from El Paso, Texas and about 5 hours from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The summer months from May to September are the most popular at Carlsbad Caverns. Plan your visit well in advance. We booked our hotel nearly three months before our trip and prices were quite high. During the summer months, plan on spending two or three times more for a hotel than at less busy times of year.
You can easily travel to Carlsbad Cavern for the day from El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico, or Artesia, New Mexico. If you fly into either El Paso or Albuquerque, you can plan a fun road trip taking in lots of sights in southern New Mexico.
Touring the Cave
Carlsbad Caverns offers multiple options for exploring the cave. There are two different options to enter the cavern: the Natural Entrance or by elevator. Take the Natural Entrance tour if you love hiking, exploring, and steep declines don't bother your legs and knees. The daylight slowly vanishes as you descend deeper and deeper within the cave. There are stops along the way to sit and rest and enjoy the beauty of what nature has created. If you are even more into hiking, you can actually leave the cave through the Natural Entrance as well. Most people take the elevator!
The other way to enter the cavern is by elevator. Visit the lobby of the visitors center to get your tickets, map and information on the cave. Entry to the cavern, by the Natural Entrance and elevator ends in the late afternoon. Be sure to arrive with plenty of time to be able to explore.
Once you are in the cavern itself, there is a mostly level loop that you can follow to see more of the impressive open cavern. A large portion of the path is accessible to wheelchairs, however there are paths that are blocked due to safety concerns. When you finish exploring, take the elevator back to the surface and the visitors center.
Other caving tours are offered for those who want a more adventurous and unique experience. These tours are limited and have age restrictions and are typically more strenuous.
What to Take
The cavern temperature is usually around 65 degrees Fahrenheit year round – however the surface temperature in summer is well into the 90s! Take a sweatshirt or jacket to stay comfortable underground. No food or drink other than water is allowed in the cave, so a good water bottle is a must. Sturdy footwear is also important. And of course, don't forget to bring your camera!
Check Out the Bats
The summer months are the only time to see more than 500,000 bats that migrate back to New Mexico to make their home in the cave. Each night they exit from the cave in search of food. The National Park offers a nightly program from from Memorial Day through mid-October. This is an amazing sight. There are no electronics allowed during the program to protect the bats.
More Important Tips
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is about a 30 minute drive east of Carlsbad. If you are leaving Carlsbad Caverns to drive to El Paso, be sure to fill up your gas tank before leaving Carlsbad, New Mexico. There is nothing between the caverns and El Paso.
We spent the day in Alamogordo, New Mexico at White Sands National Monument, then drove to Carlsbad to see the nightly bat program. We stayed near Carlsbad and got up the next morning to hike and explore the cave before heading to Roswell and Albuquerque. We recommend staying the night in Carlsbad if you stay for this program.
The closest hotel to Carlsbad Caverns National Park is Rodeway Inn located in Whites City, about 10 miles from the cavern. We stayed here and loved being closer to the cavern, especially driving back late at night after the Bat Flight Program. However, there is extremely limited services in Whites City. Carlsbad has many dining options, shopping, and gas stations. Click the button to see hotel rates and availability on TripAdvisor.