Carlsbad Caverns National Park
The fact that there are fossil remains of marine life is just one of the cool things about Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Some 280 million years ago, this area of the Chihuahuan Desert—now covered by bits of grassland, cactus, and thorny shrubs—was actually part of a reef in an inland sea. After this sea receded some 20 million years ago, tectonic forces pushed up the remaining limestone and thousands of feet of other rock, essentially creating the Guadalupe Mountains. There was also a deep, briny basin with just the right chemistry to create sulfuric acid, which dissolved the surrounding limestone and formed the 119 (known) caves---including the world’s largest and deepest---that you can tour today.
If you’re in good physical shape, you can make the steep, 1¼-mile descent (some 79 stories down!) along the Natural Entrance trail into the Big Room. There’s also an elevator at the Visitor Center, 7 miles from the park entrance at White City along US 62/180 and about 27 miles southwest of Carlsbad proper. Note, though, that a visit to the Big Room generally requires at least an hour. You can do it yourself via trail signs and/or an audio tour or make reservations for one of the highly recommended guided tours. Rangers discuss not only the stalactites, stalagmites, columns, straws, draperies, and other formations but also the fascinating eco-systems and wildlife.
For some, but not all visitors, another highlight of Carlsbad Caverns involves one type of wildlife in particular. From May through late October, some 400,000 Brazilian (aka Mexican) free-tail bats make their home in the caves. Weather permitting, you can watch them depart for their nightly feeding. This experience is accompanied by ranger talks held in the amphitheater. The visitors center also has the 16-minute Hidden Worlds movie featuring high-def footage of the caves and bats in flight.
727 Carlsbad Caverns Hwy.
- Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220
- 32.17421200, -104.44585500
- After Labor Day--Memorial Day: Visitors Center daily 8--5; last Nature Entrance entry 2; last elevator entry, 3:30. Memorial Day--Labor Day: Visitors center daily 8--7; last Nature Entrance entry 3:30; last elevator entry 5.
- Visit Website
- (575) 785-2232