While not the largest cave system in the US, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is certainly one of the most impressive. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Carlsbad Caverns.
How much? $15 per person
Hours: Entry into the caves from 8:30 am to 3:30pm For complete and up to date information, see the NPS website here.
How to see the caves:
There are two ways to get in and out of the caves. You can either hike into and out of the cavern, or take the elevator. Most people tend to hike down into the cave and take the elevator back up, but you can change it up to suit your needs. If your require a wheelchair, or are scared of heights, the elevator is the way to go.
The hike down takes a little over an hour, and 2 hours should be enough time to explore the base. The caves are large and open, with only a few short sections that were fairly narrow, and I never felt claustrophobic at any point. There are also plenty of rangers around if you need any assistance or have any questions.
If you hike in, you descend about 230m/750ft rather rapidly, which is equivalent to about 75 floors. The trail is steep in a few places, and the passage is dimly lit. So make sure to take your time and enjoy the views!
Before you go down into the caves, be sure to take a quick look around the exhibits in the visitors centre. Here you can learn all about how the caves were formed, the mining that took place here, as well as look at a 3D map of the caves you are about to walk around in!
What to bring with you:
No food or drink (apart from bottled water) is allowed into the caves. While the temperature at the surface level can vary a lot, the inside of the caves is always at 13C/56F. You might want to bring a light jacket if you get cold easily.
Wear comfortable, closed toe shoes, and carry a small flashlight with you (just in case). If you would like to take photos, a camera with manual settings will give you much better results than your phone camera.
If you do end up needing something, you can pick it up at the gift shop in the visitors centre.
White Nose Syndrome:
White nose syndrome is a fungal disease that kills bats, currently sweeping across North America. In order to protect the population of bats in the caves, please heed any signs posted around the caves. You can make sure you aren’t accidentally carrying the fungus into the caves by wearing freshly laundered clothes when you visit. Also, make sure you disinfect your shoes and bags, especially if you have been into any caves or mines in the last 10 years.
Bat Flight Program:
From the end of May to October, the caves are inhabited by Brazilian free-tailed bats. Every evening at sunset during this period, you can watch the bats come out of the cave in large numbers from the amphitheatre overlooking the natural cave entrance. The program is free to attend, and no reservations are required. However, no electronics are allowed, as they disturb the bats.
Be sure to check out my photo review of Carlsbad Caverns here.
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