As you pass through the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas—filled with prickly pear, chollas, sotols and agaves—you might never guess there are more than 300 known caves beneath the surface.
The park contains 113 of these caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, creating some of the largest caves in North America.
You can’t miss The Big Room, eight football fields big. There are self-guided and ranger-guided tours. Reservations are recommended for the following excursions: Kings Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Slaughter Canyon Cave, Lower Cave, Spider Cave, and Hall of the White Giant.
Expect ladder climbs, pool crossings, tight crawls, and free climbing. Oh, and bats – at dusk between May and October, you can witness a mass hatch as 300,000 of the Mexican freetailers exit the cave!
All visitors to the park should tour the main section of the cave, the Big Room self-guided tour. The 8.2-acre Big Room is partially wheelchair accessible. The Natural Entrance self-guided tour is also very impressive, but it is also more difficult due to the steepness of the trail.
Guided tours of varying difficulties are also available—from the self-guided areas of the Big Room to crawling through narrow passageways in the Hall of the White Giant or in Spider Cave.
Other Park Activities
While there are a variety of cave tours available—from the self-guided areas of the Big Room to crawling through narrow passageways in the Hall of the White Giant or in Spider Cave—there are also opportunities for hiking and backcountry camping, attending programs in the visitor center, and watching the incredible exodus of Mexican free-tail bats out of Carlsbad Cavern at dusk in the summer.
From US 285, take NM 62/180 south to the park.
$15 per person (age 16 and over)
Read also our article how to save money with the Annual National Park Pass (America the Beautiful)