Carlsbad Caverns National Park, located in southeastern New Mexico, is known for its namesake, Carlsbad Cavern. It’s simply named “Big Room” is the largest single cave chamber, by volume, in North America. It’s status and remarkable grandeur make it a New Mexico bucket list must. Check out these tips for visiting the Carlsbad Caverns to make the most of your stay.
Tips for Visiting the Carlsbad Caverns
All guests visiting the Carlsbad Caverns must make reservations for timed entry. Reservations cannot be made at the park. Also, reservations only reserve entry times, so visitors still need to purchase entrance tickets as well.
You can make reservations online or by calling 877-444-6777.
Carlsbad Caverns is part of the 2022 The America the Beautiful-The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass. If you’re interested in buying a National Parks pass, you can purchase it online here.
The Right Clothing and Shoes are Key
Inside Carlsbad Cavern, the temperature is a steady 56 degrees year-round with 90% humidity. Above ground, however, temperatures can very drastically. So bring a sweater even if it’s 100 degrees outside.
You’ll also want closed-toed shoes with excellent traction. Some areas of the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails are wet from natural water drips and steep. For safety, closed-toe shoes with good traction (e.g. lug soles) are recommended. Flip flops, sandals, and some walking shoes have little or no traction and increase the possibility of slips, trips, and falls.
White-Nose Syndrome is a devastating disease that affects bats, and it’s killing off a huge percentage of their population. To avoid spreading the disease, please don’t wear clothes or shoes that you’ve previously worn in other caves.
No Eating or Drinking in The Cavern
Eating and drinking are not allowed in the Carlsbad Cavern, unless it’s unflavored water. This is to prevent encouraging wildlife into the cavern. It also prevents littering.
Visitors may eat and drink in the underground snack bar or outside the cavern.
Explore On Your Own
You can explore Carlsbad Cavern on your own by following two trails.
The most popular route, the Big Room Trail, is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. This 1.25 mile trail is relatively flat, and will take about 1.5 hours to walk it.
Actor and comedian Will Rogers called the cavern, “The Grand Canyon with a roof over it.”
You will be rewarded with spectacular views, cave formations of all shapes and sizes, and a rope ladder used by explorers in 1924.
If you are seeking a shorter experience, the Big Room has a shortcut which reduces the walking distance to about 0.6 miles. The hiking time is about 45 minutes.
The 1.25 mile Natural Entrance Trail is extremely steep. Depending on if you decide to hike up or down, you gain or lose about 750 feet — equivalent to walking up or down a 75-story building. The hike takes about one hour to complete. This trail is not recommended for visitors with heart or respiratory conditions. You have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of early explorers as you see formations like Devil’s Spring, the Whale’s Mouth, and Iceberg Rock. The Natural Entrance is not an accessible trail.
Big Room Accessibility
One mile of the Big Room Trail is accessible to wheelchairs, but the trail is wet from dripping water and can be slippery, bumpy, uneven, and difficult to navigate.
Baby strollers are not permitted in the cavern, but there are not age restrictions so a baby backpack or carrier may be worn to carry children.
If medically necessary, canes and walking sticks are permitted on the Big Room, Natural Entrance, and King’s Palace trails. For safety, canes and walking sticks are required to have a rubber or soft tip.
Taking photos is encouraged in Carlsbad Caverns. Flash photography is also allowed. Tripods are permitted on the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails, but not on ranger-guided tours.
You can bring your cell phone, but there is no signal in the cavern. I’d suggest putting it in airplane mode to conserve the battery.
Eat And Shop
The Carlsbad Caverns do have a restaurant, gift shop, and a bookstore in the visitor center. The restaurant, located in the visitor center, has food options and drinks.
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. There is nothing between the caverns and El Paso.
It’s a good idea to gas up regularly in New Mexico in general. You can drive for extremely long distances within phone service or gas stations.