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Going Deep Underground (Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico)

Going Deep Underground (Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico)
Maya
  • On November 27, 2013

Having visited Colossal Cave and a recent visit to Kartchner Caverns (both caves in Arizona), we were told Carlsbad Caverns is a must-see if we would be in New Mexico. Imagine a cavern over 1,000 feet deep, currently has about 30 miles of mapped passages and 119 known caves. Sold! It’s a natural wonder we have to witness for ourselves. (Illustration by: Julia Kuo)

Address

727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, NM, 88220

Guided Tours

Kings Palace
10:00am (1½ hours, $8 for adults)
Lower Cave
1:00pm (3 hours, $20 for adults)

National Park Services

Website

Distance Traveled

106 miles one-way from Oasis RV Park.

Weather hasn’t been cooperative with dropping temperatures, rain and in some parts of Arizona and New Mexico… snow! Before making changes to our itinerary to make Carlsbad Caverns a day trip before hitting Texas, we called their information line. They are closed on Thanksgiving Day. They said their rangers were slipping on the sidewalks as temperatures went below freezing so the National Park closed for a few days because of this icy weather. We had only one day… a small window of opportunity and just prayed the *Winter Storm* would hurry up and work its way East. The day before Thanksgiving, they still had two cave tours available and so we made reservations online to secure our spots.

Side Note: Guided tours at Carlsbad Caverns are very popular and are Sold Out sometimes days to weeks in advance.

Our 2-day pitstop at Coachlight Inn and RV Park (Las Cruces, NM) was shortened to 1-day and we found Oasis RV Park (Van Horn, TX) the perfect pitstop to park the RV. The RV Park’s location was an easy jump onto TX 54N to US-180 / US-62E passing the Guadalupe Mountain National Park to our final destination – Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Illustration by: JustWander.in - Carlsbad Caverns National Park roadtrip from Van Horn, Texas to Carlsbad, NM on the TX 54N to US-180 / US-62E

A BEAUTIFUL, PEACEFUL SCENIC DRIVE

We get on the road early – 6:30am! Not a person on TX 54N for miles and miles and miles. Great opportunity to capture the snowcapped mountains. Remember to compensate for the changing timezone. We had no clue until we saw a sign: Entering Mountain Time Zone.

PIC: Our Mini Cooper taking a 106-mile one way road trip from Van Horn, Tx to Carlsbad, NM to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Feeling very blessed that we didn’t get a flat or car trouble as we had a few factors against us if an emergency should arise: (1) it was freezing outside (2) not many cars passing by to request for assistance (3) spotty cell phone coverage.

PIC: Posing in the middle of TX 54N

PIC: On the US-180 / US-62E with the Guadalupe Mountain National Park on the horizon.

PIC: On the US-180 / US-62E towards Carlsbad Caverns National Park - signs of snowfall.

EXPLORING 830 FEET DEEP IN THE CAVERN

PIC: Front entrance of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Visitor Center

MAP: Mapping out the 5 Levels of Carlsbad Caverns National Park

"Each evening in summer, Mexican Free-tailed bats exit Carlsbad Cavern in search of a smorgasbord of insects for dinner. The best bat flights normally occur in July and August." – National Park Service

This Natural Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns is where the Bat Flights are viewed. Another reason to revisit in the summer!

PIC: The Bat Flight Amphitheater at the Natural Entrance of Carlsbad Caverns National Park

You can skip the steep Natural Entrance descent into the cavern by taking an elevator down 750 ft at 9mph but if you have 45 minutes before your tour, I highly recommend the walk down. What a grand opening you’ll miss!!!

Tip: Kartchner Caverns didn’t allow any photography but DO BRING YOUR CAMERA to Carlsbad Caverns!

PIC: Walk down the winding path down the Natural Entrance of Carlsbad Caverns about 750 ft deep before you see the snack bar, water fountain or restrooms. Give yourselves 45 minutes.

PIC: The most amazing entrance to a cavern will be found in New Mexico at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

PIC: Looking up and out from inside the Natural Entrance of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The Kings Palace tour meets up near the Elevator, Gift Shop and Snack Bar down below. Good news everyone… as you keep yourself hydrated exploring the cave, there are restrooms down here, too!

PIC: Snack bar and Gift Shop 750 feet deep under the desert floor here at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

LOW-LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

PIC: The true Bat Cave here at Carlsbad Caverns with the opportunity to witness Bat Flights in the summer.

PIC: Whales Mouth of Carlsbad Caverns formed from draperies and flowstone.

PIC: Green Lake 8 feet deep here exploring Carlsbad Caverns.

PIC: Carlsbad Caverns - Can't recall if this is what they call - The Big Room - here at Carlsbad Caverns... but can you say, Vaulted ceilings?!

HARD HATS AND HEADLAMPS ON… GUIDED TOUR TIME

Participating in the Kings Palace (10:00am – 11:30am) tour then the later Lower Cave (1:00pm to 4:00pm) tour gives you about 30 minutes to eat lunch. The Visitor Center is open at 8:00am. With the tours we reserved, we made use of every minute to explore the caverns for the day.

The Lower Cave Tour allowed us to explore the deepest portion of the cavern open to the public, 830 feet beneath the desert surface.

PIC: Enjoying the 3 hour Lower Cave Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Knotted Rope Climb

PIC: Enjoying the 3 hour Lower Cave Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Starting the descent down three steep ladders (50-60 ft)

PIC: Enjoying the 3 hour Lower Cave Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Starting the descent down three steep ladders (50-60 ft)

PIC: Enjoying the 3 hour Lower Cave Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park - small group with headlamps and gloves ready to explore

PIC: Enjoying the 3 hour Lower Cave Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Tight Squeeze introduction to their Spider Cave Tour of dirty cave crawls

PIC: Enjoying the 3 hour Lower Cave Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Back up the ladders

We saw the bones of a few bats that had once taken shelter here in previous summers. This cavern was once an ancient reef made of sponges and algae (unlike the typical coral reef). Learn more: The Research Conducted at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

QUESTION: Anyone ever been to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky? They mentioned it on our tour and is said to be "the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored…"

Comments

  1. Aloha Guy

    So did you guys find Billy a Man Cave? LOL

  2. I have to do spelunking one day! Great pics!

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