Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Tips From a Recent Visitor

Explore caves and uncover geologic history on your next family vacation. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, located in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico, offers all that and more.

From camping nearby to hiking through the park, here's what you need to know before you pack your bag and head out.

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When and How to Get There

The park is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. You can access the park entrance on US Highway 62/180 about 18 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Can't Miss Tours

There are a number of tours available at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Here are some of the best ones.

Natural Entrance Self-Guided Tour

Carlsbad Cavern is home to a large cave chamber called the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber that's almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide and 255 feet high at the highest point. It's the fifth-largest chamber in North America and is a necessary stop during your visit.

A 1-mile descending hike takes you into the cave—you can also take the elevator—and while most guides consider this an hour-long hike, it took my family closer to 40 to 45minutes. Regardless of how long it takes you to enter, plan to spend at least one and a half hours exploring this amazing cave.

Insider Tip: Your neck may get sore from gazing up at the amazing rock formations.

More: 9 Nature Trails for Your Next Family Hike

Ranger Led Tours

Take the opportunity to explore remote areas of Carlsbad Caverns National Park with a ranger led tour. We chose the Left Hand Tunnel tour because you can explore like the early cave explorers, using only hand held candle lit lanterns. 

Everyone in our group, from grandparents to the youngest child, loved the 2-hour tour. However, keep in mind all ranger led tours have minimum ages and there are no exceptions. It's also important to note that tickets often sell out early. 

Insider tip: If tickets for your tour of choice are sold out, purchase stand-by tickets. If someone doesn't show up for their tour, you have first dibs on the open spot. We were able to include three more people in our group this way.

More: What Does a Park Ranger Do?

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