Down Under in New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park Top 15


Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park

There’s not enough hype surrounding Carlsbad Caverns, in my opinion. It was fascinating to me! Pictures don’t do it justice – you just have to go see it for yourself! We want to share a few things about our experience, so when you go, you will be prepared to make the most of it. Here are our top 15 tips for making the most out of your experience at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park sign
Carlsbad Caverns National Park sign

1. First of all, The caverns and visitor center are 7 miles from the front entrance of the park and the drive is fabulous. The road is good and it’s a bit of a long switch back, but nothing too steep or sharp. The scenery though is picturesque, so have your camera ready to take some pictures on your way in!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park entrance sign
Carlsbad Caverns National Park entrance sign
Along the 7 mile switchback drive into Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Along the 7 mile switchback drive into Carlsbad

2. There’s plenty of conveniently located parking and the signage is good. 

3. If you have a pet to kennel while you tour the caverns, they make this process easy. Just go to the back left corner of the building on the outside (there’s a sign directing you) and ring the doorbell. Someone will come out and let you in to place your pet in a kennel. You will have a short form to fill out. They also require documentation of current rabies vaccine. You can bring your pet’s bed (and some food if you like), that’s what we did. They provide water. You take the form inside to the gift shop to pay the $10 fee for the day (per animal). 

4. Inside the Vistor Center, with the gift shop, are also the ticket counters to get your tickets for the cavern tours. Your receipt is your ticket so keep that with you because you will have to show it several times before you are allowed to go to the cavern. They allow around 25 to 35 people in every 15 minutes so you will receive a ticket for the next available time until it is sold out for the day. Get there early! 

5. Once you have your ticket you can go to the bookstore and purchase,  or actually rent, the little devices for the audio tour. These are really easy to use but they aren’t very loud because they want you quiet in the cavern. 

6. You will hear an announcement for your entrance time. You will exit the Visitor Center on the right side and this will be the first time that you will show your ticket to one of the Rangers as you’re heading out. 

7. You’ll be directed to meet under a covered awning and listen to some short instructions before making your way to the Natural Cavern Entrance. This is the 2nd Ranger you will be showing your ticket to. I stress this because I had gone in to purchase tickets for us and left my ‘receipt’ in the car when I went back to get hubby and Trit. No food, gum, candy or anything is allowed in the caverns because it attracts animals, so you will have to toss everything at this point. You may bring only water into the cavern. 

Behind the Visitors Center Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Behind the Visitors Center
Path to Natural Entrance

8. OK you are ready to go! It’s an unguided, self paced tour. There are separate guided tours available at times. 

9. You will be descending 75 stories, stretched out over a 1.25 mile hike. This is a long series of switchbacks and most are inside the dark damp cavern. The path is paved and has handrails and you MUST stay on the path. I read that if you have heart problems, breathing problems, knee problems, etc, that you may not want to go down the path in to the natural cave entrance.  Really it was a lot less strenuous than I thought it would be. You’re just walking. You are walking on a downward slope in the dark though! There are places that are wet and slick so be careful. At times, you may be able to ride the elevator down, as well as back up. I would not want to come back up the path to get out because walking up the steep incline is so much harder! On the path you will already begin to see this incredible cave. I’m  not real sure where the path ends to “ get there” and the path through the cavern begins. 

Beginning the switchback path down into the cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Beginning the switchback path down into the cavern

10. You can take pictures in the cavern and you can also use a flash. It’s very dark in there, but there are lights highlighting some of the stalactites and stalagmites and parts of the path. It’s really mind blowing how massive the cavern is and even the formations themselves. It goes on and on and on around and through formations of every shape and size. It’s really indescribable and I think everyone should experience it! No matter how many pictures you’ve seen, I’m not sure it’s even possible to capture in a photograph. 

Enormous formations in the cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Enormous formations in the cavern
Benches in various places along the path at Carlsbad National Park
Benches in various places along the path

11. Make sure that you don’t miss the big room. I was expecting a big room. It’s a ginormous space that you can’t see all at one time like you could looking around a room. There are stalactites and stalagmites that meet and other caves, so again you are just intertwining through formations and being awed at every crook and turn. 

Stalactites and Stalagmites at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Stalactites and Stalagmites
This stalagmite is 62 feet tall at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
This stalagmite is 62 feet tall!
This stalagmite is 62 feet tall at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Part of Big Room Carlsbad

12. There is a shortcut out of the big room if you feel like you have already had the the full experience. This shortcut will save a little bit of time getting to the elevator to go back up. Be prepared you will most likely wait a while in line for an elevator. 

13. The elevator takes you back to the main floor of the visitor center so that you can visit the gift shop on the way out. Also when you get off the elevator there’s a bin for your audio equipment return. 

14. If you kenneled your pet(s), you can take your paid receipt, go back out and around the building, and ring the doorbell at the kennel area again. An attendant will come out to let you in the kennel room for pick up. We were traveling with our 16-year-old Jack Russell, Trit, who usually has pretty bad anxiety.  He was asleep when we got back though! Seems to be a decent kenneling experience. 

15. Now you are ready to go back on the seven mile exit so have your camera ready again.                                

Hope you enjoyed Carlsbad Caverns National Park has much as we did!

Stalactites and Stalagmites meeting. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Stalactites and Stalagmites meeting
Along the 7 mile switchback drive into Carlsbad
Along the 7 mile switchback drive into Carlsbad

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These were some of the best investments that we purchased prior to our trip! And why:

Camii Mia Women’s Slim Outdoor Windproof Waterproof Cargo Workout Running Rain Hiking Pant

These pants were great in the cool and damp cavern! They are lightweight, not fleece lined, so not too hot.

Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

These boots not only kept me from sliding in slick places, but were also secure on my ankles. I would hate to sprain my ankle on the 1st day!!

Voyager Step-in Air Dog Harness – All Weather Mesh, Step in Vest Harness for Small and Medium Dogs by Best Pet Supplies

This harness was secure, but so comfortable that Trit wore it 24 hours a day!

Mycicy 6FT Strong Dog Leash Rope Dog Leash Highly Reflective Threads with Soft Padded Handle for Small Medium Large Dogs

What I loved most about this leash, other than it being so sturdy, was that the handle was easy to grip and the thick rope was comfortable to wrap around your arm to shorten the lead.

HETH Dog Travel Water Bottle, 2 in 1 Portable Dog Water Dispenser and Food Container with 2 Collapsible Bowls for Your Pets Walking and Traveling

This combo food/water bottle with collapsible bowls was the best!! We would throw it in the backpack full of food and water so that Trit was never without. It was so easy and not messy! We used it everywhere-hiking, gas stops, hotel, etc!!

If you are spending time in New Mexico, check out these tours. We have found that tours are the way to go. We learn so much more on tours than when exploring on our own.


44 thoughts on “Down Under in New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park Top 15”

  1. This is awesome! We love doing cavern tours! Will Pin for when we get to New Mexico at some point!

  2. How fascinating! We explored Windcave National Park just outside Custer National Park. This reminded me of that experience, except this seems on a grander scale!

  3. What a cool experience! I went to my first cavern in my 40’s and loved it. This one looks even more amazing. What a great feature that they offer to kennel your pet!

  4. New Mexico is on our list! It’s one of the very few states I’ve never (yet) been to. We love national parks, too, so this would be a perfect destination for us.

  5. I love caverns! These look like amazing options and a fun excursion!

  6. I’ve been to Carlsbad once and I remember it being just as stunning as you describe. Thanks for the lovely photos and narrative.

  7. Good to know about the kennel! I’m always worried that my dogs will be too stressed out

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