- The Route of It All
Favorite Place Highlight: Carlsbad Caverns
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is really in the middle of nowhere New Mexico: We basically camped in a gravel parking lot with hookups. This no frills camping situation was totally worth it! Note, there are better camping opportunities nearby in the Guadalupe mountains and some BLM locations, but we wanted hookups for our pets while were exploring the caverns.
So why is Carlsbad one of our favorite places? Simply, it is breathtakingly beautiful and fascinating! This trip was not without disappointment: We were two days late to see the Carlsbad Freetail Mexican bat population, they had just migrated!
Thankfully, they return every year between March and the beginning of November. No worries, this by no means diminished our experience in Carlsbad Caverns! In fact, we loved visiting the caverns off season in mid November because there were very few visitors. We felt like we had a private tour of the caverns! For us that made for a much more majestic introduction. We had one of the first timed tickets of the day, and we were the last visitors to be politely ushered out by the rangers. We spent the whole day in awe of the beautiful formations. If you go tour the caverns we highly recommend that you rent the audio tour, it is WORTH it! We learned so many fantastic details about when Carlsbad was found by a teenager named Jim White, why the caverns and different formations exist, and how they maintain and continue to explore this systems of caves. We even lucked out and saw rangers checking the emergency light systems to make sure they were in operation. And YES they have had to use the emergency lights when power goes out in the area. On that note, it is a really good idea to bring your own light source like a phone, headlamp or flashlight. In fact its a good idea to bring all three. Caving has a rule of threes as described by cave explorers in our video and one of those three rules is to bring three light sources with you in case one goes out.
New parts of the caverns are still being discovered each year and research from the caverns is innovative and exciting. Watch our experience at Carlsbad Caverns here:
A few pointers for visiting Carlsbad Caverns:
Wear layers - The cave can be warm or cool, its best to have layers you can remove.
Bring water - You will need to stay hydrated. We recommend a backpack with water.
Food is not allowed in the caverns at all!
Getting Food - There is a restaurant at the bottom. It is a bit touristy but the sandwiches and brownies were worth it. It totally looks like a restaurant on the moon!
Wear walking shoes with grip - Parts of the cave can be a little slick with moisture and you are walking down some pretty steep slopes in parts.
Make reservations - Check to see if they timed entry tickets and get an early one.
Bring your own flashlight - Carlsbad is well lit by the park system but having your own light makes it even better. Be mindful to keep your light down, pointing it only at walkways or formations, and out of other visitors eyes.
Rent the guided tour! - If you have a larger crew, you may need to rent more than one since it has a limited audio volume/range.
Photographs are challenging to take in Carlsbad Caverns - most current phones can take good photos if you hold the camera still. Bring a compact tripod, tripods are your friend! If you have a mirrorless or DSLR bring as fast of a lens as you can because you are shooting in the dark. Recommend F2.8 or faster.
Pets are not allowed in the caverns - But note that Carlsbad Caverns has a kennel on site to board your pets for a fee. We are unsure if it is for dogs only. There is a number to call in the link. We did not use it but saw happy pups being checked in to the kennel service. Owners are required to show a copy of the pet's rabies vaccination record with the expiration date when boarding a pet. This kennel service is simply to get you pets out of dangerous temps and into a controlled environment while you tour the cavern. water is provided but food, bedding, and restroom breaks are the owners responsibility. The kennel is for day use only—no overnight stays. Fee: $10/day. See more info about the kennel at Carlsbad Caverns here: https://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/pets.htm
Some areas of the cave, like the King's Palace, require special reservations. Also, some area of the caverns like Lechuguilla Cave are no longer accessible to visitors and have been preserved for approved research expeditions. Scott was lucky and toured this one in his youth before the tours were shut down on account of them affecting the environment. He said he remembers doing a lot of bouldering and some rope descents to get into Lechuguilla cave, definitely a full workout. See more on Lechuguilla Cave here: https://www.nps.gov/cave/learn/nature/lechuguilla_cave.htm
We love Carlsbad Caverns, it a rare and beautiful space worth the drive. We are determined to return one day soon and see the bats! Apparently we like bats, another of our favorite places also has bats, The Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin Texas.
For more on Carlsbad Caverns NP visit:
NPS Carlsbad Caverns- https://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm