Road Trip Day 17: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

After a warm night (the temperature got down to 81 degrees) in a gravel RV site off the Carlsbad Caverns access road, we got an early start up to the visitor center to queue up for tickets to get into the caverns. We got there around 7:15 for an 8 AM opening, in time to get in on the second entry slot at 8:45 AM via the natural entrance.

The natural entrance, a 1.2 mile and 750 ft descent

As you can see in the photo, there is a paved path that switchbacks 750 feet down into the cavern over 1.2 miles. It is a fantastic way to go in, but I don’t think it was used all that much pre-COVID. I was here some 50+ years ago as a kid… I don’t think we came in this way back then. By the way, this is the bat exit and entrance, and you can see the entrance to the bat cave about 1/4 of the way down. It is not part of the tour, and a good think at that with 40 feet of guano at the bottom of the cave.

Masked up with the N95s going in…

Eventually we entered the Big Room, or the main part of the caverns. This is where the elevator descends from the visitor center. We did the big room tour, which was another 1.2 mile walk around the “largest known limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere”.

Map of the cavern in the Big Room.

The temperature in the caverns was in the mid 50s, with humidity at 90%. Surprisingly, it wasn’t necessary to wear the extra layers we brought. The cave is apparently some 30 miles in length, and is not the largest in the park. Another cave called Lechuguilla was discovered in 1986 and is over 140 miles in length and 1,600 ft deep.

With the low light levels in the cavern it’s difficult to get decent pictures. The gallery above has some samples from our walk around the big room.

At the end of our walk around the big room we took the elevator back up to the surface. It ascended the 750 feet in about 1 minute. After a stop in the gift shop to add to Miranda’s collection of postcards and stickers we were off to head across Texas and the final stretch of our trip.

5 thoughts on “Road Trip Day 17: Carlsbad Caverns National Park”

  1. When I was a young kid we went on a little road trip and made a stop at some “caverns”. It seems to me it was in Kentucky. The main thing I remember was that the guide said “I want everyone to hold onto someone else, and parents be sure you hold your child’s hand because I’m going to turn off the lights. You will now experience total and complete darkness for the first time in your life.” Click. Total darkness. I was just fascinated by the idea of total darkness.

    Larry you keep mentioning “stickers”? Are those like bumper stickers? Because the one other moment I recall from this trip was that when we came out of the caverns someone had put a bumper sticker on his Lincoln. He went BALLISTIC, which was pretty unusual for him and made us all jumpy because it was such a rare event. He stormed back into the little Gift Shop / Ticket Stand and said “Get that GOD DAMN thing off my car NOW”! They took it off. šŸ™‚


    1. John, Mammoth Caves National Park is in Kentucky.

        It is the longest known cave system in the world at over 400 miles. The stickers I am referring to are not bumper stickers (do those things still exist) but rather smaller stickers that often wind up on computers, etc. Ask Kendall.


  2. Your photos are terrific of the caverns. I’ve never been there so I’d like to visit someday. Would you recommend the early departure to get in line for the tickets to descend the stairs or just go to the big room?


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