Touring the Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico – Not Your Average Hole in the Ground
Maybe you’re taking a road trip, maybe you’re visiting relatives, or maybe you just took a wrong turn in Albuquerque. Either way, you’re in New Mexico… and now you’re wondering what to do.
If the above sounds like you, fear not, New Mexico has heard your call for fun and adventure and answered with Carlsbad Caverns National Park – an attraction the entire family can appreciate. Carlsbad caverns is located in Southern New Mexico near the Texas border, and not all that far from the Mexican border.
This enjoyable and educational New Mexico destination is a crowd-pleaser for all ages. Don’t believe me? Check out these 5 reasons why:
1.) World Heritage Site
In 1995, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park was distinguished as a World Heritage Site. Much like the Everglades, Yellowstone, and the Great Smokey Mountain parks, only globally recognized sites that offer “outstanding universal value” are bestowed this honor. There aren’t many sites within the U.S. that have this worldwide bragging right, so right off the bat you know this park is something special.
2.) Captivating Caverns
Exploring the cave chambers is like stepping in to a real-life fairytale. Some chambers seemed to have been spun with gold – like the glittery Queen’s Chamber – while others areas might have your looking around for Gollum and a shiny ring.
3.) Back-to-Basics Tourist Destination
If you’ve had your fill of manufactured theme parks and attractions, and are looking for entertainment that doesn’t rely upon glossy facades and juiced-up razzle-dazzle, you should consider checking this place out. It provides a great opportunity to ditch the technology-saturated culture of today and enjoy a unique travel destination.
4.) Carlsbad Caters to Novice Explorers and Seasoned Professionals
Whether you want to casually roam the caves lone-wolf style or strap on a lighted helmet for a challenging, down-and-dirty cave adventure, the Carlsbad Caverns have got you covered.
There’s a self-guided tour and guided tours. The self-guided tour is great for all ages except those in need of strollers. Also, for the self-guided tour everyone under 16 years old needs to be accompanied by an 18-year-old adult.
The guided tours vary in length and difficulty, lasting anywhere between 1.5 – 5.5 hours and range in difficulty from “family friendly” to “experienced explorers” only.
Did you know: Most of the formations—or speleothems—found inside Carlsbad Cavern today were active and growing during the last ice age when instead of having a desert above the cave, there were pine forests.
The bang-for-your-buck coefficient at the caverns is exceptional. For a self-guided tour ticket (good for up to 3 days), it’s only $10 for adults. For those under 16 years old there’s no charge to enter the cavern.
If you want embark on a ranger-guided tour, prepare to shell out a bit more. Ranger-guided tours vary in price from $7 – $20 for adults, but for children each ticket is 50% off. Be sure to check the minimum age requirements before you buy your tickers though: children under 4 years old are not permitted on any ranger-guided tours, and the more physically demanding tours have an age requirement of 12 years.
History in the Caves
The caves are alive with history. In 2003, a park employee found a piece of a stone scraper within view of Carlsbad Cavern’s entrance that goes back to Ice Age Indian hunters. In 2004, archeologists found fragments of two spear points of the Midland-style Paleo Indian projectile points of some 10,000 years ago.
The park’s cultural resources represent a long and varied continuum of human use starting in prehistoric times, and illustrating many adaptations to the Chihuahuan Desert environment. Human activities, including prehistoric and historic American Indian occupations, European exploration and settlement, industrial exploitation, commercial and cavern accessibility development and tourism have each left reminders of their presence, and have contributed to the rich and diverse history of the area. [Source: NPS]
Carlsbad Caverns Camping
If camping is your thing, there are no developed campground at the Caverns, but there is backcountry camping via free permit. Head here for more info.
For more information visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park