Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Surprised by the cave holes that appear in the wilderness, walking the trail to the underground while listening to the cries of bats, getting lost in the world of science fiction and imagine the appearance of underground people.

A national park located in southern New Mexico. It has the largest limestone cave in the United States. It is registered as a World Natural Heritage Site. Among the national parks of the United States, this is a special type of national park.

When purchased a ticket at the visitor center, I was asked if I want to use the elevator or walk to the underground. In addition, I was asked “Do you have a reservation?”, also the time is written on the ticket, so if there are many visitors, it may not be possible to enter the cave immediately.

Wheter going down by the elevator or walk, forget the option by the elevator. The experience of walking down to underground is a major part of this national park. If walking, walking along the natural entrance route. Walking through the visitor center reception towards the back side of the building, the space of the introduction exhibition of this national park and go out of the building. After walking about 200m, arrive at the entrance of the cave. A ranger is waiting to give a brief explanation.

A cave hole suddenly appears in front. The surrounding area is an empty wasteland, and the only kind of greenery is shrubs. I was surprised to find a huge hole opening underground in a place like this. Stone benches surround the entrance to the cave so that visitors can watch the bats emerge from the cave during the summer time. Looking at the explanation board at the entrance, there is an explanation that this route walking from around the 80th floor of the Empire State Building (103 stories) in NYC to the ground level.

It was around 11:00 when I entered the cave, and a few bats were flying near the entrance of the cave, chirping. About 60m down the steep switchback, there is Bad Cave where bats live. There were said to be 400,000 bats at their peak, but I had no idea where they were. After walking through the cave for a while, it felt like the artificial lights inside the cave were turned off when the light from outside stopped reaching, but this may have been done in consideration of the bats. The area from the entrance to Bad Cave is filled with the smell of bat feces. The trails are well maintained and exhilarating. It is comfortable temperature. The tension rises in the process of heading towards the dark underground. It is a scale that can never be experienced in Japan. It take approx. 1 hour to the underground level. Elevation difference is 230m.

When reaching the underground level, walk through an area called “Big Room”. Various stalactites are lined up in a vast space. A level different from the limestone caves seen in Japan. It is high ceiling. The height is approx. 80 meters. When I think of limestone caves, I get the impression that I have to crouch down and sometimes wear a helmet while walking, but there was no such place. Even if taking a shortcut, walking around the trail in “Big Room” for approx. 30 minutes. It takes over an hour to walk all the routes. There is also a rest area in the underground level with rest room (there was a shop in the rest area, but it was closed when I visited because it was not the peak season).

I visited twice, but both times were in early May and the bat flight program had not started. It is said that the peak is around August. When seeing the video on YouTube, I feel the urge to see it with my own eyes.

The visitor center is located on a hill, and the “Chihuahuan desert” spreads out in front. This desert (wilderness) is the largest in the United States and has a nice view. By all means, please engrave sight of this wilderness into your memory.

Visited in 1996, 2023.

Basic Information

​■ Name: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
■ Address :  New Mexico, USA

​■ How to Get here? / Input

  1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located at the southernmost tip of New Mexico, almost on the border with Texas. Access is difficult. The nearest gate city is El Paso, and to visit by car from El Paso. The next closest gate city is Albuquerque, which is located in the north of New Mexico.
  2. Close to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, there is “White Sands National Park”. This national park is also a unique place among US National Parks, and recommend to visit together with this “Carlsbad Caverns National Park”.
  3. Distance/Time
    ・150 miles (240 km) from El Paso, 2.5 hours.
    ・300 miles (480 km) from Albuquerque, 5 hours.

(described on July 8 2023)

US National Park Ranking