The highlight of our Spring Break Southwest Adventure was definitely Carlsbad Caverns. We had been desiring to visit the national park since we found out about its existence about ten years ago, and finally were staying close enough to make it a reality. The three-hour drive from Ruidoso via Roswell was well worth it. Carlsbad Caverns was amazing.
Carlsbad Caverns, located in the Chihuahuan Desert in the Guadalupe Mountains, is in my opinion, one of the natural wonders of the world. Formation of the caverns began over 4 million years ago as a result of millions of years of tectonic uplift exposing portions of an ancient reef. After another 3.5 million years, and over the course of 500,000 years, the cave’s intricate formations formed slowly from calcite-laden water dripping over the limestone and gypsum caves. The variety in the cave formations is just stunning. The caverns were impressively decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, and columns as one would expect in a cave, however, where water dripped slowly, fine soda straws formed, looking like delicate icicles glimmering in the faint light. We were also able to see curtain-like draperies and aragonite popcorn formations on cave walls. I’d say this is the only place where a popcorn ceiling looks good.
There’s little variance in temperature inside the cave regardless of the time of year. A light sweater or jacket is recommended for the beginning of the hike, as the caverns stay a cool 56 degrees. I do recommend layering, especially when the outside temps are warmer, and for the uphill trek back. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are a good idea. The trails are paved, but they can get slippery. Of course, bring plenty of water and a camera, as photography is allowed in most parts. Just be sure to stay on the trail when taking that perfect snapshot. Strollers are not permitted due to the narrow trails.
If you have the time, a ranger-guided tour is the only way to see the King’s Palace. The tour goes into the deepest parts of the caverns. It looked cool, but we didn’t have the time to do this one. Reservations are recommended, and there is a separate fee for this trek.
As with all natural areas, follow leave no trace principles. The caverns took hundreds of millions of years to become the wonders they are today, and it doesn’t take that long to damage them.
In late spring, the Brazilian free-tailed bats return to Bat Cave to give birth and raise their pups. One highlight of Carlsbad Caverns is the bats’ night flight. There are ranger programs at the Bat Amphitheater in the evenings beginning in late May. Our trip was too early in the year for the bat flights, but friends who have seen it thought it really cool. We did see guano in the cave, but that was as close to the bats as we were going to get on this trip. Maybe next time…
A visit to Carlsbad Caverns is definitely worth the drive. I hope you get the chance to ‘go batty’ at the Caverns. Happy trails!
For more information and current cave conditions, visit
National Park Service.