Carlsbad Caverns, 116 impressive holes in the ground


Carlsbad Caverns National Park, out in the middle of almost nowhere, is one heck of a destination.

Passing “through the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas—filled with prickly pear, chollas, sotols and agaves—you might never guess there are more than 300 known caves beneath the surface,” states the National Park Service Web site.

“The park contains 116 of these caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, creating some of the largest caves in North America.”

There are a number of tours available. We arrived in mid-afternoon and only had time for the 1+ hour Natural Entrance self-guided tour. This very impressive way of seeing only part of the caves is not recommended for individuals with any kind of health problems because it is very steep. Visitors drop 750-feet on a multiple-switch back 1.25 mile trail.

  • The Big Room Trail, however, may be accessed from either the elevator or the bottom of the Natural Entrance trail. Allow one to two hours for this 1¼-mile (2 km) walk. A short-cut is available that cuts the length and duration in half, says NPS.
  • To really appreciate this amazing National wonder, allow most of the day. You can always take a break, grab a sandwich in the RV and head back down to view another section.

    From the city of Carlsbad, go south on US Highway 62/180 about 20 miles. Turn right at a small tourist enclave called Whites City and go 7 miles uphill to the visitor center. Sections of the park road are steep and winding. Incredible panoramic view from the top.

    Photos: Carlsbad Cavern’s Natural Entrance; Devils Den — Natural Entrance Route; and Temple of the Sun — Big Room Route, Carlsbad Cavern. NPS Photos by Peter Jones

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    • Jan: I’ve long been a fan of Nevada Barr. ‘Blind Descent’ took me into tight, dark places I didn’t want to go. Thanks for reminding me of all the adventures her flawed heroine, park ranger Anna Pigeon, takes while she solves mysterious deaths on National Parks.

    • Aren’t the caves magnificent!! We were down there in May, as I’m sure Tom has told you. I found a really fun mystery novel in the gift shop there. Blind Descent, I think it’s called, takes place in the caves. It’s by Nevada Barr, a park ranger. Her mysteries all take place in a National Park.

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