We walked, down, down … and down. I couldn’t believe how much “more down” we were going as we walked down the paved path at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
For reference, turns out we walked down the equivalent of 79 stories to get into the cave!
Once we were in the cave, I then couldn’t believe how long it extended. It felt like we could have just kept walking forever!
Carlsbad Caverns really made me feel small and insignificant. The last time I felt this way was a few years ago when I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time.
This time, however, I was in a dark cave. I mean, cavern. What’s the difference between a cavern and a cave again?
Bryce and I opted to walk into Carlsbad Caverns via the Natural Entrance. (The other option is to take an elevator down). It’s crazy that the Natural Entrance, this giant opening into the cave, was not human made. It’s also crazy that back-in-the-day, the first explorers were brave enough to see what was inside the caverns.
Carlsbad Caverns contains 119 caves and three are open to the public. There are lights and some signage of landmarks throughout the caves, so we were fine navigating the paved trail without flashlights. Our eyes quickly adapted to the dark once we were far enough away from the North Entrance and no longer could see any daylight seeping in.
Every corner we turned, I couldn’t help but whisper an astounding “Wow!” or “Whoa!”
Sometimes my reaction was to an interesting-shaped limestone formation. Other times it was a reaction to the gigantic size of things. Or, to the intricate shapes of the rocks. There was just so much variety in these caves!
I’ve been in caves before, once in New Zealand and another time in Cambodia. But, those ones can’t even compare to Carlsbad. Carlsbad is just on another level from anything I have seen before. After all, it contains the fifth largest chamber in the United States (and 28th largest in the world!) It’s just massive!
Don’t get me wrong, the Waitomo caves in New Zealand are amazing because they are glow worm caves. And, the cave — which, I can’t remember the name of off the top of my head since that trip was more than 10 years ago — in Cambodia was memorable because a local boy gave me a tour and explained what I was looking at in the small temple tucked away in a cave near Kep, a beach town.
But, back to Carlsbad. We can reminisce about New Zealand and Cambodia another time, right? I promise.
It took us about an hour to make it all the way to the end of the caves, where the elevator is waiting to take you back up to civilization. This is also where the Big Room is situated. (Yes, this is literally what it is called!) The Big Room is a limestone cave that’s 4,000 feet long and 625 feet wide. We decided to walk around the room before heading back up the elevator.
There is thankfully a bathroom that I got good use out of before we walked the Big Room. (I like to stay hydrated and I have small bladder, so there you have it). There’s also a snack bar, which Bryce commented was a very different scene when he visited the caverns with his family as a kid. When he and I went Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, there was hardly what you would even describe as a crowd! It was nice.
Just because it was not crowded doesn’t mean there were no other visitors. Bryce and I walked at a slower pace than most, but we had no trouble just stepping off to the side to let others go by, as we spent more time just looking at everything there was to see. There’s really so much to observe and take in! Giant domes, totem poles, pools of water, guano (bat poop), stalactites and so much more!
After my first visit to White Sands just the day before, I didn’t think I would see anything else as cool on our road trip. I was wrong. You can’t compare White Sands to Carlsbad Caverns since they are such different landscapes. They are both amazing!
For the first time at now two national parks, I didn’t come across any wildlife, but I didn’t care.
The views alone were just extraordinary. My iPhone photos don’t do justice. (But, I’ll share photos, anyway!)
We could have spent even more time than we did — about 2.5 hours — at Carlsbad Caverns because it’s just so immersive. But, we had a strict itinerary to stick to! And, we were there nearly until closing time. Our next stop on our desert road trip was El Paso, Texas which is more than two hours away.
I’m really glad Bryce introduced me to Carlsbad Caverns. And, no, not the Carlsbad in California. The one in New Mexico. The one that is more than 250 million years old. And, the one with the Big Room that can fit more than six football fields! (I’m not kidding! Google it to confirm!)
Now have I convinced you to visit these caverns?
1 thought on “Carlsbad Caverns: caves that go down, down, and extend forever, forever”
Great post 🙂