“ Country: USA / World Region: North America „
I've had the good fortune to be able to visit Carlsbad Cavern National Park twice! It is in the South East corner of the state of New Mexico and thus is a fairly remote place to visit. That is the downside. The plus point to this remoteness is that even in the height of the tourist season it is not likely to be heaving like many of the other national parks in the states.
The main attraction of the park is obviously the caverns but there are also a few trails to explore.
The caverns are fairly cheap to enter and you get the choice of many different tours, all but one being guided. The guided tours cost extra and go to slightly different parts of the caves. I've only ever done the free tour so can't comment on the others.
The main cave is huge! Apparently it was used to film 'journey to the centre of the earth'. You can either descend by lift or walk in (a mile down a GENTLY descending path) which is well worth it! There are signs around the visitors centre saying that it is an arduous walk and that you should be fit to attempt it. It is not arduous at all and is tarmacced all the way. Apart from a few steps and the odd narrow opening you could get a wheelchair down the track!
It probably takes an hour to walk down the path after you've stopped and looked at everything. Allow another hour to wander round the 'big room' which is a glorious display of stalactites and stalagmites in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some resembling animals/people. There is even a little mini fairy grotto.
In true american style there is also a cafe underground which is hidden away if you don't want to ruin your trip to the underworld but is quite an entertaining place to visit if you like kitsch!
You have to take the lift up which probably is no bad thing. We were recommended on one trip to ask if we could walk out. Apparently the rangers often say yes if it is towards the end of the day and it is supposed to give you an interesting new perspective but I never did it.
Aside from the caves there are also depending on the season a spectacular natural migrating bat display which I've never seen but is raved about.
There are also more adventurous tours available that involve clambering around and squeezing up and down small passages and they are all detailed on the national parks website.
A few points to note is that there are few places to stay very near to the caves. There are motels galore in Carlsbad which is the nearest 'town' but there is still a good twenty minutes drive away from the visitors centre.
Carlsbad Caverns are Mother Nature's very own Santa's Grotto- a magical subterranean wonderland buried more than 750 feet beneath the majestic landscape of the Guadalupe Mountains. It is hard to believe that the underground fantasyland that greets you half a mile beneath the surface is anything more than the work of some celestial being. According to the egg-heads, however, this awe-inspiring network of stalagmites, stalactites, drapes and helictites are merely a result of calcite deposits formed over a period of about 500,000 years when a solution of water and limestone dripped down into the caverns. The Big Room located at the heart of Carlsbad Caverns is, as the name suggests, rather large. It is a breathtaking chasm, the size of 14 football pitches, that contains the majority of the best rock formations. You can reach the Big Room by way of a 60-second elevator ride, or you can take the gently meandering mile-long route of the Natural Entrance and experience the true beauty that the caverns have to offer. As if that's not enough Carlsbad Caverns also happen to be home to more than 500,000 Mexican Freetail Bats. They provide their own awesome spectacle at dusk every evening between April-October when they emerge from the Cavern's Natural Entrance in a mass exodus as they embark on a feeding frenzy on the bountiful supply of insects that New Mexico has to offer. This is a real-life bat cave and 10 times more impressive than anything that Gotham City has to offer. Carlsbad Caverns are truly awesome. What are you waiting for???!!
"Carlsbad Cavern, located near Carlsbad, New Mexico is one of the world's largest underground chambers and countless formations, is highly accessible, with a variety of tours offered year-round. Established to preserve Carlsbad Cavern and numerous other caves within a Permian-age fossil reef, the park contains over 85 known caves, including Lechuguilla Cave—the nation's deepest limestone cave at 1,567 feet (478m) and third longest. "