After a quick stop in Roswell I continued down the road to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Couldn’t find any good camping but was able to score a surprisingly affordable AirBnB. Word to the wise – DO NOT rely on getting any cheap accommodations here, it’s oil country and they price gouge for everything! After driving all day I decided to sleep and wake early for my next adventure: Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
As always don’t forget to click on photos for a full-screen view. This is very important for the cave photos because the details are lost in small thumbnails!
Starting at the visitor center, I would highly recommend reading the displays if you have time. I didn’t capture them here but they give some great history on the park. Amazingly this is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s natural features value to humanity.
You can access the caves via elevator from the visitor center area, or take a hike through the Natural Entrance trail. This route also leads you past a large amphitheater where you can watch the nightly bat flight from the cave mouth.
The Natural Entrance Trail leads through landmarks named Devil’s Den. Ironic as the temperatures here are quite cool and clammy.
Some interesting signs along the way. Found the Bat Cave but Batman wasn’t home. Descent from Natural Entrance is the same height as the Empire State Building. Small merch & snack bar near the elevator entrance.
Very close to the gift shop was one of my favorite spots – the Boneyard. Porous rocks look like skulls and from certain angles it appeared nearly infinite.
Finally after descending via the Natural Entrance Trail (or elevators), the cave flattens out and opens into an area called the Big Room.
At this point it’s easily apparent why this is a National Park and UNESCO site. Really hard to explain how it feels standing in these caverns unless you’ve been there yourself. It almost feels out-of-body like you are on an alien planet.
Many of the areas have names for the unique features. Some of these are large domes, many located in the Hall of Giants. Second photo shows what they call Giant Dome & Twin Domes. Third photo shows Crystal Spring Dome, one of the largest active formations in the park.
Cave pools of various sizes are scattered throughout the caverns. The largest is called Longfellow’s bathtub and almost looks like a stream disappearing into the darkness.
Chinese Theater named because…it’s slightly racist and resembles Asian architecture?
At the far end of the caverns the lights taper off. Areas of this part of the caved are closed off but still unexplored. Remnants of early expeditions is visible by small ladders descending into the abyss. Imagine you were one of these explorers with only a candle headlamp to navigate…
Most areas don’t have named features but contain a plethora of different formations (generally referred to as speleothems). Stalactites, stalagmites, drapery, straws, and colums of all shapes and sizes.
I was able to get some atypical colors in these few shots thanks to another hiker’s colorful shirt and headlamps. In an otherwise sepia-toned environment this gave quite high contrast. That wild orange color I believe comes from a park display light shining sideways through some thin drapery objects that contain a certain mineral (phosphorus maybe?).
Definitely a wild place that is unlike anything else I have ever seen.
I spent about 3 hours walking this taking photos – you could do more or less depending on your level of interest in geological features. For me personally I’m a big fan of being above ground so back to the surface I go!
After finishing the main cave tour I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out some lesser visited spots in the park/wilderness area. First location is Rattlesnake Springs.
Not much to see here besides a huge picnic area and a pump house near the springs. Apparently this area is on the National Register of Historic Places. Funny that I was trying to hunt turkey in Capitan yet this restricted area is the only place I found them…
Views here on the drive in are not bad at all. Sunny and warm, although a bid windy.
Another angle of the vista views. Not too shabby!
Final stop for this area was Slaughter Canyon. Rangers give guided tours here on a schedule that you can book ahead if caving is your thing.
For me I was just checking out the scenery and it did not disappoint. I believe there are other back-country hikes here but definitely wasn’t in the cards for this trip. Crossed another National Park off my list – on to the next spot!Lat = 32.1771431 , Long = -104.4410477 -- Show at Google Maps