Hiking In Carlsbad Caverns National Park

From the outside the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico are nothing to write home about and consist of a few gray rock formations and a bit of scrub brush covering a less than impressive cliff. However, inside this is one of the most wondrous landscapes on Earth and, with more than 100 limestone caves to explore, you could wander here for years without every seeing the same thing twice.

The Bat Cave is not for the feint hearted and is the home of thousands of these flying mammals. The Bifrost Room is breathtaking and, named after the Bifrost bridge into Valhalla from a Scandinavian myth, the colors here truly echo those of the rainbow spectrum of this mythical crossing. The Hall of the Giants, which is the largest open chamber in the system, covers a staggering 360,000 square feet. Within these, and many more rooms, you can see some of Mother Nature’s most creative work.

The Witch’s Finger, a giant stalagmite, is a corkscrew structure which is more than five times the height of the average person and the Rock of Ages is even more impressive as it makes stationary rock appear to move and numerous outcroppings of flowstone resemble a demon’s lair glowing from within.

Within the Carlsbad Caverns you can either take self guided or staff guided tours which vary in their degree of difficulty from simple walks around large open spaces to scaling 10 foot walls and crawling through narrow openings into large chambers.

One tour takes you through part of Lechuguilla Cave which, at more than 1,600 feet below ground, is America’s deepest cave. The cave covers a total of more than 112 miles winding through the Guadalupe Mountains.

For the less active, you can travel to the Big Room by taking an elevator which descends 900 feet and look up and be simply awestruck by this 25 story high open space. You can then wander around this 1,800 foot by 250 foot room which is filled with amazing rock formations. Also take the time to visit the Temple of the Sun and view dozens of eerily lit underground pools.

If you want to see the bats though you will have to visit between April and September as the 300,000 Mexican free tailed bats who live here fly south for the winter. A half mile walk from the natural entrance leads to a plateau from which you can descend the 750 feet into the Bat Cave.

And do not forget to explore the area outside the caves either as there are many fascinating things to both see and do. Despite its name, along Rattlesnake Springs you are far more likely to see dozens of birds and harmless reptiles than you are to see the dangerous snakes from which the place gets its name.

Another favorite with visitors to the area is a ride along the 10 mile scenic drive through Walnut Canyon. This drive travels along Guadalupe Ridge and the views along the way are simply breathtaking.