Carlsbad Caverns National Park


Operating Hours and Phone Numbers

8:00am - 5:30pm Mountain time
24-hour information, tape recording
(505) 785-2107

Business Hours phone service:
(505) 785-2232
(505) 885-8884 TDD

Cavern Tours: Entry Times

There are 3 options for trips through Carlsbad Caverns; the Big Room trip, the Natural Entrance trip, and the King's Palace trip. The Big Room and Natural Entrance routes are self-guided and are included in the standard entrance fee. The King's Palace route is a guided tour which costs extra and requires reservations. Besides the 3 trips through the cave, there is also the must-see Bat Flight: at sunset literally millions of bats emerge from the natural entrance of the caverns to begin a night of insect hunting. Park Rangers host this nightly spectacle starting approximately 30 minutes before sunset: call ahead for specific times.
All cavern entries close at 3:30pm. The hours of operation for the trips are:

To make sure you see as much as possible, arrive early, make your reservations for the King's Palace tour and try to see the Natural Entrance first, since it closes first.

Big Room Route

The Big Room route is the "must see" tour for all visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This route is considered an easy walk. It is a 1 mile self-guided tour which takes about 1 hour to complete. After purchasing your tickets in the Visitor Center, you begin the trip by riding an elevator to the Underground Lunch Room. The walk around the relatively level Big Room passes such features as the Hall of Giants, the Temple of the Sun, the Bottomless Pit, and the Crystal Spring Dome. A shortcut along the way can reduce the tour by 30 minutes.

The Big Room route ends by returning to the surface in an elevator. Along the route, Park Rangers are available to answer questions. Also, portions of the Big Room route are accessible to wheelchairs so that all can enjoy the wonders of the Caverns! Check at the Visitor Center for information regarding areas accessible to wheelchairs.

Natural Entrance Route

The Natural Entrance route follows the traditional entry path into the depths of Carlsbad Cavern, descending over 750 feet over a 3 mile course. The trail is self-guided, steep and narrow with many switchbacks. It is considered strenuous; anyone with serious health or walking problems should not attempt to hike this route. Give yourself about 3 hours to complete this tour.

After purchasing tickets in the Visitor Center, you may begin your walk. The Natural Entrance Route descends down the Main Corridor 75 stories (about 800 feet), then ascends 40 feet to the Underground Lunch Room, where you meet up with the start of the Big Room Tour. You return to the surface via the elevator from the Underground Lunch Tour.

King's Palace Tour

The King's Palace Tour is a Park Ranger-guided tour of the four Scenic Rooms. This tour requires reservations: inquire at the information desk. This tour begins at the Underground Lunch Room area. It includes a descent and ascent of an 80-foot hill, so it may not be suitable for people with serious health or walking problems. An additional fee is charged for this tour.


Fees (per person)

Standard disclaimer:

prices posted were effective as of spring 1994. Call for latest prices. VIVA! New Mexico is not responsible for inaccurate price listings. All prices in U.S. Dollars (you would be surprised by the number of people who do not realize New Mexico is one of the United States of America).

Carlsbad Caverns:
Adults $5.00
Children 6yrs - 15yrs $3.00
Children 0yrs - 6yrs FREE!

Special discounts - Golden Age (U.S. citizens, 62yrs and over) or Golden Access Passport holders receive a 50% discount. Both Passports are available for purchase at the Visitor Center information desk. Effective January 1994, a one-time $10.00 fee will be charged for first-time Golden Age Passports.

The Golden Eagle Passport, the annual entrance permit to Federal Fee areas, is not valid at Carlsbad Caverns.


Safety and Comfort Considerations

Cavern temperature is a cool 56 degrees Fahrenheit , so bring a jacket or sweater.

Folks with walking, breathing, or heart problems should check with Park Rangers before making the Natural Entrance Route tour.

Always remain on the cave trails and watch where you are going. Never take photographs while walking: stop and shoot, then continue walking.

Keep your children close by. Those 15yrs and younger must be in direct guardian supervision. Strollers are NOT permitted in the cave (they can roll away and over over cliffs).

Wear comfortable, rubber-soled shoes and watch your footing as you walk. Use the benches along the trail if you need a rest.

Do not use your camera flash (strobe) on unsuspecting people while inside the cave.


Facilities in the area

Dining

Carlsbad Caverns has 2 restaurants: one above ground at the Visitors Center, and one underground in the Underground Lunch Room (and you were wondering how this room was named).

Hotels/Motels in the area

In spite of naming, Carlsbad New Mexico is not the closest town to the caverns: this distinction belongs to Whites City, NM. The city of Carlsbad, NM is some 27 miles from the Caverns. Keep in mind the additional 45 minutes driving you will require to reach the caverns from Carlsbad, NM. For this reason, check for accomodations in Whites City, 1-800-CAVERNS before Carlsbad.

Camping and Hiking around Carlsbad Caverns

Campgrounds in the area:

Additional Information

Carlsbad Caverns / Guadalupe Mountains Association: 505-785-2318
Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce: 505-887-6516


Other Sights around Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Slaughter Canyon Cave

Looking for a cave that is a little less "tourist oriented"? There are literally hundreds of caves in the Southeast region of New Mexico. The Slaughter Canyon Cave, also with the boundaries of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, is a spectacular, undeveloped cave. This cave can be toured in groups of 25 with a Park Service guide. Experience the thrill of wild cave exploration on this 1.5 hour guided tour! You must bring your own flashlight and water, as absolutely no facilities are provided in this natural cave. The Slaughter Canyon Cave can be toured ONLY with reservations. Call 505-785-2232 to make your reservations. Call well in advance of your planned visit. The tour is listed as "strenuous", so folks with health, walking, or other disabilities should check with the Park Service prior to making reservations.

Wild Caving

Exploring 10 of the 80 undeveloped caves within the Park is allowed by special permit only. Permits are obtained from the Cave Resource Office: call 505-785-2104 for more information

Walnut Canyon Desert Drive

Enjoy this beautiful 9.5 mile driving tour through the Chihuahuan desert in which Carlsbad Caverns is located. The tour follows the Guadalupe Ridge and then drops into upper Walnut Canyon. Before you go, pick up a information guidebook available at the Visitors Center.


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Last modified on February 7, 1995.
Ron Wayne Green
viva@viva.com