|Globetrotting Planning Articles|
Globetrotting Traveling Articles
Globetrotting Lodging Articles
Globetrotting Touring Articles
Globetrotting Dining Articles
Globetrotting Making Magic Articles
Globetrotting General Travel Articles
12 Tips to Hotel Bliss
Assateague Island National Seashore
Back To Barcelona
Bellagio of Las Vegas
Chateau de Chenonceau
Disney on Broadway
Disney's Magical Express
Exploring Chicago's Museums
Flying Premium Economy
Grotte de Pech-Merle, France
Hong Kong Disneyland Celebrates
Kennedy Space Center
Lake Constance, Switzerland
Lake Thunersee, Switzerland
Learning the Language
Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania
Making Your Way by Ferry to the Magic in Disneyland Paris
Montezuma Castle National Monument
More of Hilton Head Island
Mount Fuji & Hakone, Japan
My Quest for the West
New Orleans Revisited
One Place is Never Enough!
Palm Beach, Florida
Serendipity 3 in New York City
St. Paul's Cathedral, London
Star Wars in Concert
Taking to the Road
The 'Other' Jersey
The Billie Swamp Safari Park
The Egyptian Museum
The Gardens of Versailles
The Green Heart of the Big Apple
The Manatee Tour
The Palace of Versailles
The Pyramids of Giza
The Walt Disney Family Museum
Tired, Tried And True
Traveling the Northern Oregon Coast
Valley of Fire
Viewing Cities From Above
Visiting the French Alps
Wimbledon Tennis Museum
You Don't Have to Cruise to See Alaska
View all PassPorter articles
Carlsbad Caverns: Off the Beaten Path in New Mexico
|by Jane Price, PassPorter Guest Contributor|
Last modified 04/22/2010
Cool Tip: Click here to get a FREE PDF version of this article, fully formatted to print and put into your PassPorter Deluxe Binder!
Filed in Articles > U.S. Travel > General Travel
One of my favorite '50's "monster" movies is Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring James Mason (aka Capt Nemo of Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). Since a good part of the under the earth segment was filmed in Carlsbad Caverns, I was attracted to this national park, plus I love caves in general and have visited several of note.
Carlsbad Caverns, like Lake Powell, is another place you really have to want to go, as it too is off the beaten path. The most scenic way to get there is go northeast from El Paso, Texas, passing through the panoramic Guadalupe Mountains National Park. While it may be sweltering in El Paso, be sure to bring your sweatshirt or jacket when you stop in the Guadalupes (and for the cave, too). The small detour to the visitor's center is worth it, as the view is incredible. It breaks up the long, mostly boring drive to the caverns, as well.
The turn off from US Routes 180/62 to the entrance to the caverns is a narrow, winding road going ever upward. The town at the turn off entrance is White's City, whereas the town of Carlsbad is about 20 miles north. White's City has a few hotels, a gas station, a campground, and tourist trap/souvenir store. For more selection of hotels/restaurants, Carlsbad is a better bet.
When you reach the Visitor's Center at last at the top of the winding road, you are treated to another spectacular vista of eastern New Mexico. Take some time to enjoy it before heading into the Visitor's Center.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad--during ride--caves
Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, during the ride, while going through cave, looking up at the rocks - photo by sillyoldbear
There are two main tours offered at the center: the short (or "Big Room" tour) or the longer "Natural Entrance/Big Room" tour. Other, more strenuous tours are offered by reservation only and book up fast. If you plan to take the longer tour, which I highly recommend, be sure to arrive before 3:00 pm, as you will not have time to complete it before the cave closes. If you drove all this way, I think the long tour is in order to get the most out of the cave. Just be sure to wear good rubber-soled shoes and be in decent physical shape.
You need to purchase tickets inside the visitor center, and you will be given a time to start your tour. The tour is really self-guided, but to start, a park ranger takes you to the natural entrance and gives you a short orientation about the history of the cave and the rules for touring.
The entrance to this cave is really impressive. The human history goes back approximately 1000 years due to this large entrance. For a while you walk down, down, down with not a whole lot to see but rocks. You quickly lose the natural light and now depend on the low lights provided by the park service (you may bring along your own flashlight). Slowly you come upon some cave "decoration" as you continue ever downward.
Some sights along this way are Devil's Spring, Devil's Den, Witch's Finger, and Iceberg Rock. The most intriguing, to me, is the Boneyard, which I instantly recognized as having been featured in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The formations look like highly magnified pieces of bone structure, or Swiss cheese. After about one to one-and-one-half hours of walking down hill, you reach the underground rest area/lunch room. This is a good spot to take a break, use the underground restrooms, and eat/drink a little something.
This marks the spot of the beginning of the shorter Big Room tour. You descend on an elevator to here if you chose it over the longer tour. From here the walk is mostly level with wide walkways. The "Big Room" says it all, covering over 57 acres, with the tallest ceiling height of 255 feet. The features here are too numerous to mention, all spectacular to behold. To do this part of the cave justice, allow another one to one-and-one-half hours to tour.To return to the Visitor's Center, all must take the convenient elevators next to the rest area.
There is more than just what you see in the Big Room. Over the years, spelunkers have discovered other caverns tucked away in the top of the ceiling. In fact, the whole Guadalupe/Carlsbad area is rich in caves, with over 100 discovered since 1930. Included in these discoveries is Lechuguilla Cave, which extends over 112 miles and is, unfortunately, not open to the public.
Carlsbad Caverns is also home to hundreds of thousands of bats. The main resident is the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat, an insect eating machine. In summertime evenings, the park rangers have a bat flight program. A stone bench amphitheater is next to the natural entrance. Visitors are seated here near dusk and a ranger gives a short talk about the bats before the main show, thousands of bats swirling up out of the cave on their way to feast on insects and pollinate the desert. I attended this when my kids were young. It was a unique, moving experience and for years my son had a poster of this event hanging on his bedroom wall. Don't worry, the bats completely ignore the human gawkers!
For more information on the Carlsbad Caverns, check out http://www.carlsbadcaverns.com
About the Author: Jane lives in southeast Arizona with her husband, three granddaughters, and the family parrots. She is an Annual Passholder for Disneyland as well as a Disney Vacation Club member.
Related Links:Read additional articles from PassPorter.com
Serendipity 3 in New York City - A Dining Review last updated 12/29/2008
Hong Kong Disneyland Celebrates - A New Year In A New Disney Park last updated 12/18/2008
Valencia, Spain - Travel Tips last updated 11/27/2008
Bellagio of Las Vegas - Simply Bellissimo! last updated 1/08/2009
Hever Castle - Kent, England last updated 1/15/2009
View all comments in forum thread
So what do you think? Click here to share your comments, feedback, and experiences on this article and topic!
(Note: You must be a member of our PassPorter Message Board Community to leave comments. Join today for free!)
Updated 04/22/2010 - Article #467
Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, PassPorter News, published for more than 58,000 opt-in subscribers worldwide.
As an added bonus for subscribing, you will receive a 20% discount coupon for the PassPorter Store -- no catch!|
We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber list. Subscribing will not result
in more spam! We guarantee it.
by PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.
| LEARN MORE|
Learn More With Our Award-Winning Guidebooks|
PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disn...
Planning a trip around the globe, or just away for the weekend? Ask questions and share experiences!
Forum Sponsored by CruisingCo.com
Should I consider it?
19 Nov 2014 at 5:20pm
My brother in law will be speaking at a conference in China this year. My sister will be going along with him and they invited me to join them. I...
(click title above to view replies)
Quick Trip to Orlando
26 Oct 2014 at 10:34am
Leaving in 15 days to meet up with my two daughters for a few days at Universal Studios Orlando. We are super excited to see the Wizarding World of...
(click title above to view replies)
Total Visits: 5245