Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico Facts and Tips

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico Facts and Tips

domestic travel

Everything you need to know & the best tips!

You can travel almost anywhere in the world these days, yet there is something special about being able to be able to have visited a National Park.  Want to feel patriotic?  Visit a National park.  Eager to connect with the beauty of nature?  Visit a National park.  Seeking to be visually inspired?  Visit a National Park.  Anyone can navigate a city or snap a picture of an interesting looking place, yet it is an altogether different experience to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature.

        My expectation for Carlsbad Caverns was similar to visiting White Sands National Park.  Thinking ‘so, this cavern should take about 20 minutes to walk through…’ once again proved incorrect for ambiguous New Mexico.  At Carlsbad Caverns be prepared for a massive plunge into the earth.

While driving towards the mountain that balances a border for New Mexico and Texas a sense of nostalgia runs through you as the small towns and frequented gas stations showcase small town life nearby this mammoth sized underground site.

Winding roads through undulating bare boned bluffs bring you far away from civilization and has me wondering how anyone discovered this place way out here.  At the top is the main entrance with a spectacular view of your desert surroundings.  Looking towards the Guadalupe Mountains, all that is seen is desert and desolation and I was left day dreaming of western cowboys kicking their spurs and somehow surviving this seemingly isolated land.

Within the Chihuahuan Desert, hidden deep under the surface are over 100 fragile limestone caves bursting with diversity and beauty.  Fragile because they are susceptible to human activities; any remaining garbage, stepping on unsolicited walking areas, oily hands touching cave walls and formations can all negatively impact Carlsbad Caverns (really any cave for that matter).

Opting to take the natural entrance, we zig zagged through the stunning opening that narrows down.  Once through the shadowy entry and with eyes adjusting to the light to dark transition the extensive size of this place wows each first timer.

Hours can be spent examining each stalagmite, small pool of water and colossal ‘rooms’.  Don’t be fooled by the desolate desert outside as Carlsbad Caverns holds secrets from earth’s beginning.  Here is another example where feelings of a second rate destination transformed into awe and humility.

Understanding now that any place can have its hidden gem and surprise you, I’m looking forward to visiting New Mexico again.  Have you ever visited a place with little confidence and been enthusiastically surprised at its unexpected beauty?

Fun Facts about Carlsbad Caverns

  • A 16 year old discovered this place in 1898!  Talk about fulfilling a childhood dream.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely considered a career as a treasure hunter after watching National Treasure, so stumbling upon this place must’ve been incredible!
  • There is a deadly fungus called “White-nose Syndrome” that can kill Brazilian free-tailed bats.  Carlsbad Caverns is host to the highest number of these critters so protecting their home is vital!
  • President Obama came here once for a Fathers day weekend trip with the First Family

 

TIPS for visiting Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

  • If you have a camera that can withstand darkness with a flash that won’t hurt the quality of the photo- bring it!  My iPhone did okay and my professional camera needed custom Manual settings and my flash still didn’t withstand it
  • Dress in layers; it’s windy at the buildings entrance and chilly inside of the caves but your body temperature will adjust
  • Include in your arrival time the drive from the entrance to the parking lot.  It’s about a 20 minute drive through winding roads once you pass the entrance to get to the parking lot
  • The parking lot is easily accessible and free!
  • The Visitor Center opens at 8:00am, with the Natural Entrance opening at 8:30am,.  I’d arrive before then to be towards the front of the line to purchase tickets.  Then allow the first round of visitors to enter so that you can take pictures with few other visitors in the way.
  • Take the Natural Entrance in, and the elevator out.  The winding entrance is a stunning way to enter and shouldn’t be missed.
  • Passes are $10/person.  There are options for ranger guided tours to add on to your ticket
  • The rented audio devices are okay.  Quite frankly, listening to it all became excessive fairly quickly.  I’d suggest reading the general information beforehand to learn about it
  • Arrive before it opens, but don’t go in until most the early crowd goes; this way you can take pictures with the entrance with less people in them (see my images above)

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Visit White Sands National Monument

Visit White Sands National Monument

domestic travel

A New Mexican Gem- what to expect & how to plan your visit

If you ever find yourself on a road trip that takes you through New Mexico- GO to White Sands National Monument.  Beautiful & serene, it was a stunning place hidden in the desert.

        As an east coast girl, I knew little to nothing about New Mexico prior to my visit… apart from Walter White’s fictional take over and an assumption that there must be tumbleweeds everywhere.  So, when I ventured there for a family visit with my boyfriend I was intrigued as to what he would have planned for us.

        Marcus had been talking about White Sands to me A LOT.  At first I thought he was doing this as a way to convince me to go to a state that in my mind didn’t have much to offer.  In reality, this place truly surprised me. After an evening in Las Cruces and Old Mesilla, we woke up early to reach one of the world’s great natural wonders.  Driving through the desert was stunning for sunrise; with little vegetation and vast open lands there isn’t much to hide the sun peaking over the horizon of the mountains west of Alamogordo.  As the terrain began to be hilly towards the end our drive we were able to see the tops of the white sand dunes in the distance. This sneak peek filled both of us with excitement as the hype for this visit had been going on for over a year.

       Upon pulling into the parking lot you’ll find a visitor center with a small shop and museum displaying the importance of desert life and its wildlife.  Opening at 8:00am with only a $5 entrance fee, I would suggest getting there in the early morning when it opens or the evening for sunset.  Remember, it’s in a desert, so midday will be extremely hot.

        As tempted as you might be to park at the first available spot within the park drive as far back as you can to find solitude away from the other visitors, then get out of your car and walk around.  Not only will you enjoy the scenic drive of the glistening white cascading dunes, but you’ll also more easily be able to secure an area for solitude.  When we went in the morning, I was able to walk around barefoot and loved it!  The sand was cool to the touch and much easier to walk along then a coastal beach sand.  This is because the sand is made of gypsum that’s eroded from the nearby San Andres and Sacramento mountains.

FUN FACT: gypsum is water soluble, so typically would runoff to the ocean from rainfall, but White Sands is situated in a basin with no access to leave, hence its build up.

Top Tips for visiting White Sands National Monument

  • Go early in the morning or at sunset; it’s in the desert, so the sun will be beaming.  Best to avoid high afternoon sun
  • DON’T leave trash behind
  • Wear whatever!
  • Bring your own sled to slide down the dunes. (*we thought a broken down box would work…. It didn’t.) Or you can rent sleds at the guest center

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