Next stop on Spring Break 2018 (National Park Trip Season 3.1) was Carlsbad Caverns. We have visited a couple of caves on our other National Park trips but nothing of this magnitude. This place was gigantic. The trick at this park is to get here early!! We walked in the door to the visitor center at 9 am and there was already (what I thought at the time) was a long line of about 20 people. We have a park pass so we chose to do the Big Room Tour. This is a self guided tour that is an easy to moderate 1.25 mile loop. Approximate time is 1.5 hours.
We got our tour tickets in hand, we grabbed some Junior Ranger books and headed over to the gift shop. Got all of our souvenirs we wanted (this was perfect because later in the day this place was so packed you couldn’t walk through it) and walked over to stand in line to take the elevator down to the cave. Here is where the wait was, the elevator can only hold so many people and because some people had tour times for guided tours they would let people in front of all of us line standers. Kids worked on their Junior Ranger books and we probably stood there for all of 20 minutes or so.
A quick 5 minute rules about the cave from a ranger and we were on the elevator heading down into the cave!!!!
Once down in the cave it is easy to navigate around. Well lit trails and signs give you directions for your self guided tour. The Big Room is 8.2 acres, the trail is relatively level with signs to stop at for different features along the way. The Big Room has many large and famous features like Bottomless Pit, Giant Dome, Rock of Ages, and the Painted Grotto. I think our favorites were Lions Tail, Mirror Lake and the “caveman” at Caveman Junction.
Had I thought about it before descending down 750 feet, I would have changed the settings on my camera and figured out how to take good pictures in a cave. Instead I stumbled around just switching modes until I found one that would take a picture. I need to learn what settings to use and figure my camera out for next time. If anyone has any pointers I would love to hear them. So heads up set your camera up before going into the dungeon.
Another pointer I will add is there is a stamp at the little food court in the cave, that you can put into your passport book. It says “Mailed from 750 feet below the surface”. Pretty fun if you are into the whole passport thing (which I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be??).
Kids and adults in this group really enjoyed our trip to this park. We saw pretty awesome cave formations here like stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, draperies, flowstone, columns, cave pearls, cave pools, popcorn, helictites, aragonite crystals and rimstone dams. We would have loved to spend all day here and do some more exploring. It was so cold and windy out here the day we visited that we decided against it. We can always come back 😉 Last stop Junior Rangers Badges.
So we give this park a thumbs up! We loved it! Don’t worry if you are claustrophobic it is so big in the cave that I don’t think you would have any problems at all. Get here early, get to the gift shop early and have your camera ready. We also ate lunch here in the cafe. Good sandwiches, not much for a picnic when its 35 degrees out. Off to Guadalupe, let’s hope the weather gets a little nicer??
Have you been to Carlsbad Caverns? What was your favorite part?