On Tuesday, January 23, we awoke early, excited to get on the road. After feeding and walking the dogs, we were on our way to Carlsbad Caverns before 9:30 am.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is about 100 miles from our campsite in Roswell. We didn’t mind the drive because the New Mexico landscape is very scenic. Stopping once for gas, we entered the park around 11:30 am. As we drove the winding street through the park towards the Visitor Center, a roadrunner scurried across directly in front of our car. We were excited to see it. This was the first, and so far, the only roadrunner we have seen on our trip.
After purchasing our tickets, we walked through the displays in the center. Many of them detailed what to expect during our visit to the cavern. Leaving the Visitor Center, we walked down the path towards the cavern’s entrance. A park ranger checked our tickets and shared the rules regarding what we can and cannot do once inside the cavern. We continued down the trail, passing through the Bat Amphitheater.
From early spring through October, crowds fill the seats at dusk to watch the evening flight of the bats. Thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats fly from the cave for their nightly feeding on insects. A ranger told us that as many as 5000 people visit the cavern daily during the summer months to watch the bats. While we were disappointed that we would not see the bats, we were glad we were there on a relatively slow day. Remember, this was the first day the cavern opened after the January government shut down.
We took our time and enjoyed the walk down into the cavern through the Natural Entrance Route along the Main Corridor.
This 1.25-mile trail follows the explorer’s route and descends over 750 feet down into the cavern, ending in the underground rest area. We arrived at the rest area about an hour after entering the cavern.
Located in the large rest area are a souvenir shop, a lunchroom, concessions, and restrooms. There is also plenty of seating. We imagined these seats filling up quickly during peak tourist season.
After taking a quick break and locating the starting point for the Big Room Route, we continued our journey through the cavern. This route, as well as the entrance route, is paved with handrails and lined with lights for safety.
The route loops the perimeter of the largest room in the cave. We took our time walking this 1.25-mile trail. We stopped often, taking pictures and taking in the wonders of the cavern.
When others on the route got close to us, we stopped to let them pass. We were in no hurry. A few groups passed us when we stopped for several minutes to look at the Mirror Lake and the Crystal Spring Dome.
We completed the loop and arrived back in the rest area. We decided to ride the elevator to the surface and arrived at the Visitor Center in a few short minutes.
We thoroughly enjoyed our 4 1/2 hour visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We didn’t see the bats, but we saw natural wonders that do not exist other places. If you get the opportunity to visit, do it! Take your time and take it all in.