When most people envision National Parks they probably form a picture in their head of buffalo roaming, craggy peaks, and dense forests. This is true for many of our National Parks, but one area turns the idea of the traditional National Park on its head, literally. Swap out the snow-capped peaks for huge underground caves and you begin to get an idea of what New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park is all about. Let’s explore this park further including a short history, where to go and what to do at Carlsbad Cavern as well as where to stay and when to go.
A Brief History of Carlsbad Caverns National Park
For a long time, the area that would become Carlsbad Caverns was more here say than an accepted national treasure. Curious explorer Jim White discovered and explored the caverns throughout his adolescence and well into his adult life. Through storytelling, self-promotion, and exciting guano exporters Jim White was finally able to convince people of the cavern’s significance and geological value. On October 25, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge signed the legislation that created the Carlsbad Cave National Monument and the area was finally awarded full National Park status by the United States Congress on May 14, 1930.
Where to Stay in Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Cavern is one the smaller National Parks and situated on land that has been declared wilderness so there is no park sanctioned areas to park your RV at Carlsbad itself. There are several nearby options, if you want the money to return directly to the area we suggest Brantley Lake State Park. Another great option is found at the Carlsbad KOA which is not only great for its proximity near the park but made our best RV parks in New Mexico list. Both parks are located in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
What to Do Once You Arrive at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
It comes as no surprise that the Carlsbad’s biggest draw is in exploring the caverns themselves. The most popular option is a self-guided tour of the Cavern’s and it’s aptly named Big Room. If visitors are seeking something more thrilling than there a wide variety of caving and exploratory opportunities that range in degree of difficulty and the time it takes to do.
You can explore these different areas through self-exploration like the Natural Entrance Tour or ranger guided tours such as seeing the Hall of the White Giant. Make sure you know what you’re up against before you sign up for these tours as some can be rather difficult and strenuous.
Not all the fun is found below ground. Carlsbad Caverns sits in a picturesque area of the New Mexico landscape located near the Guadalupe Mountain Range. You can hike, bike or drive around the area to explore the native flora and fauna. Carlsbad Caverns makes for some excellent night sky viewing so make sure to toss your telescope into your RV or hook up with one of the parks sanctioned night sky events.
There’s one more thing found at Carlsbad that would make Batman proud, the population of Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats. Every evening during the bat season visitors can gather around the park’s outdoor amphitheater to listen to park rangers speak about the cavern’s flying inhabitants before you can watch their dusk exit yourself. Those willing to wake up early can get a good view of the bats returning to get their daily slumber in at dawn.
When to Go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park
There is only one season to see Carlsbad Caverns at its greatest and that season is July through August. This two-month period sees the greatest population density of the park’s bats and the greatest dusk showing. Outside temperatures may get rather hot in the summer but no worries in the cave as it averages a cool 56 degrees year-round, you may even need to bring a light jacket even in July.
So instead of only thinking of climbs and ascents at most National Parks, consider making a descent for a change at Carlsbad Cavern. The Cavern’s unique geological formations, amazing night sky views and massive columns of bats make for an entertaining time for RVers of all types and ages. If you want something different than the traditional National Park experience, try Carlsbad Caverns.