Hidden beneath the vast Chihuahuan desert in southeastern New Mexico lies a vast network of at least 119 caves–some massive, some tiny–created not by water but by sulfuric acid dissolving limestone.
Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns marvel at the temperature shift–it might be 100°F (38°C) above ground, but down in the caves it’s a consistently crisp and cool 56°F (13°C).
There are two ways to access the main cave, Carlsbad Cavern. The easiest method is to take the elevator down from the visitor center. You’ll arrive 750 feet below the surface in the Big Room, a majestic and expansive chamber. The fourteen acres of cave will give any family more than enough space to explore. Park Rangers are stationed throughout the Big Room to point out many of the highlights. The trail through the Big Room is level, easy to walk, and covers a little more than a mile. Most families take 1-2 hours to explore the Big Room.
More adventurous families can choose to climb down to the Big Room via the natural entrance. Experience the wonder of climbing right in to the gaping maw of the cave. Steep trails will lead you down for about a mile, through a series of smaller rock chambers, until you arrive in the Big Room.
There are also guided tour options for children of all ages and abilities. Kids as young as 4 years old can join the King’s Palace tour to explore the deepest public part of the cavern.
Children 6 and up can venture down the Left Hand Tunnel, where rangers provide old-fashioned candle-lit lanterns to dimly light your way.
Kids 12 years old and up can explore the narrowest and deepest caves by taking guided tours of Lower Cave, Hall of the White Giant and Spider Cave. These tours will include climbing on ladders, guided descents via rope ladders, squeezing through tight spaces, and climbing over slippery surfaces.
From mid-May to mid-October, wrap up your tour of the area with a sunset picnic above ground, and catch the swarms of Brazilian free-tailed bats that exit Carlsbad Cavern around sunset.
To keep the Caverns protected from non-native critters, no food or drink are allowed. There are also no bathrooms down in the caves. But the elevator back to the visitor center is convenient, and families can utilize it for quick trips to the surface for restroom and snack breaks.