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Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Outside, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is nothing special. A few gray rock formations and a bit of scrub brush covering a short cliff. Inside, it is one of the most wondrous landscapes in the world. With over 100 limestone caves to explore, visitors could go spelunking here for years and never see the same thing twice.

Just a few of the named rooms give an excellent flavor of the sights here.

The Bat Cave is appropriately named since it is the home of hundreds of these flying mammals. The Bifrost Room is named for a Scandinavian myth (the Bifrost bridge into Valhalla). The colors here echo those of the rainbow spectrum of the mythical crossing. The Hall of the Giants covers nearly 360,000 square feet, the largest open chamber in the system. Also known as The Big Room, it covers over eight acres.

Within these rooms, and dozens more, tourists can see some of nature’s most creative ‘sculptures’.

The giant stalagmite, The Witch’s Finger, is a corkscrew structure more than five times the height of a person. The Rock of Ages is even more astounding. It makes the stationary rock appear to be in motion. Numerous outcroppings of flowstone, a type of travertine, resemble a demon’s lair as it glows from within.

Within the complex, it’s possible to take self-guided or staff-guided tours of varying difficulty. Some tours are easy walks around large open spaces. Others provide the opportunity to scale 10-foot walls. Still, others have you crawling through small openings to emerge into a large chamber. All levels are available for spelunkers of any interest or ability.

On one tour you can see part of Lechuguilla Cave, America’s deepest at over 1,600 feet underground. It covers over 112 miles winding through the Guadalupe Mountains.

Travel to the Big Room by taking an elevator that descends 900 feet. Look up and be awestruck by the 25-story high open space. Then wander around the 1,800 foot by 250-foot area that is filled with amazing rock formations. Take in the Temple of the Sun and see dozens of eerily lit underground pools.

Through the Natural Entrance, a half-mile walk leads to a plateau and from there down 750 feet into the Bat Cave. Here, 300,000 Mexican Free-Tail bats make their home from April through September. They head south to Mexico during the winter.

Outside the caves, there are also many fascinating things to see and do. Along with Rattlesnake Springs, you’re more likely to see dozens of birds and harmless reptiles than any of the dangerous critters that give the place its name. Here, there are lots of picnic tables with cooking grills.

A ride along the nearly 10-mile long scenic drive through Walnut Canyon is a favorite of many. It travels along Guadalupe Ridge where the views are simply breathtaking. Be sure to bring your camera!

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