Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Useful Information

Carlsbad Caverns entrance sign. Public Domain.
Carlsbad Caverns. Public Domain.
Carlsbad Caverns. Public Domain.
Carlsbad Caverns. Public Domain.
Carlsbad Caverns. Public Domain.
Location: Carlsbad Caverns NP, NM.
10 km off Highway 62/180.
(32.177007, -104.441127)
Open: Visitor center: Memorial Day to Labor Day daily 8-19, Labor Day to Memorial Day daily 8-17:30.
Natural Entrance Tour: Memorial Day to Labor Day daily 8:30-15:30, Labor Day to Memorial Day daily 8:30-14.
Elevator Tour: Memorial Day to Labor Day daily 8:30-17, Labor Day to Memorial Day daily 8:30-15:30.
Kings Palace Tour: JAN to Memorial Day Sat, Sun, 10, 14. Memorial Day to 15-AUG daily 10, 11, 14, 15. 16-AUG to DEC daily 10, 14. Reservation required.
Left Hand Tunnel: all year daily 9. Reservation required.
Lower Cave: all year Mon-Fri 13. Reservation required.
Hall of the White Giant: all year Sat 13. Reservation required.
Closed 25-DEC.
Fee: Entrance Fee: Adults USD 6, Card Holders USD 3, Children (0-15) free, Audio Guide USD 3.
Kings Palace Tour: Adults USD 8, Card Holders USD 4, Children (4-15) USD 4, Children (0-3) not allowed.
Left Hand Tunnel: Adults USD 7, Card Holders USD 3.50, Children (6-15) USD 3.50, Children (0-5) not allowed.
Lower Cave: Adults USD 20, Card Holders USD 10, Children (12-15) USD 10.
Hall of the White Giant: Adults USD 20, Card Holders USD 10, Children (12-15) USD 10, Children (0-11) not allowed.
Card Holders means Golden Age/Golden Access Passport holders.
The entrance fee is for every visitor, self guided tours are free, other tours fees are payed in addition.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave cave system.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: VR=300 m, T=13 °C.
Big Room: L=1,200 m, W=190 m, H=78 m.
Guided tours: Natural Entrance Route: D=3 h, L=1,600 m, VR=250 m, self-guided.
Elevator Route: D=90 min, L=2,000 m, self-guided.
Kings Palace Tour: D=90 min, L=1,700 m, VR=25 m.
Left Hand Tunnel: D=2 h, cave trekking.
Lower Cave: D=3 h, cave trekking.
Hall of the White Giant: D=4 h, cave trekking.
V=500,000/a [2002]
Bibliography: Robert Nymeyer (1978): Carlsbad, Caves, And A Camera, 318 pp 185 photos. SB. A superb record of exploration retold in words and photos.
John Barnett (1977): Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, 36 pp, many colour plates, SB. Written by a former Park Naturalist, this is a nice and informative guide.
Carol A Hill (1987): Geology of Carlsbad Cavern and other caves in the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico and Texas, 150pp, 130 figs [most are photos], SB. The author suggest that the caves are formed by sulphuric rather than carbonic acid. Some nice colour photos.
(1951): Jim White's Story Of Carlsbad Caverns ND, 32 pp, photos, centre fold in colour, SB. Classic story of cave discovery.
Abijah Long, Joe N Long (1976): The Big Cave, 126 pp photos, SB. Early history and authentic facts concerning the history and discovery of the world famous Carlsbad Caverns of New Mexico.
Jeanne K Hanson (2007): Caves, 142 pp, 16 colour and 30 B&W photos. Chelsea House, New York. p 85-95 Carlsbad Caverns, USA. p 95 "Carlsbad Cavern is relatively unusual among limestone caves in that the chemical agent carving out the cave was sulfuric acid".
Address: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 3225 National Parks Hwy., Carlsbad, NM 88220, Tel: +1-505-785-2232, Fax: +1-505-785-2302. E-mail: contact
Tour reservations, Tel: 1-800-967-2283, international Tel: +1-301-722-1257.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1901 discovered by cowboy Jim White.
1900-1903 Abijah Long also claims to have discovered the cave.
1903 Long files for the right to mine the bat guano for fertiliser. During a twenty-five year period Abijah Long removed over 100,000 tons of fertiliser.
25-OCT-1923 Carlsbad Cave National Monument established.
14-MAY-1930 became a National Park.
1931 first two elevators installed.
1954 another elevator installed.
1970s air locks installed in the elevator shaft to block venting.
06-DEC-1995 included into UNESCO world heritage list.
1997/1999 elevators replaced by computer-controlled elevators.
2007 new Visitor Centre built for $76 Million.


Carlsbad Caverns. Public Domain.
Carlsbad Caverns. Public Domain.

Carlsbad Caverns is probably the most famous cave of the United States. There are longer caves, there are deeper caves, there are even more beautiful caves. But very few! And no cave has as many top ten rankings as Carlsbad.

The cave has enormous chambers, huge formations, rare speleothems and thousands of bats. The Bat Flight every evening is a great spectacle, when the bats leave the cave in the sunset to feed on insects. As they have a natural sonar, they are able to locate the insects in the absolute darkness. They are amongst the most successful night hunters on our planet.

Carlsbad Cavern itself is a huge cave system. One of the larger chambers close to the surface once collapsed and formed a spectacular cave entrance. This collapse doline is the natural entrance to the system, and it is the place of the Natural Entrance Tour. A path is winding down the slope into the cave and to the floor of the Big Room. The self-guided tour allows the visitor to walk down as fast as one likes to. There are rangers all over the cave to help or answer questions. And if someone does not want to walk up or down the slope, there is an elevator to the bottom of the cave.

The elevator from the bottom of the Big Room was built in 1931. Unfortunately, it worked like a chimney and moist air was venting out of the cave, which changed the cave climate massively. In the 1970s, air locks were installed in the elevator shaft to block this effect.

The Big Room is really huge. It is listed as one of the world's largest underground chambers (rank 13 in 2006) with a size of 33,210 m². The trail through this huge cavern is almost 5 km long. Part of it is the so-called Big Room Route which is about 2 km long and located at the floor of the Big Room. It is wheelchair-accessible and visitors can use the elevator to reach it.

The caves in this area, which includes all caves in the National Park, are special in their origin. They were at least partly formed by sulfuric acid, which was produced by a combination of thermal activity and sulfur bearing rocks below. This resulted in enormous passages and chambers, huge labyrinthine cave systems, and sulfur based speleothems, especially gypsum. The most impressive cave concerning those gypsum speleothems is nearby Lechuguilla.