Getting to Carlsbad Cavernsmap of carlsbad caverns

The Ruidoso, NM area is in a prime location to explore all of southern New Mexico. One of the highlights of any tourist vacation should be a day trip, 120 miles away to the beautiful Carlsbad Caverns. If you’re traveling to Ruidoso via Texas, then Carlsbad might even be on the agenda before you arrive in Ruidoso.

The Carlsbad Caverns National Park, is one of the first areas dedicated by the National Parks Service and is one of two national parks in southern New Mexico. White Sands is closer to Ruidoso, about an hour and twenty minutes away, while Carlsbad Caverns is farther at three hours.

Popularity of Carlsbad Caverns

Big Room at Carlsbad
The “Big Room” at Carlsbad from flickr user, davynin

This is one of the most popular destinations in New Mexico, for good reason. The park was dedicated as a national park in 1930, and was first entered by cowhand Jim White way back in 1898. Seeing the cavern today – with all its developed trails and lights throughout – it’s sobering to think White descended on a rope with nothing but a lantern to light the way.

The caverns are visited by thousands every year from across the country and earns rave reviews from around the world. A quick look at the park’s page reveals as many reviews in Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese as there are in English. On Google, Carlsbad Caverns has a 4.8 out of 5 stars, from 180+ travelers!

What an Avid Spelunker Thinks of Carlsbad Caverns

Brian Alger, Avid Caver

Despite the rave reviews from tourists worldwide, many are likely to never have entered a cave. To truly understand how significant the Carlsbad Caverns are, we asked an experienced caver.

Brian Alger is involved in the Lubbock Area Grotto and has been caving for 20 years. He has been a frequent visitor to the Carlsbad area and Lincoln National Forest, exploring and even surveying new and undiscovered caves.

First tell us how the spelunking you do compares to a show cave like Carlsbad Caverns?

Brian: Caves can be broken down into two basic types, “Show Caves” and “Wild Caves.” Show caves such as Carlsbad Caverns includes amenities such as an elevator, bathrooms, lighting, and a paved pathway to follow. Wild caves require the visitor to bring their own light sources, ropes for vertical movement, food, and even bottles for a bathroom break.

While wild caving can provide a more thrilling experience, the sheer size of Carlsbad Caverns can easily equal that same wild caving experience. Furthermore, Carlsbad Caverns provides several additional guided tours that allow visitors to go off the main paved pathways with a park service guide to explore other parts of the cave. These additional tours are very similar to caving in wild caves.

How do the formations in Carlsbad Caverns compare to other caves you visit?

The formations in Carlsbad Caverns can only be described as world class. Their size and variety will create an incredible sense of amazement. I have been involved with the resurvey of the cave over the years and every time I go in there, I still feel a great sense of awe.

Are there any unique or rare formations in Carlsbad Caverns that even an avid caver isn’t likely to see?bats natural entrance

There are parts of the cave that are very delicate. For that reason, visitation to those areas is limited to minimize impact. The cave includes some of the largest and most incredible formations I have seen.

What tour would you recommend to see the caverns?

I would recommend the self-guided tour. It allows the visitor to enter the cave through the natural entrance much like the original explorers did, except they have a safe, paved, pathway to follow. If time or physical constraints exist, then an elevator can take the visitor down 700’ to the Big Room where they can explore this giant room.

For those feeling more adventurous, do you recommend any nearby cave tours or even the wild cave tours?

Carlsbad Caverns offers several Guided tours that allow the visitor to experience a more “wild” caving type of experience. In the cavern itself, there is the King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Lower Cave and Hall of the White Giant tours. Other cave tours include Spider Cave and Slaughter Canyon Cave.

For more information on things to do in Carlsbad, New Mexico, visit