Contact Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 3225 National Parks Hwy., Carlsbad, NM 88220 (tel. 575/785-2232, or 575/785-3012 for bat flight information; www.nps.gov/cave).
Because the park's backcountry trails may be hard to follow, rangers strongly recommend that those planning any serious aboveground hiking obtain topographical maps. An excellent book for hikers is Hiking Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks, by Bill Schneider, which was published in partnership with the Carlsbad Caverns Guadalupe Mountains Association and is keyed to the Trails Illustrated topographical map of the park. Books and maps can be ordered from the Carlsbad Caverns Guadalupe Mountains Association, 727 Carlsbad Caverns Hwy. (P.O. Box 1417), Carlsbad, NM 88220 (tel. 575/785-2486; www.ccgma.org).
For additional information on area lodging, dining, and other attractions, contact or stop at the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, 302 S. Canal St., Carlsbad, NM 88220 (tel. 800/221-1224 or 575/887-6516; www.carlsbadchamber.com).
The park visitor center is open daily 8am to 7pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day; self-guided cave tours can begin from 8:30am to 4pm. The rest of the year, the visitor center is open daily from 8am to 5pm, with self-guided cave tours from 8:30am to 3:30pm. Tour times and schedules may vary during slower times in the winter. The park is closed December 25.
At the visitor center, displays depict the geology and history of the caverns, bats, and other wildlife; you can also see a 3D model of Carlsbad Caverns. You can also get information about tours and other park activities, both below- and aboveground.
Attached to the visitor center is a restaurant and a gift shop that offers the usual souvenir items such as postcards and sweatshirts, plus a variety of gift items, including handmade American Indian crafts. Another gift shop and snack bar is in the Underground Rest Area.
Fees & Reservations
Admission to the visitor center and aboveground sections of the park is free. The basic cavern entry fee, which is good for 3 days and includes self-guided tours of the Natural Entrance and Big Room, is $6 for adults 16 and older, and free for children under 16. Holders of all America the Beautiful passes, plus up to three adults, are admitted free. An audio tour of the two self-guided routes is available for a $3 rental fee.
Reservations are required for all guided tours. In addition to tour fees, you will need a general cave admission ticket for guided cave tours, except those to Slaughter Canyon Cave and Spider Cave. Holders of the America the Beautiful Senior and Access passes receive a 50% discount on tours. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult 18 or older, and minimum age restrictions for tours also apply.
The King's Palace guided tour costs $8 for adults and $4 for children 4 to 15; younger children are not permitted. Guided tours of Left Hand Tunnel, limited to those 6 and older, cost $7 for adults and $3.50 for children 6 to 15. Guided tours of Spider Cave, Lower Cave, and Hall of the White Giant are limited to those 12 and older; they cost $20 for adults and $10 for youths 12 to 15. Slaughter Canyon Cave tours, for those 8 and older, cost $15 for adults, $7.50 for children 8 to 15.
You can make reservations for cave tours in advance by phone or on the Internet (tel. 877/444-6777; www.recreation.gov).
Special Regulations & Warnings
As you would expect, damaging the cave formations in any way is prohibited. Even touching the formations, walls, or ceilings of the caves can damage them. This is not only because many of the features are delicate and easily broken, but also because skin oils will discolor the rock and disturb the mineral deposits that are necessary for growth.
All tobacco use is prohibited underground. In addition, food, drinks, candy, and gum are not allowed on the underground trails. Do not throw coins or other objects into the underground pools.
Cave visitors should wear flat shoes with rubber soles and heels to negotiate the slippery paths. Children under 16 must remain with an adult at all times. Strollers are not allowed in the caves, so child backpacks are a good idea, but beware of low ceilings and doorways along the pathways.
Photography of any kind is not permitted at the evening bat flight programs.
Pets are not permitted in the caverns, on park trails, or in the backcountry. Because of the hot summer temperatures, pets should not be left unattended in vehicles. A kennel is available at the visitor center, operated by a concessionaire (tel. 575-785-2281). It has cages in an air-conditioned room but no runs, and is primarily used by pet owners for a few hours while they are on cave tours. Pets are given water but not food, and there are no overnight facilities. Reservations are not necessary and no proof of vaccinations is required.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.