Those with only 1 day to spend at Carlsbad Caverns National Park can see quite a bit if they organize their time well. First, stop at the visitor center to look at the exhibits and check out that day's tours and programs. If you would like to take any guided tours, it's best to buy tickets now. Then head into the main cave through the steep Natural Entrance Route and continue on a self-guided tour of the Big Room. For those not wishing to follow the steep switchback trail into the Natural Entrance, and anyone with health concerns, an elevator from the visitor center will deliver you to the Big Room.
You'll finish your Big Room tour at the elevators near the Underground Rest Area, so pick up a sandwich there or take the elevator up to the surface, where you can dine in the restaurant at the visitor center or drive out for a picnic lunch at Rattlesnake Springs. (Rattlesnake Springs is a picnic area with tables, grills, drinking water, and restrooms. It's along the access road to Slaughter Canyon Cave.) After lunch, take the King's Palace Guided Tour (for which you purchased tickets earlier). Then walk the nature trail outside the visitor center and drive the 9 1/2-mile Walnut Canyon Desert Drive. If possible, try to get back to the amphitheater at the cave's Natural Entrance by dusk to see the nightly bat flight (spring through fall), when thousands of bats leave the cave.
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.