Ok, I will admit it. Even though we planned to come visit the Caverns from the beginning of our trip planning, I thought it might be just a big tourist trap. Au contraire, my friends!
I also did not realize that it was a National Park, or that there are multiple caves encompassed in the park that are in various stages of exploration, and continue for over 100 miles underground!
We visited briefly the first evening, to get the lay of the land for our visit the next day. We learned of the evening bat flight and decided to come back for that at dusk. There are no cameras (even cell cameras) allowed for the bat flight so you will just have to see one yourself. We arrived at the amphitheater about 7:15 and only a few people were there. By 7:45, the place was packed, and we made our way to the top to ensure a smooth getaway after the flight. 🏍
Minutes later, this turned out to be a great decision as the first group of bats emerged, swirled at the cave mouth counter-clockwise as if in a blender, then flew directly over our heads!!!
I can only say that it was magical! We could hear the swoosh of the tiny wings, hundreds of them, as they circled above us, and then as if on queue, the group flew off to the east. This fantastic dance was repeated over and over, as if each group was slated to appear, then disappear, on a schedule. Nature at its most amazing!
But we had only begun to understand just how amazing! The next morning, we headed to the Caverns early. We had noticed a desert scenic drive, so we decided to do that first. 9.5 miles of dirt, deep gravel, and desert scenery, which wound up and down and around the 14,000 acres of the National Park. Well worth the effort, but I wouldn’t want to bounce through all that on 4 wheels. 😁
Anyway, back to the Caverns. We decided to do the Natural entrance walk-in tour, which is 1.5 miles and descends 750 feet. Then once down there, the Big Room tour is another 1.25 miles. We rented audio guides for $5 each and I would highly recommend them if you don’t take a ranger guided tour. Incidentally, we didn’t realize that all guided tours require 48-hour advanced reservations. Hmmm. So self-guided it will be!
The reader’s digest version: The caverns are a result of an inland sea that existed 250 million years ago during the Permian period, and a reef that existed within that sea. That reef eventually became the soluble limestone rock formation that includes Carlsbad caverns.
The decorations within the caverns include stalagmites, which grow up from the floor, stalactites, which grow down from the ceiling, columns, which are formed when the two meet, draperies, sheet-like structures formed by drips from sloped ceilings, and popcorn.
Please know that I have limited this post to the best of my many photos. That said, please bear with me…welcome to Carlsbad Caverns.
I don’t have sufficient superlatives to describe the tiny portion of Carlsbad Caverns that we were able to see. It is humbling, amazing, and incomprehensible. All I can say is, go see It! Plan ahead, get reservations for a unique ranger guided tour, or put on your comfy walking shoes and do it yourself like we did. You will not be disappointed!