Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
Carlsbad Caverns are located in southern New Mexico. My main points of comparison for this cave are the Cave of the Winds in Colorado, Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas, and Inner Space Cavern in Texas. What are the pros and cons of this well-developed tourist attraction?
Points in Favor of Carlsbad Caverns
This cavern complex is very friendly to those with mobility challenges. Whether you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller, you can access a majority of the cavern. Furthermore, you could take multiple routes through the venue. The main (and more famous) main entrance isn’t recommended if you’re in a wheelchair. It would be possible but an effort if you use a walker. However, you can take the elevators down and cover about half the trails.
The cave itself is surprisingly open and accessible. Consider this a cave safe for the claustrophobic. The elevator is more confining than most of the cave itself.
There are bathrooms and a snack bar near the elevators commonly used to leave the cave.
If you are there during the summer, the scene of bats exiting the cave is amazing.
The Carlsbad Caverns museum itself is decent. You can learn more about the history of the caves, the local ecosystem and the geography.
It is reasonably priced, and young children are free. The park sometimes has free admissions for everyone on holiday weekends, though this wasn’t the case when we were there.
The museum restaurant’s prices are comparable to fast food prices and have similar quality. In contrast, some museum restaurants have fast food prices and upscale dining prices.
There are several short hiking trails in and around the visitor center.
Strikes against Carlsbad Caverns
The line for the elevators grows longer as the day ends. When we were there, the wait was more than an hour to take the elevators up – and it wasn’t yet 4 PM. If there are issues with the elevators, they’ll start closing access to the caves earlier than the official close time so that people can exit before staff are scheduled go home.
While they have bathrooms and a snack bar by the line for the elevator, if you get out of line to enjoy them, you have to go to the back of the line.
There are a few interesting features but otherwise not much to see, especially if you've been in other, similar caves.
Observations about Carlsbad Caverns
Parking is neither good nor bad. There are parking spots for buses and RVs, though not a lot.
Bathrooms for the cave museum and access are, interestingly, outside of the building. Rather ironic given that there are bathrooms available inside the cave.
If you’re traveling through the area, fill up for gas in a town well before you get to the caves. The gas stations closest to the tourist attraction are the most expensive in the area.
Camping is permitted in parts of the park, but you can’t camp in the area right around the visitor center.
Star parties are held at Carlsbad Caverns.
I read about the adventure caving tours in other caves in the national park, but we did not go on any of those tours.
© 2018 Tamara Wilhite
Leah Lefler from Western New York on January 05, 2018:
I would love to see Carlsbad Caverns one of these days. Exploring caves is so much fun! We have been to Howe Caverns in New York, which was fun (though the cave in upstate NY is much smaller than Carlsbad Caverns)!