Located in the Guadalupe Mountains of southern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns features a limestone show cave. And it’s the fifth largest chamber in North America. The main room, the Big Room, is 4,000 feet long (1200 m) and 255 feet tall (78 m) and you can explore at your-own-pace. Read on for the what to do when visiting Carlsbad Caverns with kids.
5 Musts When Visiting Carlsbad Caverns with Kids
What to do at Carlsbad Caverns
After arriving at Carlsbad Caverns, head to the Visitor Center. Grab a park map, watch the 16-minute park film Hidden Worldor grab a snack in the concessions area.
Inside the Visitor Center, tour the exhibits to learn more about how the cave was formed. Then learn about the animals of the park, including the Brazilian free-tailed bats.
You can tour the caverns on your own. Use the Natural Entrance Trail or take the elevators down to the Big Room Trail.
Natural Entrance Trail—Descend 750 feet through a series of steep switchbacks on this 1.25-mile trail. The Natural Entrance Trail meets the Big Room Trail, close to the elevators.
Big Room Trail—See the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America with this 1.25-mile trail that mostly flat, and some of it’s wheelchair accessible.
If you prefer a guided tour of Carlsbad Caverns, it offers several types and the following are offered daily.
King’s Palace Tour—Take aone-and-a-half-hour tour through four highly decorated rooms. This tour travels one mile. Kids need to be at least 4-years-old.
Left Hand Tunnel Tour—Take a two-hour tour using a candle light lantern on unpaved trails in an undeveloped portion of the caverns. Kids need to be at least 6-years-old and everyone must wear closed-toed shoes.
For adventurous families with kids 12 and older, consider the Lower Cave Tour or Hall of White Giant Tour. Both tours require hiking boots.
Ranger tours require an additional ticket. Reservations are recommended by calling 877-444-6777 or visiting Recreation.gov.
Bat Flight Programs
If you are visiting Carlsbad Caverns anytime from late May through October then attend a Bat Flight Program. Expect to learn more about the Brazilian Free-Tail Bats, the largest colony at Carlsbad.
This colony fluctuates and the bat population is about 750,000 bats. The Bat Flight Programs starts at 6 p.m. and the bat emergence time is based on the sun set.
Located at the Natural Entrance, it’s a five minute walk from the visitor center. It’s a free ranger program and reservations are not required. No electronic devices are allowed.
Earn a Junior Ranger Badge
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.
Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet when visiting Carlsbad Caverns with kids. Find several different booklets for kids to earn their Junior Ranger Badges based on age.
Babies (with adult assistance) and kids to 6 can earn a Junior Ranger badge.
Kids 7 to 12 get a booklet with activities to learn more about the parks.
Kids 13+ (and adults) can earn a badge while exploring the cave.
Junior Bat Biologist is a separate Junior Ranger Badge that kids can earn. Learn more about the cave along with the bats.
Dark Skies Program
Star Walks—Hike a .5-mile hike with the help of a red headlamp.
Star Parties—Explore the night sky with a ranger and a powerful telescope.
Moon Hikes—Take a 1.5-mile hike with the moon light leading the way.
Check out the availability before arriving and check in with the visitor center for reservations.
Programming depends on weather and available on select nights.Kids must be 6-years-old to participate.
When to Visit Carlsbad Caverns
The best part of visiting caves is the weather. It never rains. Though be prepared for cool temperatures with a fleece layer. The cave temperature is 56F (13C) year round.
If you are interested in attending the Bat Flight Programs, visit Carlsbad Caverns from Memorial Day weekend through October.
Where’s Carlsbad Caverns
Located 20 miles from southwest Carlsbad, New Mexico, the visitor center’s address is 727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway. It’s 7 miles from the entrance sign to the visitor center. Find lots of parking including RV parking.
Adult admission (16+) is $15 and free for kids 15 and under. The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. And it’s open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours require an additional ticket for everyone.
Bats and White-Nose Syndrome
You can not wear any clothing, this includes shoes, that has been in another cave due to White-Nose Syndrome. And camera and camera equipment will have to be disinfected if its been in another cave.
If you are visiting Carlsbad Caverns two days in a row, you will be required to wear fresh clothes for your second visit. Or you will have to throughly wash the clothes that you wore into the cave.
White-Nose Syndrome kills hibernating bat colonies across the U.S. and Canada. A fungus that thrives in low temperatures and high humidity that’s killed 6 million bats since it’s discovery in 2006.
See more of the Guadalupe Mountains
Since Carlsbad Caverns is located in the Guadalupe Mountains in southern New Mexico, visit the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas.
Guadalupe Mountains is the high point of Texas at 8,751 ft. And it features a developed trail for high pointers to reach the summit and mark another peak off their list.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park offers dark skies and quiet hiking. Guadalupe Peak boasts a rugged mountain backdrop and over 80 miles of hiking trails, some accessible and over half open to horseback riding.
Located at 400 Pine Canyon, Salt Flat, just south of the New Mexico border and 110 miles east of El Paso. Open 24-hours a day and 365 days year. The Big Springs Visitor Center is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7 a person for 16+ for a seven-day pass.