Viewed from the outside the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico are not much to look at and consist of a few gray rock formations and a little scrub brush covering a less than impressive cliff. But, inside this is one of the most extraordinary landscapes anywhere on Earth and, with over 100 limestone caves for you to explore, you could wander through the caves for years and not see the same thing twice.
If you are feint hearted then the Bat Cave is not for you as it is the home of many thousands of these flying mammals. The Bifrost Room is breathtaking and, named after the Bifrost bridge into Valhalla from a Scandinavian myth, the colors here truly echo those of the rainbow. The largest open chamber in the system is The Hall of Giants which covers an astonishing 360,000 square feet. Within these, and the many other rooms, you will find some of Mother Nature’s most creative work.
The Witch’s Finger, a giant stalagmite, is a corkscrew-like structure which is more than five times the the average person’s height and the Rock of Ages is truly impressive as it makes stationary rock seem to move and the numerous outcroppings of flowstone resemble a demon’s lair glowing from within.
Within the caverns you can take self guided or staff guided tours with varying degrees of difficulty from simple walks through large open spaces to tackling ten foot high walls and crawling through narrow entrances into large chambers.
One particular takes you through part of Lechuguilla Cave which, at more than 1,600 feet below ground, is the deepest cave in the United States. This cave covers more than 112 miles as it winds through the Guadalupe Mountains.
For the less active, you can travel to the Big Room by elevator which descends 900 feet and gaze up and be simply mesmerized by this 25 story high open space. You can then wander around this 1,800 foot by 250 foot room filled with amazing rock formations. You should also visit the Temple of the Sun and view its dozens of eerily lit underground pools.
If you do want to see the bats though you will have to visit between the months of April and September as the three hundred thousand Mexican free tailed bats fly south for the winter. A half mile walk from the natural entrance leads to a plateau from where you can descend the 750 feet into the Bat Cave.
And do not forget to pop on your favorite pair of hiking boots and explore the area surrounding the caves as there are many fascinating things to both see and do. Despite its name, hiking along Rattlesnake Springs you are much more likely to come across dozens of birds and harmless reptiles than you are to see the snakes from which the place gets its name.
A final favorite with visitors to the area is the 10 mile scenic drive through Walnut Canyon. This drive takes you along Guadalupe Ridge and the views along the way are simply stunning.
The Carlsbad Caverns are of course just one of many splendid hiking areas in the United States and rank alongside such other great pleasures as guided hikes in Yosemite.