|Big Room||1.0 hour, 1.0 mile||The Big Room is the "must see" tour for all visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Access this self guided walk either by elevator or by walking the Natural Entrance route. The Big Room route is also partially accessible to people using wheelchairs, with assistance. Ask for an access guide.|
|Natural Entrance||1.0 hour, 1.0 mile||On this self guided route you will descend over 750 feet on a steep and narrow switchback trail. This self guided walk is strenuous, and not recommended for anyone with health or walking problems. Return by elevator, or continue on to the Big Room.|
|Guided Tour||Adult Fee||Children & Golden Age Fee||Tour Schedule|
|Hall of White Giant||$ 20.00||$ 10.00||Sat - 1:00 pm|
|Kings Palace||$ 8.00||$ 4.00||Daily|
|Left Hand Tunnel||$ 7.00||$ 3.50||Daily 9:00 am|
|Lower Cave||$ 20.00||$ 10.00||Mon - Fri - 1:00 pm|
|Slaughter Canyon Cave||$ 15.00||$ 7.50||Daily in Summer
8:00 am - 11:00 am
|Spider Cave||$ 20.00||$ 10.00||Sun - 1:00 pm|
|Cave||Day||Start Time||Adult Fee||Age Limit||Rating||Length Hours||Group Limit|
|Hall of the White Giant||Sat||1:00 pm||$ 20.00||12||Strenuous||3 - 4||8|
|Kings Palace||Daily||$ 8.00||4||1.5|
|Left Hand Tunnel||Daily||9:00 am||$ 7.00||6||Easy||1.5 - 2||15|
|Lower Cave||Mon - Fri||1:00 pm||$ 20.00||12||Mod - Strenuous||2 - 3||12|
|Slaughter Canyon Cave||Daily||8:00 am
|$ 15.00||6||Strenuous||2 - 2.5||25|
|Spider Cave||Sun||1:00 pm||$ 20.00||12||Strenuous||3 - 4||8|
Additional Caving Information
Fee for youth 16 years of age and younger is half price. Those holding a Golden Age Pass are half price.
Slaughter Canyon Cave tour is offered daily from Memorial Day weekend until the third Sunday in Aug. At other times, the tour is offered only on weekends.
All caving tours except the Slaughter Canyon Cave depart from the visitor center lobby. Youth under 16 years of age, must be accompanied by an adult. Tours, times and fees are subject to change. Call: 505-785-2232 extension 0, for current information.
Caving Tour Descriptions
Hall of the White Giant
This is a strenuous, challenging tour to a remote chamber in Carlsbad Caverns. You will be required to crawl long distances, squeeze through tight crevices and climb up slippery flowstone-lined passages. Bring your own gloves, knee pads and four new AA batteries.
Kings Palace Guided Tour
A third option is the Kings Palace tour, a 1.5 hour ranger guided tour through four highly decorated scenic chambers. Departing from the underground rest area, the Kings Palace tour descends to the deepest portion of the cavern open to the public, 830 feet beneath the desert surface. Although not as difficult as the Natural Entrance route, the one mile tour does require descending and later climbing an eight story hill. Look forward to viewing a variety of speleothems or cave decorations including helectites, draperies, columns and soda straws. Rangers frequently conduct black-out programs during this tour, briefly turning off all artificial lights to reveal the permanent inky blackness of the natural cave environment. Reservations required for the Kings Palace Tour may be obtained at the information desk. A separate fee is charged for this tour.
All trails in the cave are paved and adequately lighted. Visitors should wear comfortable, closed toe shoes with rubber soles for maximum safety and traction. The cave temperature varies little from the annual 56° F average, making a sweater or light jacket appropriate year round. Visitors may also wish to bring a camera and a flashlight. Strollers are Not Allowed in any underground cave areas, but infant backpacks are permitted. A pre-tour restroom stop is advisable because restrooms are only available in the visitor center and underground rest area. All tours are preceded by a mandatory cavern orientation briefing to promote resource protection and cavern safety. Visitors on all tours exit the cave by elevator.
Rangers are available throughout the cave to assist visitors with information, answer questions and protect park resources. On both self guiding tours, "Cavern Guide" message players provide visitors with interesting, in-depth information about ecology, history and cave information.
Left Hand Tunnel
On this tour your guide will highlight cavern history, formations, cave pools and Permian Age fossils. Lanterns are provided.
You will see evidence of early exploration, cave pools and beautiful formations on this moderately- strenuous tour. Be prepared to descend 50 feet of ladders. Bring gloves and four new AA batteries per person.
Slaughter Canyon Cave
Slaughter Canyon Cave is 23 miles from the park visitor center. The turnoff for Slaughter Canyon is located 5 miles south of Whites City on Highway 62/180. Follow the signs from there to the Slaughter Canyon trailhead. Allow 45 minutes for the steep and strenuous .5 mile hike to the cave entrance. Attempt this hike only if you are in good physical condition. Carry water - the desert is dry and often has extreme weather. Stay on the trail at all times and wear sturdy boots or shoes. Transportation to the cave is not provided.
Ranger led tours of Slaughter Canyon Cave take you into an underground wilderness without electricity, paved walkways or modern conveniences. In this wild cave, darkness is broken only by the light of lanterns carried by rangers and flashlights carried by tour members. Highlights of the two hour, 1.25 mile tour are the 89 foot high Monarch, one of the world's tallest columns; the sparkling, crystal-decorated Christmas Tree column; and the Chinese Wall, a delicate, ankle-high rimstone dam. Old bat guano mining excavations can be seen. Tours are given daily in the summer and on weekends the rest of the year. A fee is charged. Reservations must be made at the visitor center or by calling the park. You have to hike a strenuous .5 mile trail to the cave entrance, where the tour begins. Sturdy walking shoes, flashlights and water are required.
The cavern is open daily except of Christmas Day and operates on summer and non-summer hourly schedules. The summer season runs from Memorial Day weekend through the third Sunday in August. For current hours and information, call the park before your visit at 505-785-2232 extension 0, or extension 429 for cave tour reservations.
Driving from the Carlsbad Visitor Center to Slaughter Canyon takes about 45 minutes (23 miles).
Driving from Carlsbad, New Mexico to Slaughter Canyon takes about one hour (36 miles).
Driving from El Paso, Texas to Slaughter Canyon takes about 3 hours (150 miles).
On this strenuous caving tour you can expect tight crawlways, canyon-like passages and many bizarre formations. Bring your own gloves, knee pads and four new AA batteries per person. The tour departs from the visitor center for a .5 mile hike to the cave. Bring water for the hike.
Preserving a National Treasure
The protection and preservation of Carlsbad Cavern is the mission of the National Park Service and the responsibility of every visitor. Unfortunately, many of the cave's smaller and more delicate formations have been damaged over the years by careless visitors.
Experimental techniques, such as those that enable rangers to match pieces of broken stalactites and painstakingly glue them back together, are sometimes successful, but in practically all cases damage is irreversible. Please assist the National Park Service in preserving Carlsbad Cavern by observing park regulations.
Touching cave formations is prohibited. Formations are easily broken and the oil from you skin permanently discolors the rock.
Smoking, or any use of tobacco is not permitted. Eating and drinking are not permitted except in the Underground Lunchroom.
Throwing coins, food or other objects in cave pools is forbidden. Foreign objects ruin the natural appearance of the pools and are difficult to remove. Also, the chemical reaction between foreign objects, the water and the rock can leave permanent stains.
Photography is permitted when you tour on your own but not when you accompany a ranger led tour. Photographers should not rest tripods or other camera equipment on formations or step off the trail.
Strollers are not permitted because parts of the trails are steep and narrow.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is best known for its spectacular underground resources. A less popular destination for park visitors is the rugged backcountry. Elevations within the park backcountry rise from 3,596 feet in the lowlands to 6,368 feet on the escarpment.
The backcountry at Carlsbad Caverns is part of the northern Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem, with desert shrub and grassland vegetation predominant. Small pockets of juniper woodland are found at the highest elevations in the southwestern third of the park. Several primitive hiking trails traverse washes and steep canyon walls in the Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness Area, 13,406 ha (33,125 ac) of generally inhospitable terrain.
Backcountry Use Policy
The desert is a beautiful but hostile environment. Steep trails and sheer cliffs are common in the park. Taking short cuts or attempting to climb the cliffs is dangerous and often leads to serious accidents. The maze of canyons in the park can be confusing and it is easy to become lost. Most trails are primitive and not well defined. They can be difficult to follow unless you are familiar with reading topographic maps and using a compass. There is no dependable water source in the backcountry, therefore, you must carry what you need. A minimum of one gallon per person per day is recommended. The extreme heat of summer and the ice and snow of winter can spoil an otherwise enjoyable backcountry trip if you are not properly prepared. Good hiking shoes and proper clothing are necessary to protect yourself from the elements and the spiny desert plants. Be prepared for rapid and extreme changes in weather.
Campfires are not permitted within the park. The use of charcoal, and any wood or plant material for fires is prohibited. Illegal charcoal and wood fires cause unacceptable impacts in the backcountry. Containerized fuel stoves may be used at campsites.
|Guadalupe Ridge||11.8 miles||Starting at the Scenic Loop Drive the trail climbs steeply making an elevation change of 2,050 feet. The hike offers views into Slaughter Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon. The 11.8 mile trail follows an old road and continues to the parks west boundary. The connection to Lincoln National Forest is impassible by vehicle. To complete the entire route it is recommended that an overnight trip be planned. Camping permits can be obtained free of charge at the parks Visitor Center. USGS 7.5" quadrangles: Serpentine Bends and Gunsight Canyon.|
|Guano Road||3.5 miles one way||This is a two to three hour hike. The trailhead is located at the Bat Flight Amphitheater by the entrance to Carlsbad Cavern. The Guano Road descends 710 feet and exits the park at Whites City. Camping is not permitted in this area of the park. USGS 7.5" quadrangle: Carlsbad Caverns.|
|Juniper Ridge||3.5 miles one way||Beginning within the last mile of the Desert Loop Drive just past marker 15, this trail makes a gradual climb to the north boundary of the park. Once at the north boundary the trail goes west to the edge of Crooked Canyon. The cairn-marked trail is approximately 3.5 miles one way with an elevation change of 800 feet. USGS 7.5" quadrangle: Carlsbad Caverns.|
|Rattlesnake Canyon||6 miles roundtrip||The trailhead for Rattlesnake Canyon is located at marker 9 on the Desert Loop Drive and ends at the park boundary. The trail is 6 miles roundtrip. Beyond the park boundary is private property. Please do not trespass. The primitive trail is well defined in most areas, a bit overgrown in others, and marked with rock cairns. From the Desert Drive the trail makes a steep descent into the canyon, making a total elevation change of 670 feet. Once at the old ranch foundation a short 0.25 mile side trip can be made to Stone Spring. USGS 7.5" quadrangle: Serpentine Bends.|
|Slaughter Canyon||6 miles one way||Slaughter Canyon is a large canyon with several branches. The trailhead is located at the Slaughter Canyon Cave parking area. The cairn-marked trail follows Middle Slaughter Canyon along the canyon floor. The route criss-crosses the canyon many times making it is easy to lose the trail. Once the trail turns into North Slaughter Canyon it ascends to Guadalupe Ridge. Knowledge of topographic maps is imperative for hikers using this trail as there are many cairn-marked side trails. The route is 6 miles one way with an elevation change of 1,850 feet to the ridge top. USGS 7.5" quadrangles: Grapevine Draw and Serpentine Bends.|
|Ussery||1.5 miles||This trail starts at the Ussery Jeep Trail on Wild Cow Mesa at the Lincoln National Forest boundary. Approximately 1.5 miles of poorly marked trail traverses the southwest corner of the park and ends at the park boundary. Beyond the boundary is private land. Please do not trespass. Map and compass skills are highly recommended. An elevation change of approximately 2,500 feet is made. USGS 7.5" quadrangle: Gunsight Canyon.|
|Yucca Canyon||11 miles one way||The Yucca Canyon trailhead is located southwest of Slaughter Canyon. The trail is a well defined footpath that is 11 miles one-way and makes a 1,520 foot elevation change. Once on the ridge a trail following a fenced deer enclosure leads to Longview Springs. Continuing along the trail, the Double Canyon overlook can be reached by making a short side trip. There are no marked trails in either branch of Double Canyon but it is highly scenic. USGS 7.5" quadrangles: Grapevine Draw and Gunsight Canyon.|
Backcountry caves can be hazardous. Entering caves without written permission of the superintendent is prohibited. Conditions for issuing permits vary according to the management classification of each cave.
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Slaughter Canyon Cave
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