Carlsbad Caverns National Park: bats, caves, and aliens

Quick facts:  
WHERE:  southeastern New Mexico
HIGHLIGHT:  caves and bats

I traveled to Carlsbad National Park with my sons in 2004.  That summer, a new backcountry cave had recently been opened which we toured with special permits, but the highlight of our visit was the sunset show of the bats.  They spiraled out of the cavern each and every evening, counter-clockwise (the same way that toilets flush and eucalyptus trees grow in the northern hemisphere) and we were quite amazed!  (check out video at bottom of blog)
  

Getting to our remote NPs is often a dilemma for the traveler.   How should you physically arrive at Carlsbad and why?
We drove, but you can also fly into Roswell (100 miles away) – the home of the aliens!
By driving on a long road trip, we visited Carlsbad after Big Bend NP in TX and before Saguaro NP in AZ.  (read blogs later this week for these parks)

If you have only one overnight in the park (2 days, 1 night), where would you stay and what would you do?
I’d see the main caverns and stick around for the bat exit at sunset.  Then I’d pre-reserve a special tour for Day 2, like Slaughter Canyon (see below) or the 3-dimensional maze, Spider Cave.
Best wildlife viewing opportunity?
The bats!


Best food?
You’ll only find cafeteria food in the park, but in Carlsbad village, there’s a sushi spot called Blue Ocean Robata.  Located more than 6 hours from the nearest ocean, it offers quite a unique experience.

Best photography shot?
The Christmas Tree formation inside Slaughter Canyon Cave.
What problems have you encountered there (or heard of others encountering)?
Be ready for close screening prior to entering the caves, because our noses, footwear, and clothing sometimes carry diseases harmful to bats.

What is the “rare find” within Carlsbad NP?  

the road out to remote Slaughter Canyon

The private tour of Slaughter Canyon Cave is extra special.  There’s no illumination, no paved walkways.  You have to have a flashlight or headlamp to enter this underground space!  It’s a true, wild cave, accessed only by a 1/2 hour hike up the desert mountain, to crawl though the small circular opening.  And, in addition to the untouched stalagmites, there are anthropological remains from ancient peoples who used to collect the bat guano here.   Cost:  $15pp


Any words of warning, or wisdom, for the Carlsbad NP planner?

Take a jacket.  The desert may be 120* outside but the cave is 50* inside. 

Did you know?
The limestone rock that holds Carlsbad Caverns is full of ocean fossil plants and animals from a time before the dinosaurs when the southeastern corner of New Mexico was a coastline similar to the Florida Keys. 
waiting for the bats to fly

If you’re looking for a road trip though some of our country’s most spectacular scenery and most intriguing National Parks, I would love to talk to you. 

I’m Melanie Tucker, owner and chief designer at Tough Love Travel, where I offer complimentary 20-minute get-acquainted sessions.  Select yours right here.


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