Looking for your next U.S. National Parks escape? Carlsbad Caverns is a hidden gem full of ancient limestone caves and brilliant desert landscapes.
Few parks offer the diversity of Carlsbad Caverns. In one national park, you can take in the view from high ancient sea ledges, or gaze over deep rocky canyons. There’s flowering cactus and desert wildlife galore to be found above ground in the Chihuahuan Desert, as well. It’s underground, however, where Carlsbad truly comes to life.
Deep beneath the surface, more than 119 stunning caves are hidden. These dramatic caves, sprawling with incredible formations, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the limestone bedrock. As a result, Carlsbad Caverns houses some of the most uniquely beautiful cave systems in all the U.S.
See for yourself! Below, we’ve gathered the absolute best shots from Carlsbad’s NPS Instagram page. From snow-covered desert canyons to gravity-defying stalactites – if you’ve never wanted to visit Carlsbad before – you will now.
Snow In The Chihuahuan Desert
“Does it snow at Carlsbad Caverns National Park?” Their Instagram asks. Obviously, “it sure does!” they reassure. “Not a lot, but it certainly changes the look of the desert!”
That it absolutely does. For most of us, the sight of a cactus-laden, desert canyon under blankets of snow is a unique one. Knowing how rare this is just makes it that much more gorgeous, too.
Witch’s Broom of Carlsbad Caverns
Some of the most incredible cave formations in North America are housed within Carlsbad. According to their team, “the creative imagination of early explorers, like Jim White, provided common names to many of the formations in Carlsbad Cavern”
“Here, one might see the “Witch’s Broom”, and possibly even a pair of legs and shawl? A perfect image for Halloween!” Carlsbad continues, having posted this image in October.
Main Corridor Trail, Carlsbad Caverns
What a trail! This incredible manmade formation leads hundreds of feet down into Carlsbad’s Main Corridor. According to park ranger Ross Studlar, getting down this behemoth is actually more difficult than coming back up!
Why is that? “The pressure that walking downhill puts on one’s joints, which visitors frequently underestimate, Studlar clarifies. “Notably, while walking downhill, the compressive force on one’s knee joint is seven to eight times that of one’s body weight—so a 250-pound man’s knees must bear the weight of a bull bison!”
As a result, Carlsbad encourages visitors “to plan their trip to the caverns with consideration for their fitness levels. If you are concerned about the hike down, please consider riding an elevator directly to the Big Room. Although the Main Corridor trail has its own wonders, the Big Room is considered the most photogenic part of Carlsbad Cavern.”
Carlsbad Caverns Cave Formations
“The many cave formations at Carlsbad Caverns National Park can be a thing of beauty for many visitors,” Carlsbad states. It’s easy to see why with underground views like this. While their page doesn’t name the cave this particular sight is part of, seeing it is enough to make you want to go find out for yourself.
Yucca Canyon Trail & Peaks
“The Yucca Canyon trail is 7.7 miles (12.4 km) one way,” Carlsbad states. That’s… a whole lotta walking to do without a way to get back. If you want to see these sights, be sure you’re prepared to walk more than 15 miles!
The views, however, are beyond worth it. “With an elevation change of 1520 feet (464 m) – it’s one of the park trails where you can encounter pine trees.” In the desert? Who would’ve thought?
As a note of caution on the strenuous nature of this hike, rangers urge visitors to “check with the visitor center before hand for current conditions.”
Slaughter Canyon Cave Shields
These breathtaking cave formations are the stuff of legend. Know as shields, each is “a speleothem found in many of the Carlsbad Caverns caves. Slaughter Canyon Cave has several shields easily be seen from the flagged trail,” Carlsbad adds. “They may appear as oval to circular, angled planes with dripstone formations growing from them.”
Unique formations like this take centuries to form. As a result, they’re incredibly rare. “Some resemble parachutes,” their Instagram notes.
Views from Above Ground, Slaughter Canyon
Planning to head to Carlsbad in winter? “With clear days and milder temperatures,” their team says, “winter can be one of the best seasons to explore above ground here.” If this exquisite photo of Slaughter Canyon is one to go by – we’re inclined to agree!
Moreover, Carlsbad clarifies that this is “a steep trail with rewarding views of the basin and mountains, getting into higher elevations.”
Carlsbad Caverns – Exploration Continues!
“Are the caves and caverns at the park still being explored?
Pretty much annually, new caves are discovered, and known places like Carlsbad Cavern and Lechuguilla Cave have new areas being entered and mapped for the first time!”
Carlsbad Canyon is Calling
Ready to head to this incredible national park, or another just as gorgeous option the U.S. has to offer?
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