Admittedly, my favorite places to visit in the United States are the National Parks, especially the parks in the western part of the country. They are also some of my favorite places to cycle. And the town of Carlsbad, NM allows for a great road to ride to Carlsbad Caverns. It is easily a clear favorite.
Background about Carlsbad Caverns
Carlsbad Caverns is located in southeastern New Mexico. It is approximately 20 miles from the town of Carlsbad, which makes this an excellent amount of distance for a road ride.
In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation that established the area as Carlsbad National Cave Monument. It didn’t become a national park until 1930.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park contains 119 caves, but only three of the caves are open to the public. The main cave, however, is the only one supported by lights, paved trails, and elevators.
Touring Carlsbad Caverns
There are two ways to descend into the cave. You can either take an elevator at the main visitor center, or you can choose to walk down a switchback ramp.
Until 1932, walking these switchbacks was the only way to begin the tour of the cave, which meant a very tiring and long walk back up. Now the cave hosts many elevators to bring people back to the visitor center.
Thankfully, the elevators occur at the end of a 2 to 3 hour stroll through a very busy cave area. Because of the number of visitors to Carlsbad National Park every year, on average over 400,000, the NPS offers these elevators to minimize any potential problems with people exiting the cave.
Cycling to Carlsbad Caverns from Carlsbad, NM
The town of Carlsbad, NM is a perfect place to stay if you are thinking about visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It also makes a great base to do a road ride to the park. The town has plenty of hotels, good places to eat, and it even has a couple of breweries.
Carlsbad National Park is around 20 miles from the town of Carlsbad. Out of town, you’ll ride Highway 62 for 13 miles on a two-lane highway. Fortunately, this road isn’t that busy because there really is not much of a berm on the way to the park entrance.
Once you reach the park entrance, however, is where the terrain can become challenging. It is seven miles to the visitor center, but the NPS describes the road as being “steep, narrow, and winding.”
Make sure to allow yourself at least two hours to do the ride to the park and the same amount of time on the ride back. If you choose to tour the cave, then add on another 2 to 3 hours. Make sure to drink lots of fluids and bring a good pair of shoes if you want to tour the cave.
I was there in late October of 2021 and it was still very hot. Make sure you pack (and wear) at least 30 SPF sunscreen. Additionally, it costs $15.00 to tour the cave, so make sure you have some cash with you. And lastly, due to the pandemic, if you plan to tour the cave, a reservation is required.
Carlsbad Cavern National Park is one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited. It is also one of the best national parks I’ve visited. I will just say my mind was sufficiently blown by all I saw, the formations are incredible.
Have you been to Carlsbad National Caverns? Have you been to the town of Carlsbad, NM. Please like, comment, and share this post if you enjoyed reading about Carlsbad National Park.