We visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park and it was amazing. It was both breathtaking, awe inspiring, and scary.
Right now the timed entrance tickets are not being used. According to their website, there are some days near the holidays that the park will be using the timed tickets again, so check their website if you are going near Thanksgiving and Christmas. The website also stated that there was currently a limit to 1,000 people/day.
The Park opened at 8:00am, Cavern opened at 8:30am. We got there about 7:45am, and there was already a line to get into the Visitors Center. Because of the daily entrance limit, I would try to get there as early as you can. We were in the cave about 4.5 hours.
The Visitor Center had bathrooms, 2 gift shops, a ticket booth, and an informational booth (park map, junior ranger books). There were not any ranger tours (Covid), but you can rent an audio tour ($5). I would really recommend the audio tour, it had some great information and also could be useful for kids who don’t like to (or can’t) read the signs. The Visitor Center has some interesting information at the exhibits, as well as a model of the cave.
The Cave had both elevators and a Natural Entrance. If you can, take the Natural Entrance down into the cave. It was quite the view and experience to walk these switchbacks down into the cave.
There were no bats while we were there, as it was too late in the season, but it must be amazing to see them exit at night.
It is a little scary when think about how far down you are. Nick was listening to audio tour and pointed out a section with tiny stalactites laying on the ground. They had fallen in an earthquake. Of course, then I looked to the ceiling and prayed for no shaking or earthquakes because that would really, really hurt. (There were also emergency call buttons to reach the Rangers throughout the cave. It was paved and had guardrails throughout.)
When you finish walking the cavern, it brings you to the elevators and lunch area. They sold drinks and cold items there. We took the elevators back up (it looked like maybe it was one way). The elevator rose 754 feet to get back to the Visitors Center!
Recommendations: Bring a water bottle. (No food or gum is allowed, but plain water is.) Wear boots, or at least shoes with a really good tread (some spots are slick, some are a little steep). Bring a small flashlight: you can see some cool things, and well…what if they loose power? It is completely dark when there are no lights.
VIDEO: Walking Through Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Note: The video is a little dark, as it was in a cave, but there are some neat scenes!
Jim White was the first known person to explore the cave (from 1898 to 1902). He saw what he thought was smoke and went to investigate what/where it was. The smoke turned out to be bats exiting the cave. How bored do you have to be to repel (because the Natural Entrance Switchbacks were not there), with a lantern into an unknown hole in the ground?! Seriously, it had to have been nerve wracking. He unfortunately, according to the Ranger Will talked to, never filed a claim on the cave/land. Miners came in to mine the guano and sold it to farmers, specifically to citrus groves. Eventually, the government came in and declared it a National Monument and then a National Park.