Carlsbad Caverns National Park was a short drive from our campground. We arrived at the park early and signed up for the 1:30pm tour. The morning tour was already sold out. We bought our America the Beautiful annual pass. It gets you into all national parks for a year.
We rented the audio guide and took the self-guided Big Room tour in the morning. There is an elevator that takes you down the 750 feet to the cave entrance in 1 minute. The Big Room tour is 1.5 miles long and takes about 1.5 hours. There were very few visitors in the morning. At times we were alone in parts of the cave. Can’t imagine what it’s like here in the height of the summer vacation season! We rode the elevator back to the surface, had lunch and walked to see where the bat cave entrance is. The bats are in Carlsbad during the summer, leaving the cave in mass in the evening to eat bugs all night. They live in Mexico in the winter. There are only a few bats here now so we didn’t stay for the bat flight.
In the afternoon we took the King’s Palace ranger guided tour. Our ranger has been at Carlsbad since 2008 and she was very good. She told the story of how caverns were found, how the bat guano was sold to the California orange industry, and about the early cave history.