As people wander around the above ground visitor center at Carlsbad Cavern National Park nothing can prepare them for what they are about to experience. Entering the elevator, it quickly descends 75 stories to an underground world full of shadows and fantastical formations.

The temperature within the caverns is a cool 56 degrees all year round so it is a good idea to bring a light jacket. The trails are steep so it is important to wear sturdy walking shoes, not sandals. Some visitors also bring a small flashlight, although most trails are electrically lit.

When planning a trip it is advisable to book guided tours of the cavern ahead of time. Visitors can purchase cave tickets at the visitor center information desk, but tours frequently sell out, especially during the summer months. For a description of the different tours and to purchase tickets go to or call 877-444-6777. The park is open every day, except for December 25, weather and road conditions permitting.

A general admission ticket if required to enter the cave area, and includes access to the two self-guided trails. The Natural Entrance Trail is recommended for visitors in good physical condition and includes a steep 1 1/4 mile (2km) descent from the cave entrance to the Big Room. It takes about 1 hour to complete. The beginning of the Natural Entrance Trail is located outside of the visitor center.

The Big Room trail maybe also be accessed from an elevator inside the visitor center. This is the tour recommended for all visitors, especially those with a limited time in the park. This trail will take 1-2 hours but a shortcut can shorten the trail by about half. Descriptive signs are located throughout the trail and there is also an audio guide available for $3.