March 9, 2012
When you are checking in at the Visitors Center, they ask if you want to walk down through the 'Natural Entrance' or take the elevator. The walk is 750' down, one mile, with a lot of steep switchbacks and they say it takes an hour. You will end up in the "Big Room" to walk around for another 1 1/2 hours.
At first, I could not decide.
I sat on a bench thinking about it and
Then I went for it.......
I walked down, it took me about 45 minutes.
I did stop along the way to take pictures, but I was walking faster than others and passed some groups of people. The signs say it is slippery, it was not today. There are handrails all the way down, the path is paved all the way down, looks like asphalt.
still going down.....
I have been in many small caves where you walk on dirt, sand and rocks. This cave is not like that at all. The entire route of the self-guided tour is paved. You can even use a wheelchair or motorized scooter in parts of the cave.
You can sign up for some other tours that take you farther into the cave and there are caverns in this cave system that are not open to the public.
Although it amazing to be walking around underground, this is not a "pretty" cave. There are no crystals, it is mostly limestone. I am not overly excited about caves, but I was passing by the area and I have a National Parks Pass, so it did not cost me anything to go through the cave. It was a good way to get my workout for the day.
I can't imagine walking through this cave on a busy summer day, with a lot of crowds. Today was a good day to walk through the cave, there were not a lot of people around. I was told it would take one hour to walk down and 1 1/2 hours to complete the tour inside the cave. It took me a total of 1 1/2 hours for everything.
The walkway has handrails on both sides and it only wide enough for 2 people side by side. During a busy season, you would probably have to wait for slow moving people. There are several wider areas with stone benches where it would be easier to pass others.
All in all, I was glad that I stopped here. I was glad that I decided to walk down, I think the walk down is more interesting than the other areas of the cave.
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In May and June 2010, lightning ignited wildfires at both Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. The largest fire at Carlsbad Caverns National Park was the New Fire. It burned over 17,000 acres and had over 400 personnel assigned to the fire during the height of the fire.
As soon as I drove through the gates of the park, I could see evidence of this fire, all along the 7 mile road to the Visitors Center.