Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico. It features more than 100 caves. The Natural Entrance is a path into the namesake Carlsbad Cavern. Stalactites cling to the roof of the Big Room, a huge underground chamber in the cavern. Walnut Canyon Desert Loop is a drive with desert views. Rattlesnake Springs, a desert wetland, attracts reptiles and hundreds of bird species.
Cave touring has been popular at Carlsbad Caverns ever since the days when Jim White lowered local tourists down in an old guano bucket. Fortunately, visitors these days can either walk down the natural entrance, or take an elevator into the heart of the cavern. Ranger-led and self-guided tours of the caverns are available.
The easiest guided tour is of Left Hand Tunnel, where a mild, unpaved walk by lantern light leads visitors past a plethora of cave pools and rock formations to ancient, Permian-era fossils. Reservations are highly recommended for ranger-led tours, especially for popular excursions to the magnificent Hall of the White Giant and the rigorous, cramped Spider Cave. The two basic routes for self-guided tours are the Big Room Route and the Natural Entrance Route. Visitors must pay an entry fee for self-guided tours, which are good for three days.