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EP17 - Visit Carlsbad

El Paso - Annual 2017

Carlsbad Caverns, one of the Western Hemisphere's most spectacular sights, awaits just 2 1/2 hours northeast of El Paso.

EP17 - Visit Carlsbad
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Photo by Laurence Parent

Go For The Outdoors

A stunning natural wonder, Carlsbad Caverns National Park protects 119 known caves worn into the limestone 45 minutes outside Carlsbad. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named it a World Heritage Site, recognizing the cave system's size and intricate formations. The best way to visit is to descend 750 feet through the Natural Entrance, where you'll see awe-inspiring formations along the way to the trail's terminus, at the Big Room. (You may also descend via elevator.) The Big Room earns its name — it's the size of eight football fields with soaring ceilings like a natural cathedral. Ranger-led tours can also guide you to seldom-visited caves where you can try your hand at spelunking. From May through October, the Bat Flight program allows you to visit at dusk to watch a swirling cloud of Brazilian free-tailed bats fly out of the caves on nightly hunts. nps.gov/cave

Between the town and the caverns, take a side trip to Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area, a true desert oasis. Swim in the fern-rimmed pool beneath a cascading waterfall and picnic nearby. www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/lincoln/recarea/?recid=34238

For more water play, splash in the Pecos River, which flows through Carlsbad. The Beach Park offers protected swimming areas and paddleboard, kayak, and pedal boat rentals. cityofcarlsbadnm.com

For hiking, head 54 miles southwest of Carlsbad to Texas' Guadalupe Mountains National Park, one of the world's premier examples of a fossil reef from the Permian Era. nps.gov/gumo

Stay For The Culture

The Carlsbad Museum & Art Center exhibits a small but first-rate collection of Taos Society of Artists paintings, caverns photographs, and other artifacts. At Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park see 40 native wildlife species along a 1.3-mile paved trail through a desert botanical garden. cityofcarlsbadnm.com/museum.cfm, nmparks.com

Know Before You Go

From Thanksgiving through the month of December, residents along the Pecos River deck their yards with homespun holiday light displays. See them all on a 40-minute pontoon boat ride during Christmas on the Pecos. christmasonthepecos.com

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