A trip to Carlsbad Caverns has been on my radar since we moved to Texas a few years ago. We looked at making a trip in 2020, but due to the pandemic decided to put it off a year.
We spent the first two weeks of June on the east coast split between Florida and the beach. And were heading to the northeast for the 4th of July! So we decided to stay closer to Texas for the second part of June. We decided a long weekend in New Mexico wouldn’t wear us out too much in the middle of all that travel!
We made the seven-hour trek down on a Friday afternoon excited to get settled into the Airbnb. The drive from the DFW area took us through endless desert land. Pretty sure we only saw a couple of stop lights and gas stations during the entire trek. When we arrived at the Airbnb, we were disappointed to find that it was not going to work out for us for the night.
Without going into too much detail, the back door to the house was open when we arrived. The house was unclean. And the locks on the windows were not in working order!
We ended up cancelling the reservation (this is a first for me) and getting rooms at a nearby hotel instead! With the temps nearing the 100s, this ended up being a good choice since the hotel had a pool! I love when there is a silver lining 😉
We settled into the hotel and went out for dinner before wearing the kids out at the pool before bed!
On Saturday, we had late morning reservations to get into Carlsbad.
- If I haven’t mentioned it before, I highly recommend getting a National Parks pass. We have used it repeatedly this year and have gotten our money’s worth about 10x over!
We checked in at the desk and got our tickets. Then we walked outside in the sunshine to start our trek down into the caverns.
You have two options to get into the caverns. You can make the 1.25 mile steep trek downhill (the equivalent of about 75 flights of stairs). Or you can take the elevator. Being that we had kids with us, we absolutely made the walk down! The view walking down into the caverns was incredible.
For much of the walk we were not within viewing or hearing distance of anyone else. It was cool and calming. And even the kids enjoyed it!
When we made it to the bottom, we linked up with the Big Room Trail. This trail explores the caverns and is another 1.25 miles, mostly flat as you go through the different “rooms” of the caverns. The views were incredible and once again I stood in awe of nature.
When we finished, we agreed to ride the elevator up. The kids thought it would be neat to take an elevator up over 750 feet! Our obligatory visit to the gift shop was followed by the kids turning in their Jr. Ranger books in order to receive their Junior Ranger pins.
- If you have not looked into the Junior Ranger program at the national parks, check it out. It is free at most parks and encourages the kids to answer questions and learn about the park as you are visiting! They are rewarded at the end with a patch or pin from the park!
We ate lunch and then made our way back to the hotel to do some afternoon swimming. We decided to return to the park in the late evening to see the bat flight program at sunset. This is one of the more challenging activities to do with kids. They encourage you to get there early before the sun sets, but you must remain still and quiet the entire time. Quiet is essential to not disturb the bats as they are waking up. We ended up at the program the same night as National Geographic had a photographer present to capture the view. Viewers are not allowed to take pictures or have cell phones at the bat flight so you have to imagine the view of 1000s of bats taking off in semi-dark sky!
Sitting Bull Falls
Sunday morning we packed a picnic lunch and made our way to Sitting Bull Falls. The falls are a short drive from Carlsbad and are unique in that they are located in a canyon. Sitting Bull is a collection of falls that are in the Lincoln National Forest and are open to the public for swimming. We all wore our bathing suits because it was going to be another triple digit day!
There is a parking area for the falls with restrooms and cabanas with picnic tables close to the parking. The falls are only a short hike from the parking area and you as you walk into the canyon you can see wild goats running back and forth across the canyon walls.
We picked a spot to set our stuff and then the kids ran to dip their feet in the water. They each took turns going out to the waterfall and coming back while playing near the shore.
After we sat and watched the goats climbing the canyon walls. Watching them maintain their footing while running back and forth was truly mesmerizing.
We decided to venture back to Carlsbad for the afternoon and found our way to the water park in town. Admission was only $5 a person and there were almost no lines for the slides all afternoon. The kids (and adults) had a blast in the water. We ended the evening with a nicer dinner in town and made our way back to the hotel to get some rest since we would have a long drive home in the morning. We enjoyed a leisurely drive back through the barren desert after the kids were all up and moving!
This is definitely a trip that we enjoyed. Like Death Valley though, is not something I would make a special trip back to do again.