Carlsbad Caverns National Park is renowned in the U.S. for being a massive underground world with 120 known caves.

It became a national park in 1930 and was also designated a World Heritage Site in 1995, according to the National Park Service. Carlsbad Caverns is known as “one of the most accessible and best-preserved cave complexes in the world,” according to The Travel.

One of the most magical experiences at the cave is the park’s Bat Flight Program, where thousands of bats fly out of the mouth of the cavern and off into the night sky starting in mid-April through late October.

“This one-of-a-kind activity is a great way to spend an evening, especially if you have young children who are eager to learn more about Carlsbad, New Mexico’s fascinating wildlife,” according to Visit Carlsbad.

If you’re not able to visit the park in those months, there are still a myriad of activities and experiences to enjoy in the park to learn more about the geologic structure, history and wildlife within the caves.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers a window into the geological past in New Mexico, like on this tour of the Big Room on April 8, 2021. | Sarah Gambles, Deseret News

What to do at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

You will have to start at the visitor’s center to either purchase a tour or meet to start your tour, so you may as well make it worth the wait. Check out some of the exhibits, and you could even talk to a ranger to learn more about the park.

When it’s available, I always like to do the ranger-guided tours, but they do sell out earlier than the self-guided ones. Rangers teach you interesting facts and explain more about what’s going on inside the caves than you can really discover on your own, especially because there’s no cell service that far below the surface.

There are five ranger-guided tours that offer differing ranges of time and hiking difficulty, as well as size of group. You can purchase tickets for the tours on the National Park Service website.

Make sure to bring a jacket that is easy to take on and off. The temperatures remain around 56 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, but some of the tours do require some extensive walking, so you’ll want the option of keeping the jacket on or off.

The Big Room is the largest cave chamber in all of North America, and it really does feel massive once you’re inside. This area has some of the most compelling stalactites and stalagmites to observe, and it’s probably where you will spend the most time — so make sure to do one of the tours that includes The Big Room if you don’t have as much time to explore.

Obviously the caves are the main attraction at Carlsbad, but there are surface-level hikes in the park, as well as scenic desert drives to get a view of the Guadalupe Ridge and surrounding desert landscape.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park sees around 55,000 visitors each year, according to the National Park Service. | Sarah Gambles, Deseret News