The elevators have been broken for years. The only way in, or out, is a mile long path climbing 800 feet in elevation. This makes the numbers of visitors even more impressive, almost as impressive as the caverns themselves. Welcome to Carlsbad.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is actually about twenty miles from Carlsbad, NM, outside of the totally touristed and tiny town of White’s City. I think the cavern itself is bigger.
But that might not be saying a lot, because the cavern was HUGE. Fourteen acres of floor space, it’s the largest natural room in the Western hemisphere, several times bigger than Luray. And several times more impressive. The Chandelier was the most gorgeous, and the most aptly named. The nps had even strung lights up inside of it, making it glow a soft creamy gold. And some of the flows did their best to convince you they had been carved by elves.
The lion’s tail and fairy forest were also pretty, but in a more rustic, popcorny way. Popcorn is a type of speleothem (rock formations caused by dripping or flowing water in caves, and my new favorite word) that looks like the movie theater snack. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a sign or section on the brochure explaining exactly how the rough texture forms.
Despite the exquisite beauty of the cave, walking down into it felt wrong. Every instinct yelled at me, that the underground is not a place humans are not supposed to go. The bats didn’t help. We didn’t see any, because they only roosted in the caves during the summers in a part humans weren’t allowed into. However, this knowledge didn’t help much when you felt like you were descending into the Mines of Moria. Getting out felt great, but it was definitely an experience I’d repeat.
I hope you didn’t have to fight a Balrog on the out.