Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Pecos River.
Photo by thinkstockphotos.com.

Two and a half hours northeast of El Paso lies one of the Western Hemisphere’s most spectacular sights — Carlsbad Caverns — plus hiking, paddling, and art browsing.

It’s a must-see: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a natural wonder 45 minutes outside Carlsbad. UNESCO named it a World Heritage site, recognizing the size — the system comprises 119 caves — and intricate formations. The best way to visit is to descend 750 feet (by foot or elevator) through the Natural Entrance.

Along the trail, you’ll spot awe-inspiring formations en route to the Big Room, a cavern the size of eight football fields with soaring ceilings like a natural cathedral. Join Carlsbad Caverns ranger-led tours to see seldomvisited caves or to try your hand at spelunking. May through October, the park welcomes visitors for dusk bat flights, when thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats swirl out of the caves for their nightly hunts.

Between the town and the caverns, take a side trip to Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area, a true desert oasis and popular local spot thanks to its cascading waterfall and fern-rimmed natural pool. Cool off — summer temperatures top 100 here — in the Pecos River. The Beach Park offers protected swimming areas and paddleboard, kayak, and pedal boat rentals.

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.

Don’t Miss: 2018 Carlsbad Happenings

Christmas on the Pecos, Nov. 23–Dec. 31
Residents along the Pecos River deck their yards with homespun holiday light displays. See them all on a 40-minute pontoon boat ride.

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Outdoor Amphitheater.
Photo by thinkstockphotos.com.