New Mexico Stops on the Way

Uncrowded Park Gems near Carlsbad, New Mexico

Base out of Carlsbad to explore Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains national parks.

Lose the crowds swarming larger national parks when you explore the spectacular Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains national parks. Use the town of Carlsbad, N.M., as your base to explore Carlsbad Caverns just 18 miles away, as well as Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 40 miles across the New Mexico-Texas border.

In 1898, when 16-year-old cowhand Jim White first entered what would become Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the Texas-born teen discovered another world.

Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National ParkPhoto courtesy of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

Once part of a reef in an inland sea, Carlsbad Caverns has more than 119 limestone caves, including the Big Room, which is as large as six football fields. While its disputed whether White was the first Anglo to enter the caves, one thing is clear: this national park is stunning. And the good news is unlike White’s days where people were lowered into the caves in guano buckets, there are elevators and stairs to access the caves today.

At Guadalupe Mountains National Park, you’ll find a rich palette of landscapes from pink blooming desert cacti to striking peaks, including the highest four peaks in Texas. Head to Pine Springs Visitor Center before choosing a trail to hike. For a challenge, gain 3,000 feet of elevation on the 8.5-mile, round-trip hike to the top of the 8,751-feet-high Guadalupe Peak. 

Or take Devil’s Hall Trail for a moderate 3.8-mile out-and-back path through steep canyon walls and past towering trees. For something short and easy-to-moderate, take the 2.3-mile Smith Spring Loop, which leads you to the verdant oasis of Smith Spring.

Guadalupe Ridge Trail takes you through Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area on…
Guadalupe Ridge TrailPhoto courtesy of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

The adventurous will want to venture out to Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area an hour outside Carlsbad. Here, a majestic 150-foot waterfall plummets into natural pools, creating the perfect swimming holes in the middle of the desert. The scenic 100-mile Guadalupe Ridge Trail goes through Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area, providing the perfect opportunity for day hiking or longer backpacking trips. This desert trail takes you through both Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park on the full 100-mile excursion.

Sitting Bull Falls near Carlsbad, N.M.
Cool off at Sitting Bull FallsPhoto courtesy of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

Today, frolic in the calm water of the Pecos River when you rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards and paddle up and down. Or, stroll along nearly five-miles of paved trails along the beautiful shores.

Kayaking on the Pecos River in Carlsbad, N.M.
Kayaking on the Pecos RiverPhoto courtesy of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

Then head to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. In addition to feeding a giraffe, you can learn about more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert at the state park. 

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in Carlsbad, N.M.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State ParkPhoto courtesy of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

Come Hungry to Carlsbad

Pecos River Cafe
Start the day off with the best breakfast in town at Pecos River Cafe;

YellowBrix Restaurant
Enjoy fine dining at YellowBrix Restaurant with the best patio in town;

Balzano Vineyard
Sip wine and enjoy specialty dinners at Balzano Vineyard;

Milton’s Brewing
Enjoy hand-crafted beer, food trucks and live music at Milton’s Brewing;

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