On the surface, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is deceptively normal—but all bets are off once visitors set foot in the elevator, which plunges 75 stories underground. The country beneath the surface is part silky darkness, part subterranean hallucination. The snaky, illuminated walkway seems less like a trail and more like a foray across the River Styx and into the underworld. Within more than 14 football fields of this netherworld are hundreds of formations that alternately resemble cakes, soda straws, ocean waves, and the large, leering face of a mountain troll.
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The Big Room Tour, the park’s most popular experience, meanders 1.25 miles past famous sights such as the Hall of Giants.
Accessing the cave via the Natural Entrance means descending 800 feet along a one-mile route. At times the ceiling rises more than 200 feet overhead.
The most popular of the ranger-led walks, the King’s Palace Tour passes some of the cave’s most elaborate and beautiful formations.
From spring through mid-October, hundreds of thousands of bats leave the cave at dusk to feed. Attend a ranger lecture and then watch the spectacle.
About eight miles south of the park entrance, Rattlesnake Springs protects a wetland that attracts wildlife, including rare birds and amphibians.
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