Hiding from the sky in Carlsbad Caverns | AspenTimes.com

Hiding from the sky in Carlsbad Caverns

Tired of blue skies and leaf-peeping? Try going into a cave for a few hours. Or even a few days.

If you enjoy the Fairy Caves in Glenwood Springs, then you should not miss the underground labyrinth of Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico.

I took a summer trip to the region and found the caves offered a refreshing break from the oppressive southwestern sun.

This spectacular and accessible national park draws tens of thousands of visitors in the summer months alone. Fortunately, it is open year-round, except on Christmas Day. The fee won’t leave you in debt either: $6 for adults, $3 for children under 16 and free for little ones under 5. This bargain gets you three full days of cave-dwelling, with opportunities for guided tours of the not-so-public areas.

Carlsbad is just plain huge. It spans 46,766 acres and contains 83 separate caves plunging nearly 1,600 feet below the surface.

Prehistoric Native Americans visited the caves more than 1,000 years ago, and left mysterious drawings on the walls near the natural entrance. Nineteenth-century settlers were drawn to the caves by the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of bats flying out of the cave; some even ended up mining the huge guano deposits and selling the material as fertilizer. A cowboy named Jim White showed more interest in the caves’ natural attributes, but few believed his “improbable” tales of a huge underground wilderness until they saw actual photographs.

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