Friday, May 9, 2014

Bat flight, huge cave, desert scenes await Carlsbad Cavern National Park hikers

Bat flight at sunset. Photo courtesy Carlsbad Caverns NPS.
Among the best ways to see Carlsbad Caverns National Park’s major sights is via a day hike. Though the park is vast, three short trails will allow you to enjoy the park’s major highlights – a massive underground cave, a bat flight like no other, and rugged desert scenery.

Big Room Cave
The Big Room – aka The Hall of the Giants – is North America’s fifth largest cave chamber, buried 50 stories underground. The Big Room Tour, a 1.25-mile self-guided trail passes each of the room’s stunning geological features.

Bat flight
Every sunset from June through October, hundreds of thousands of bats fly out of Carlsbad Cavern’s natural entrance in a tornadic-like spiral to feed for the evening then return at dawn. The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail, a half-mile loop, allows you to watch the bats disperse across the New Mexican desert.

Desert scenery
With intriguing rock formations, a lush dry run, and great vistas of the plains below, Yucca Canyon offers the most scenic aboveground trail in the park. The Yucca Canyon Trail runs seven miles out-and-back to the canyon’s top, gaining 1500 feet elevation gain. From U.S. Hwys. 61/180, go west on Hwy. 418 (aka Washington Ranch Road); the trailhead is on the road’s left side just after entering the park.

Learn about other great national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.