• Photo of the steep natural entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

    Carlsbad Caverns

    National Park New Mexico

Self-Guided Cave Tours

Chandelier formation in the Big Room
The Chandelier hangs from the ceiling in the Big Room of Carlsbad Caverns.
NPS Photo/Peter Jones.

Explore Carlsbad Caverns at your own pace with two unique self-guided routes! Both the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails are approximately 1.25 miles long, but they offer very different experiences. Access to the self-guided trails requires an entrance fee ticket. These tickets are available year-round except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Ranger-guided tours require an additional fee.

Audio guides are available for rental from the Carlsbad Caverns bookstore. There are approximately 50 stops between the two self-guided tours. Please see below for more information on the self-guided tours.

Winter Hours for Self-Guided Trails (September - May)
Entry to Natural Entrance: 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Entry to Big Room via elevator: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Last elevator out of Big Room: 4:45 p.m.

Summer Hours for Self-Guided Trails (June - August)
Entry to Natural Entrance: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Entry to Big Room: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Last elevator out of Big Room: 6:45 p.m.


Big Room Self-Guided Trail

Our most popular route, the Big Room, is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. This 1.25 mile trail is relatively flat, but walking the trail can take approximately 1.5 hours. Actor and comedian Will Rogers called it, "The Grand Canyon with a roof over it." You will be rewarded with spectacular views, cave formations of all shapes and sizes, and a rope ladder used by explorers in 1924.

If you are seeking a shorter experience, the Big Room does have a shortcut which reduces the amount of trail by approximately 0.5 mile. Parts of the Big Room route are accessible. You can ask for more information about accessibility at Carlsbad Caverns at the visitor center. You can also download our Accessibility Brochure [0.5 MB PDF].

Looking for more information? Check out our Big Room page.

Visitors walking down the switchbacks on the Natural Entrance trail

Descending into the Devil's Den on the Natural Entrance trail.

NPS Photo/Peter Jones

Natural Entrance Self-Guided Trail

The 1.25 mile hike down the Natural Entrance trail is extremely steep, descending about 750 feet. You have the opportunity to follow the footsteps of early explorers as you see formations like Devil's Spring, the Whale's Mouth, and Iceberg Rock.

The Natural Entrance is not an accessible trail. Please assess your fitness before attempting this strenuous walk. To learn more, see the Natural Entrance page.


Did You Know?