Since Carlsbad, NM, usually has the warmest temperatures in the state, we planned a two-day getaway to escape the cold in Albuquerque and check out the hiking in the section of the Guadalupe Mountains that are part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The day we arrived we had time for a short hike east from the Visitor Center along a ridgetop with views below where the plains of the Chihuahuan Desert meet the Guadalupe Mountains. The best part of the hike was that it was sunny and 70 degree weather.
Our enjoyment of the warm weather was short-lived. A storm blew in overnight and it was cold and rainy when we woke up the next morning. We had planned to explore the Slaughter Canyon Trail in the Guadalupe Mountains west of the caverns. By the time that we arrived in Whites’ City the rain had turned to snow. It didn’t look to be a promising day for a hike in the mountains so we decided to turn our hike into an underground exploration and join the hordes of tourists who come to Carlsbad just to see the caverns. The park brochure said that the temperatures in the cave stay at a constant 57 degrees. That sounded a whole lot better than freezing rain and snow.
Although there is an elevator that takes you from inside the Visitor Center down into the main area of the caverns, it’s more fun to walk in through the natural entrance and follow the long, spiraling aspalt path as it winds its way to the bottom. We made a quick dash outside the visitor center on the trail to the natural entrance and were soon in the quiet, dry confines of the cave. The huge calcium-carbonate cave formations are awesome, but I think it was the experience of the stillness and quiet as you walk through the caverns that impressed me the most.
After a couple of hours gawking our way around the Big Room cave chamber we took the elevator back to the top. We were happy to see that the storm clouds were breaking up, which meant we could now drive up to the mountains and do our planned hike in Slaughter Canyon. There wasn’t enough time to go as far as originally planned, but it was still a good hike and gave us a sense of what the Guadalupe Mountains are like. We will definitely be taking another trip to that area for camping and hiking at a warmer time of year.