There's more to see beyond Carlsbad National Park.

In 1898, when 16-year-old cowhand Jim White first entered what would become Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the Texas-born teen discovered another world.

Once part of a reef in an inland sea, Carlsbad Caverns has more than 119 limestone caves, including the Big Room, which is as large as six football fields. While its disputed whether White was the first Anglo to enter the caves, one thing is clear: this national park is stunning. And the good news is unlike White’s days where people were lowered into the caves in guano buckets, there are elevators and stairs to access the caves today.

Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Use Carlsbad, N.M., just 18 miles away, as your base to explore Carlsbad Caverns, as well as Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 40 miles across the New Mexican/Texas border. Because of its mineral springs, the city was named after the famous Karlsbad spa in Bohemia (now Czech Republic).

The adventurous will want to venture out to Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area an hour outside Carlsbad. Here, a majestic 150-foot waterfall plummets into natural pools, creating the perfect swimming holes in the middle of the desert. The scenic 100-mile Guadalupe Ridge Trail goes through Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area, providing the perfect opportunity for day hiking or longer backpacking trips. This desert trail takes you through both Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park on the full 100-mile excursion.

Sitting Bull Falls near Carlsbad Caverns National Park in N.M.

Cool off at Sitting Bull Falls

Today, frolic in the calm water of the Pecos River when you rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards and paddle up and down. Or, stroll along nearly five-miles of paved trails along the beautiful shores.

Kayaking on the Pecos River in Carlsbad, New Mexico

Kayaking on the Pecos River

In a land known for its artists, Carlsbad is home to perhaps the state’s most unique painters. You’ll find her at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Bear Maggie Oso, who was near death before being rescued from a Georgia compound, paints with her paws in private one or so times per week, using non-toxic paints. Her pieces have been exhibited in Carlsbad and are sold in the park’s gift shop. In addition to Maggie, there are more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert at the state park.

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park

Come Hungry to Carlsbad

Blue House Bakery

Located on a quiet side street next to the Fiddler’s Inn, Blue House Bakery is the perfect place to start your morning. Order a handcrafted espresso beverage and a breakfast bowl and enjoy it on their beautiful patio. Don’t forget to check out their baked goods.

Guadalupe Mountain Brewing Company

Stop by Guadalupe Mountain Brewing Company after a day recreating in Carlsbad for craft beer and a full food menu, including woodfired pizza. They even offer a cauliflower crust alternative. Choose from over a dozen beers on tap, including seasonal brews like Green Chile or Coconut Porter.

PJ&B Rio Café

Located in the old Carousel House, which is now the Pecos River Village Conference Center, PJ&B Rio Café is a must-stop for brunch when exploring the Pecos River Recreation Area. Grab a coffee and one of their popular breakfast burritos and take a moment to gawk at the architecture.


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Temple of the Sun column surrounded by hundreds of stalactites in the Big Room of Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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