Carlsbad Caverns National Park Fees & Reservations

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a great place to visit both above and below ground, but realistically speaking you don’t go to a national park full of fantastic caverns if you’re not a teeny weeny bit interested in taking a peak do you?

When you enter Carlsbad Caverns National Park you have to pay $6 per adult (kids under 15 years of age are free), and this includes entrance to the park and self guided tours, and is good for up to 3 days. If, however, you want to really get the best out of your visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park you ought to book on a ranger guided tour, and for this you do need to make a reservation.

There are a few ranger led tours to choose from;

  • The Kings Palace Guided Tour – takes you through four of the most highly decorated chambers, approximately 1.5 hour duration. This tour ain’t suitable for children under the age of 4, they’re simply not allowed to go, and anybody who is under the age of 16 years must be accompanied by an adult. The price of the tour is $8 per adult and $4 per child, plus $4 for anyone who holds a senior or access pass. This price is on top of what you’ve got to pay for entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, of course, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get in (same goes for all the rest of the tours too).

  • Left Hand Tunnel Tour – sounds simple enough doesn’t it? It doesn’t sound quite as grand as the Kings Palace tour, but don’t let that fool you. This 2 hour lantern-lit tour is a magical mystery tour of the history of the caverns, the cave pools, formations and fossils. The dirt trails take on the tour are uneven and often slippery. This tour is not suitable for children under the age of 6 year, anybody under the age of 16 years must be accompanied by an adult and everybody should wear good walking shoes. The price of this tour is $7 for adults, $3.50 for children plus senior and access pass holders. Oh, before I forget, you’re not allowed to take a backpack.
  • Slaughter Canyon Cave Tour – sounds like one of those dreadful ‘B’ movies from the 1970’s.  This is a very strenuous, ranger led adventure, there’s no electricity, no modern conveniences, no paved walkways. The trails are slippery, uneven and very narrow in places. It takes around 5.5 hours (8.30am – 2pm) and costs $15 per adult and $7.50 per child, plus senior and access pass holders. This tour is only suitable for children aged 8 years and over. If you want to join this adventure then you’ve gotta’ take four AA batteries with you, you’ve got to have sturdy hiking shoes, your own supply of drinking water, a hat and sunscreen are also recommended. Walking sticks are not allowed inside the cave.

  • Lower Cave Tour – this ranger guided tour is definitely not for the faint hearted. Think knotted rope and sixty feet of ladders . . . and that’s just for starters. If you’re afraid of heights then pick another tour, how about the Left Hand Tunnel, that’s probably more your style. Anyway, this 3 hour tour will cost $20 per adult and $10 per child plus senior and access pass holders. It’s only suitable for children 12 years old or over, and anyone under the age of 16 years must be accompanied by an adult. You’re not permitted to take a backpack but must take four AA batteries plus good hiking boots or sneakers. Just as a note, your clothes and gear has got to be clean otherwise you might be allowed entry into any of the caverns at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

  • Hall of the White Giant – we’re back on those ‘B’ movies again aren’t we? Not really, this 4 hour adventure involves getting down and dirty. There are tight passageways to crawl, slippery climbing to master, ladder climbing, free climbing – if you’re at all afraid of heights or tight spaces then this ranger guided tour is definitely not for you. The cost is $20 per adult, $10 per child over the age of 12, and anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Senior and access pass holders can also join the tour for a fee of $10. You must have sturdy shoes or hiking boots and four AA batteries – the park supply the headlamps, hardhats, gloves and knee pads which are needed when touring the Hall of the White Giant.

  • Spider Cave – okay, enough of the ‘B’ movie jokes – what do you mean I started it? The Spider Cave Ranger guided tour is a cavers paradise, starting off with a leisurely hike before starting all of the crawling and climbing which cavers love so much. This tour is not suitable for anybody who doesn’t like to get dirty, is scared of heights or enclosed spaces. This 4 hour cavers adventure costs $20 for adults and $10 for children (aged 12 and over only). It’s also $10 for anyone who has a senior or access pass. As with many of the other more adventurous tours at Carlsbad Caverns National Park – you must wear hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes, take water and four AA batteries. The hardhats, headlamps, gloves and knee pads will be provided for you.

Lots of different crawling techniques, squiggling, squirming, wriggling . . .

Camping at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

It may seem like a long way to the top of the page, but I did mention that Carlsbad Caverns National Park is also a fascinating place above the ground. Many people like to visit the park to hike, camp and enjoy the great outdoors. The only place you’re allowed to camp at Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the back country for which you’ll need a back country permit. These permits are free and available at the visitor center.

It’s important that you follow these rules if you want to camp at Carlsbad Caverns National Park;

  • There are places you can camp, and places where it is not permitted. You are only permitted to camp west of the Rattlesnake Canyon trail head which is just off the Desert Scenic Loop Road, to the south of the Guadalupe Ridge Trail to the boundary of the park for around two miles camping is permitted on the north and south of the trail.
  • Your campsite must be located a minimum of 100 feet from established trails, at least 300 feet from a cave entrance or water source, and at least half a mile from a road or parking lot.
  • The maximum number of people permitted in a back country camping group is 10. If there are more than 10 in your group then you will have to hike to separate areas to camp, at least a quarter of a mile apart.
  • You are permitted to stay for a maximum of seven consecutive nights.
  • RV or vehicle camping is strictly prohibited at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.