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Camping in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

New Mexico is full of beautiful sights, historic features, and more camping than you’d know how to deal with. Camping in New Mexico, in general, is a whole lot of fun, but camping in (or near) a national park is a whole new experience. In particular, today we’re talking about camping in Carlsbad Caverns National Park and all you need to know.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Subterranean columns in spring-fed pool, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico.

Camping here in Carlsbad is unlike any other national park camping we’ve discussed yet. From their primitive campgrounds to caverns that stretch deep into the earth, this national park is sure to have you feeling one with Mother Nature. 

What to Bring

Before we talk about actually camping in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, we want to make sure you have everything you need to have a successful, comfortable trip. 

While we’d all love to just hop in our cars and go, there is a lot of equipment and gear needed to do camping right. To help you out, below, we’ve discussed what we think to be the best camping gear, clothing, cooking tools, and even emergency equipment. 

Glowing tent at night.

Camping Gear

Carlsbad Caverns is unique in that you cannot go camping there in your RV at all. Because of this, you must come prepared for proper tent camping or backpacking. For tent camping, of course, you will need a high-quality tent that can withstand most weather conditions. 

In New Mexico, you don’t have to deal with a whole of inclement weather, but it is best to come prepared with a tent and sleeping bags that will keep you warm, as well as protected from wind, dust, and sand. 

When going camping, you cannot forget to bring some flashlights and a multi-tool. For your flashlights,  make sure you have extra batteries just in case the ones you have run out of power. You never want to be left out in the wilderness without any source of light, so having these adds a lot of peace of mind. 

Multi-tools, too, ensure that you have every tool you need right in your pocket. Whether it’s a pair of scissors, a knife, or even nail clippers, your multi-tool is there to help you with it all. While camping, this can be a lifesaver. 

Other camping gear like a firestarter, lantern, and map/compass can be extremely helpful during your camping trip as well. 

Camping in Carlsbad Caverns National Park 1
Necessary clothes for hiking

Clothing

Camping in the middle of the wilderness requires you to wear clothing that you may not be used to wearing around the house. While your go-to might usually be jeans and a t-shirt, wearing these out in a national park may leave you exposed to sunburns, cuts, bruises, bug bites, and whatever else Mother Nature might throw at you. 

Instead, invest in form-fitting long-sleeves and protective ankle-length pants to keep your arms and legs protected during even your most adventurous hikes through Carlsbad. 

Don’t forget a proper pair of camping shoes, either. Hiking boots are going to be your best bet to wear while camping in Carlsbad, as they provide much better traction than other types of shoes. Carlsbad is known for their caves and steep rocks, so having shoes that keep you steady will make a world of difference for your trip. 

Finally, you don’t want to forget basic things like your hat and sunglasses. The New Mexico sun can be killer on your skin, especially the back of your neck and face. To avoid this unnecessary pain, grab the sunscreen, put on your sunglasses, and wear your favorite hat.

Cooking Essentials

If you’re camping for a few days, you want to make sure you have the right cooking essentials. You’re more than welcome to bring some prepared foods in your cooler and munch on those, but there’s truly nothing like cooking out in the wilderness. 

In order to do so, though, you need some special cooking essentials. You don’t want to bring your regular pots and pans to your camping trip, otherwise, they might get damaged. Outdoor cooking sets, on the other hand, are made specifically for outdoor use. 

These cooking sets are extra durable and extra compact. You can fit several pots, pans, and utensils all in one set that’s easy to travel with, even out in Carlsbad. You don’t want to forget a portable stove of some sort, either! Or, you can go extra rustic and cook over a fire–just make sure you have a fire starter. 

Emergency Equipment

During a camping trip, you just don’t know what might happen. In order to be as prepared as possible, you should make sure you come packed with proper emergency equipment. 

You never want to go on your camping trip without a quality first aid kit to aid during minor accidents. These comprehensive first aid kits should come packed with thermal blankets, antiseptic wipes, bandaids, gauze, a glowstick, and even more. 

All of these components help give you and your fellow campers extra peace of mind and confidence during your trip to the great outdoors. It’s simply something you cannot leave your house without. Thankfully for you, you can buy full first-aid camping kits to make it easier than ever. 

Where to Camp

We mentioned it earlier, but camping in Carlsbad Caverns National Park is different than camping in a lot of national parks. 

Carlsbad doesn’t offer any modern campsites with RV hookups. The only campgrounds that this national park has are primitive campgrounds that you must have a permit for. But, if you do want to do some RV camping, we’re also giving you some options that are right nearby Carlsbad. 

Primitive Campgrounds

When it comes to actually camping in Carlsbad Caverns, you can only do so in the backcountry. Once you get your permit, you’re free to backpack and set up camp wherever you so please. Obviously, you cannot go camping deep in the caverns themselves, but you can explore near and around the caves until you find the perfect spot. 

Before you head out to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, make sure you’re not planning on bringing and staying in your RV. Those spots simply don’t exist in Carlsbad! In order to camp, you have to get down into nature, pitch a tent, and enjoy the wilderness around you. 

Wherever you stay at Carlsbad, make sure you’re aware of the wilderness around you, as well as the weather the park is expecting to experience. (But, we’ll talk more about those later.)

deep inside Carlsbad Cavern New Mexico
One of the many chambers deep inside Carlsbad Cavern New Mexico

Camping in Nearby Carlsbad

If you’re dead-set on camping in your RV, don’t worry! There are various spots where you can camp in your RV that are near Carlsbad. While they might not be right in the national park itself, these spots are just a few miles away. 

One of our favorite spots to camp is Dark Canyon Dispersed. This spot is less than an hour from the national park and has various spots that are big enough for you to park your RV and set up camp for a few days. This is a dispersed campground, so it is still going to be quite rustic and close-to-nature, but you’ll get some of the most incredible desert views you can imagine. 

There’s absolutely no better place to camp than in the Carlsbad KOA. This campsite is a self-described desert oasis that’s great for the whole family. You can park your RV at one of the many camping sites, or you can pitch your tent, start a fire, and kick back for the night. 

Sights to See

Whenever you’re exploring the beauty of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, there are a few things that you just have to see. Here are just a few. 

Pathway through the Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Pathway through the Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

The Caverns: The Big Room

The Big Room in the heart of Carlsbad Caverns is one of the most spectacular views in the entire national park. This room is a cave full of incredible limestone formations that stretch over 4,000 feet long. In fact, The Big Room is the largest underground chamber in all of North America. 

Once you walk in here, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking scenery of rock formations that you will not find anywhere else. Being underground, you will feel like you’re in a whole new world. Getting down to The Big Room is done totally by yourself, so feel free to explore at your own pace.

Guadalupe Ridge Trail

If you’re looking to do a hike through Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the Guadalupe Ridge Trail is the one to do. The entire trail is an astonishing 100 miles long, letting you explore as much of the Chihuahuan Desert as you’d want. 

The longer you go, the more desert wildlife you’ll get to experience, as well as other incredible New Mexico and Texas views.  For a true Southwestern experience, the Guadalupe Ridge Trail is perfect. 

Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat to keep your skin as protected as possible. Also, ensure you have plenty of water depending on how long you want to wander through this desert landscape. 

waterfalls and creeks at Sitting Bull Falls, NM
The waterfalls and creeks at Sitting Bull Falls, NM.

Sitting Bull Falls

You’ve explored deep dark caves and hiked through miles of beautiful desert. What’s left? Waterfalls, of course. At Sitting Bull Falls, you’ll come across a 150-foot waterfall smack dab in the middle of the desert. 

You can sit and enjoy the picturesque views of the Lincoln National Forest at the nearby picnic tables or go hiking through the 16 miles of trails. The waterfall makes a steep drop 150-feet down below into a canyon that will make you feel like you’re not even in New Mexico. 

Things to Consider

Before you set out to camp in or near Carlsbad Caverns National Park, you have to make sure you consider both the wildlife and the weather in the area. 

Carlsbad Caverns is full of tons of Southwest wildlife that you can relish in, just make sure that you remember that you’re the one in their home. During your trip, you may encounter anything from cougars to coyotes to wolves, bobcats, skunks, and shrews. 

While it is unlikely that you’re going to come across any large mammals face-to-face, you can always bring a pair of binoculars and keep an eye out. With some binoculars, you never know what kind of animals you’ll spot near your campsite. To keep them away at night, make sure you discard all of your food properly and don’t leave anything out for critters to munch on–both for their safety and yours. 

Regarding the weather in Carlsbad, you’ll have to be more concerned about heat than cold weather, though you should be prepared for anything. During the summer months, Carlsbad averages around 90 degrees, while the winters are around 50. The fall and spring seasons bring even better weather, making them the ideal time to visit. There also isn’t a whole lot of rainfall to deal with, either. Regardless, you always want to be prepared! 

Happy Camping!

Now that you’re prepared for camping in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the next step is to get going! Camping in Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an experience that you’ll simply never forget. The incredible desert landscape combined with the magnificent caverns that reach for miles make for a camping trip that is unlike any other.

In case you’re still curious about camping in national parks, Beyond on the Tent has you covered. We’re here to give you all you need to know about camping, whether it is in a national park or just the desert in the backyard. So, what’re you waiting for? Get to camping!

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