I know what you’re thinking.

What’s in New Mexico?

It’s not what’s in New Mexico, it’s what’s under New Mexico that should have you racing to schedule a trip there as soon as possible.

Caves.

Jaw-dropping caverns that contain the seventh largest chamber in the world.

Who knew that under this facade lie some of the worlds most amazing caverns.

 We RVed at the KOA in Artesia, NM which is a halfway point between Roswell and Carlsbad. There are very few parks to camp in near Carlsbad but this one is clean and offered lots of space between lots.

The caves are located in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is in the Guadalupe Mountains in the Chihuahuan Desert, and like many other national parks, offer several Fee-free days/weekends situated around national holidays. Choosing a fee-free weekend is helpful to the budget if you want to take any special tours…which you do. Trust me.

We sprung for the audio tour which helped Youngest stay engaged during the hours of hiking. We entered through the Natural Entrance which they claim should take 1 hour to hike. We walked pretty fast and it still took us an hour and a half. I’m not sure you would see anything if you were walking fast enough to complete the 1.25 mile hike that sends you 750 feet below the surface in only an hour.

Natural Entrance

We took the elevator back up to the surface for a picnic lunch and then made the descent in the elevator again. We spent the next two hours hiking around The Big Room, a 357,480 sq. ft. chamber that will leave even your kids speechless.

Big Room
Big Room
Big Room

Most of the ranger-guided tours were full during the fee-free weekend, so it’s important to book your tours online. They offer every kind of tour you can imagine from your young family to your adventurers, just be sure to check the age and ability requirements before booking. We waited to take the Kings Palace Tour until our second day, after which we completed the Walnut Canyon Desert Scenic Drive.

A chamber in the Kings Palace.
A view from the Walnut Canyon Drive.

The park rangers offer the Junior Ranger program as well as lesson plans for teachers and learning material for kids.

We made another stop at the Living Desert Zoo and had fun getting up close to local wildlife and landscape. The zoo also houses a small natural museum of sorts and a selection of bones, fossils, horns, and the such for kiddos to hold and handle.  

We spent a free evening at a historical two-theater movie house on the square in Artesia. The town has loads of free art and sculpture lining the streets.

If you have a week to spare, you could easily combine this trip with  one to Guadalupe National Park and Fort Davis, Texas.