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Carlsbad Cavern's Big Room, formations bathed in colored light.

Like art and s-c-a-r-y movies?

Then you’ll like Carlsbad Cavern’s Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the largest single cave chamber in North America.

Now if you’re an avid caver wanting to climb, wriggle through narrow gaps, and get as dirty as you can get, the Big Room might seem too tame for you. The Spider Cave would be a better choice.

But if both your caving experience and time are limited, the Big Room Trail gives you an overview of the world beneath the Chihuahuan Desert of Southern New Mexico you won’t soon forget.

It’s the ideal choice even if or ESPECIALLY if you have speluncaphobia ~ a fear of caves.

Just looked this word up, by the way. Who knew a word meaning “being inside a cave gives me the heebie-jeebies” could sound so cool? 

Do you have speluncaphobia?

I do.

Yet exploring a cave was on my list of want-to-dos despite the fear. Could be the Big Room’s enormity will both comfort and amaze you as much as it did me.

You’ll be walking a circular path larger than six football fields ~ so there is LOTS of open space.

Plus, there are lights everywhere. You see ahead and around you and into every crook, cranny, and quirky-looking formation along the path.

What a show!

For folks like us, this is the ultimate cave tour with the thrills of our favorite Saturday afternoon horror flick.

Highlights of Carlsbad Cavern’s Big Room

  • Wire rope ladder, last used on a 1924 cave mapping expedition. Seeing it suspended from way up high descending into darkness, you can only imagine: What kind of courage did it take to embark on and complete such an expedition? What kind of vision? What kind of drugs? 
  • Bottomless Pit. Spent more than a few minutes staring into this thing, wondering . . . HOW FAR DOWN does this darkness go? What, exactly, is down there? If, somehow, I ended up down there, would I, could I ever get out?

And what happens when the flashlight gives out?


  • Odd and beautiful formations. Chunky stalagmites growing upwards, icicle-shaped stalactites pointing downwards, many bathed in colored light (as in today’s featured image.) You-will-LUV what the lighting designers have done to the place.

Things to Know Before You Go

    • The Big Room self-guided audio tour takes about 1 and 1/2 hours to complete.
    • On a typical day, you can access the cave on foot or by elevator. If you want to experience both, recommend you walk down and take the elevator back up, particularly if you’ve got little ones in tow. Hiking 750 feet feels a lot better going down than it does going up.
    • Staying overnight in Carlsbad is EXPENSIVE. Lodging is rare and what there is will cost you. So, unless you’ve got big bucks, plan to arrive for your Big Room tour by late morning.
    • Be sure to fill up on gas before leaving Carlsbad. In West Texas and parts of New Mexico, roadways are often empty and service stations far apart.

Have you wanted to make a real-life “journey to the center of the earth?”