Going to Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an experience you won’t want to skip. However, if you only venture into the caves, you’re missing a lot of what the greater Carlsbad area has to offer.
Below is a list of 12 things to do that will make your Carlsbad journey truly exceptional.
1: Outdoor aficionados should take the opportunity to traverse the Guadalupe Backcountry Scenic Byway. The road begins 12 miles to the north of Carlsbad and climbs around 3,000 feet, passing through landscapes of pale limestone, dotted with elements of prickly pear and spiky sotol.
2: This byway also serves as a gateway to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This park is renowned for hosting the globe’s most expansive Permian fossil reef, a diverse range of plants and wildlife, and historical accounts involving the Mescalero tribe, the Butterfield Overland Stage, and the visionaries behind the park’s creation.
Swim at the Iconic Sitting Bull Falls
3: The byway navigates you toward the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area. Here, you have the opportunity to splash in the cascading waters or explore an array of nearby trails. Try to make time for a picnic at one of the historic shelters.
Hike, Pedal, or Ride on La Cueva Routes
4: Whether it’s mountain cycling, horse riding, or hiking you’re interested in, the La Cueva Non-Motorized Trail System offers an extensive 15-mile network of well-maintained pathways. This system accommodates adventurers of all competencies and provides tranquil trails to spot the desert’s vegetation, wildlife, and feathered inhabitants.
Learn About Chihuahuan Flora and Fauna at the Zoo
5: Immerse yourself in the unique ecosystem of the Chihuahuan Desert at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. The park includes more than 40 indigenous species of animals and a comprehensive selection of native desert plants. Take a do-it-yourself walking tour that comes complete with panoramic overlooks of the Pecos River Valley, along with amenities such as shaded resting spots, public restrooms, and drinking fountains.
6: Founded back in 1931, the Carlsbad Museum acts as a center for education and cultural understanding. Its core objective is to collect, safeguard, exhibit, and interpret a range of items, records, and artistic endeavors that are significant to Carlsbad’s history, as well as neighboring locales in southeast New Mexico and the American Southwest.
Carlsbad is home to an array of exciting attractions that make your visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park truly remarkable.
7: Art buffs will find the Halagueno Arts Park to be a treasure trove. This open space is filled with creations from regional artists that capture Carlsbad’s distinctive vibe. Sculptural depictions of local fauna such as box turtles, roadrunners, and coyotes are scattered throughout the park, all under the watchful eye of the Emerald Dragon, a sculpture pieced together from scrap-metal.
8: The art installations mentioned above are a cornerstone of the Pearl of the Pecos Arts and Culture District. Although Carlsbad has a rural character, this area is a walkable, centrally located area is commonly referred to as the “heart of Carlsbad”. Here you’ll find locally owned art galleries, creative businesses, restaurants, and boutique hotels.
9: For those keen on golf, the Lake Carlsbad Golf Course offers an 18-hole Championship track that stretches over a 6,220-yard fairway on a par-72 course. There’s also a nine-hole, par-3 course for a quicker game. If you’re not quite ready for the majors, there’s a brand-new mini-golf course.
10: Brantley Lake State Park is known for its varied water recreation offerings. From boating and angling to kayaking and canoeing, you’ll find it all, including the chance to water ski. Additionally, the park provides hiking opportunities, birdwatching sites, and a mix of developed and back-to-basics camping facilities, all with access to showers. Anglers can expect to hook a variety of fish like largemouth bass, white bass, walleye, channel catfish, trout, sunfish, bluegill, and crappie.
11: You’ll want to explore the Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area, home to a multitude of trails that meander along the picturesque Pecos River. The area is decked out with splash pads, multiple tennis and pickleball courts, volleyball areas, and paddleboat rentals, as well as a seasonal water park.
12: For a fun-filled family day, head over to Carlsbad Water Park, featuring an assortment of water slides, a winding lazy river, and a kid-friendly splash zone designed for the little ones.
13: Before your journey ends, take a moment to see the Pecos River Flume, famously known as the “river that crosses itself.” This 497-foot structure was initially built to move a significant volume of water — up to 9,000 gallons per second — across the river for the purpose of irrigation. Although it’s no longer used for its original purpose, and over a century has passed since it gained fame in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the flume remains, curiously still crossing itself.
Read 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Carlsbad here.