3 Best Hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Overview

Ancient seas helped carve cave systems in the limestone of the Guadalupe Mountains to form what is present-day Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Obviously, most visitors to the park come for the self-guided and ranger-guided cave tours and rightfully so. However, the canyons and desert landscape are quite beautiful and hikers should not pass up the opportunity to hit the trails! Below I’ve listed the 3 hikes in Carlsbad Caverns that you’ll want to try.

StateNew Mexico
Nearest Metro AreaEl Paso, TX
Area Size46,766 acres
EstablishedMay 14, 1930
Hiking Trails52 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Rattlesnake Canyon Trail
Rattlesnake Canyon
Rattlesnake Canyon, Photo by CarlsbadCavernsNPS

Although there are not many hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, this is one that you won’t want to miss if you’re interested in checking out the desert landscape. The trail descends into a side canyon before leading you to the larger Rattlesnake Canyon. There is an old homestead from the 1930s along the way as well. The trailhead is located on Desert Loop Road about 2 miles from the Visitor Center.

  • 6.0 miles out and back
  • 600′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Yucca Canyon Trail
Yucca Canyon
Yucca Canyon, Photo by CarlsbadCavernsNPS

A steep first 1.5 miles will lead hikers up a side canyon to the top of the ridge. The trail continues until it reaches a sheer drop and view into Big Canyon. This is also one of the only trails in the park where you’ll pass through a pine forest. The trailhead is located at the end of a dirt road near the park’s south boundary.

  • 14.5 miles out and back
  • 1550′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Juniper Ridge Trail
The Chihuahuan Desert and mountains along the Juniper Ridge Trail, Photo by NPS

A good chance to see some of the diverse desert plant life, this trail takes you to the park’s border before hikers turn it back or ‘bush-wack’ it to where they started. Hikers can also continue a couple miles further once they get to the boundary until they reach a canyon overlook. The trailhead is located on Desert Loop Road about 1 mile past mile marker 15.

  • 2.2 miles out and back
  • 450′ elevation gain
  • Easy

Featured Image: Carlsbad Giant Dome, Photo by Christian Collins

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on:

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