Stretch your legs on an interpretive trail, or wander through quiet backcountry canyons, on one of these above-ground day hikes in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.Less
This national park is of course famous for its caves, but Carlsbad offers a stunning and solemn backcountry experience for hikers above the ground as well. While some of the park’s most well-known trails are short in length or within the caverns themselves, others wander quiet canyons lined with stunning views, beautiful plant life, and scattered relics left by native peoples who previously inhabited the area.
The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail is both the shortest and easiest hike in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This path that starts near the visitor center is mostly paved, completely accessible, and offers trailside signage highlighting regional flora and fauna. Plantlife such as juniper, prickly pear cactus, sotol, and mesquite paint the dull landscape. Wildlife such as bighorn sheep, coyotes, mountain lions, and even black bears roam wild in the surrounding hills.
The backcountry route up Yucca Canyon offers solitude and splendor aplenty. On a typical day in March, it is likely that your only encounters will be with desert bighorn sheep, lizards, and birds. Yucca Canyon is much narrower than other canyons in the area, providing a more intimate experience than some of the park’s better-known destinations.
This is a short yet difficult hike awarding excellent views of Slaughter Canyon Cave and the surrounding canyon. Entering the cave is only allowed on a guided tour, but the surrounding landscape is also worth seeing. This is one of the classic day hikes in Carlsbad Caverns Natl Park and should not be passed up. With nearly 500 feet of gain in just half a mile, the views looking north into the canyon are spectacular.
The Slaughter Canyon Trail is a rugged backcountry route that connects to the Guadalupe Ridge Trail, a 100-mile National Recreation Trail that follows the spine of the Guadalupe Mountains into Texas. Though overnight camping is not allowed in Slaughter Canyon, this trail can make the start of a multi-day trek into the desert wilderness.