Two unique vacation destinations in southern New Mexico are Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Monument. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is twenty seven miles south of Carlsbad, NMin the Chihuahuan Dessert and the Guadalupe Mountains. Jim White is credited for finding this site of three hundred caves in 1898. Carlsbad Caverns has one of the largest stalactites and stalagmites caves in the world called the Big Room. It is possible to walk in to the Big Room or take an elevator to it. Other moderately accessible sites at Carlsbad Caverns are the Kings Palace, the New Mexico Room, the Queen’s Chambers, and the Green Lake Room. Look for intriguing features named Witch’s Finger, Rock of Ages, and Iceberg Rock. Take a guided or self-guided tour through the caverns in the morning and return at dusk to see the bats fly out of the cave. Strollers are not allowed. The weather is always 56 degrees in the caverns so dress appropriately and wear comfortable shoes with nonskid rubber soles since the path may be wet. It is possible for family members over twelve to crawl through some of the less spacious caves such as the Hall of the White Giant with a reservation. The family will also enjoy the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in Carlsbad, NM. Here the family can see plants and animals native to the Chihuahuan Dessert such as prickly pear cactus, cholla, sotol, and agave.
Drive 126 miles west of Carlsbad on U.S. 62 to Alamogordo, NM. Spend the day at the White Sands National Monumentseventeen miles away on U.S. 70. White Sands is the world’s largest deposit of white gypsum sand. Bring sleds and inner tubes and a picnic. The family will enjoy sledding down the sand dunes. There are four types of dunes at White Sands. You can play on low dome-shaped dunes, crescent shaped barchan dunes, long ridges of transverse dunes, and parabolic dunes. There are four marked trails at White Sands. The drive around White Sands totals eight miles. Gypsum does not convert the sun’s energy into heat so these white sands are always cool to the touch and can be walked on in bare feet even in the hot summer months when the sun is blazing. Be sure to visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History on your second day in Alamogordo. Visit a space capsule, see an astronaut suit, and eat space ice cream at the museum.