Tour the Left Hand Tunnel in the Carlsbad Caverns

Rate this Adventure Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center

Explore a section of the caverns by candlelight as Jim White, the founder of the Carlsbad Caverns, explored them.

The Carlsbad Caverns have a self-guided tour sections and a handful of guided tours you have to pay extra for.  For $7 for adults and $3.50 for children, a park ranger puts on an act and even dresses the part of the late Jim White, founder of the Carlsbad Caverns, while taking you on an adventure by candle lantern via the Left Hand Tunnel.  You can either reserve a ticket at the Visitor Center or online at recreation.gov.  Tours fill up fast.  Before you head out with your park ranger you are required to attend an orientation to get your lantern.  The rangers in the Visitor Center will ensure you know where to go, so follow their directions.

I'm unaware of how long the undeveloped, dirt trail is, but it doesn't feel like it's more than a mile each way and takes about 2 hours.  While the NPS described the trail as moderately difficult, I was with a group of 15 people that ranged from 8 years of age to 65+.  Any time you crossed a section that might prove difficult, the park ranger ensured he was there to physically help those who needed assistance.

At first, I thought the park ranger playing as Jim White was a bit hokey and mostly done for kids, but throughout the hike he delivered a lot of fascinating history of Jim White (in first person, of course) and the history of both the Left Hand Tunnel as well as the Caverns in general.

Near the end, the ranger makes everyone blow out their candles one-by-one until only his is left to give you the real sense of how Jim White explored, where he then breaks into some wild stories about the man and his experiences before blowing out his own candle and requesting everyone go silent.  It was a cool experience.

By accident, I wound up being the last person in line on the way out into the tunnel.  That meant on the way back I was first in line.  That's something I would recommend.  You get a very different experience hiking behind everyone's lanterns compared with being at the front.

No bags are allowed and only small cameras.  Unless you have a camera that's great in low light, it's best to just leave it in your car. 

Pack List

  • Hiking boots are required
  • Camera - only if it's great in very low light
  • Comfortable clothing
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Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Groups
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildlife

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