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Kings Palace – Carlsbad Caverns National Park
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Overview
Location

Near Carlsbad, New Mexico

Sights

Many incredible and beautiful cave formations. Many large rooms.

Distance

1 mile roundtrip

Parking Lot Elevation

4424 ft

Summit Elevation

3594 ft

Elevation Gain/Loss

830 feet below the surface

Time Required

1.5-2 hours ranger guided tour

Pets

Not allowed

Fees

Entrance fees required. Also you will need a reservation for Kings Palace which in 2015 it cost $8 per person.

Water Info

Bring bottled water only.

Best Season

All

Hours

Open daily, except

Sun Exposure

No sun exposure

Trail Condition

Concrete paths, switchbacks and more. The trail is steep at times and you will eventually climb the equivalent of an 8 story hill but if you take your time you will be just fine.

Restrooms

Yes. Underground at the Lunch Area and at the surface in the visitor center

Visitor Center

Yes, at the surface

Camping

Only backcountry camping allowed, all other camping can be done in the city of Carlsbad.

Food

You are not allowed to bring food in the caves but there is a small lunch area below the surface where you can purchase salads and sandwiches.

Equipment

Bring a flashlight, light sweater, bottled water.

GPS Coordinates:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park: 32.175386°, -104.444191°

Trail Map

Just follow the Green trail for the Kings Palace guided tour

Map of the Kings Palace guided tour

Map of the Kings Palace guided tour


Driving Directions



The Trail:

Please note: children under four years of age are not permitted on the Kings Palace tour.  Please contact Carlsbad Caverns National Park if you have any questions.

Carlsbad Caverns has many areas for you to explore on your own through an interpretive trail.  The Kings Palace however is one of the few areas that requires a reservation and a ranger guide in order to explore.

We began our tour by going down the elevator shaft, which is located in the visitor center, that drops more than 700 feet below the surface to the Rest Area and Lunch Room (see park map).  The Lunch Room has several items for purchase including drinks, sandwiches and salads with lots of tables for dining.  There is also a drinking fountain and restrooms located in the same proximity.

Getting ready to go down the 700+ feet elevator shaft

Getting ready to go down the 700+ feet elevator shaft! Some of us were scared! I won’t say who…

At the bottom of the shaft there are these signs...

At the bottom of the shaft there are these signs…

There is also a small gift shop area which is kinda cool to check out.

The gift shop area which has DVDs, clothing, helmets, flashlights and more

The gift shop area which has DVDs, clothing, helmets, flashlights and more

The Lunch Room

The Lunch Room

This view is looking back at the Lunch Room and Rest Area

This view is looking back at the Lunch Room and Rest Area

This is the hallway to the restrooms

This is the hallway to the restrooms – I thought it looked really cool!

We had reservations to visit Kings Palace by about 10:30 am.  We weren’t really sure where to meet since it was so dark and there weren’t any signs pointing us to a meeting location so we just hung around the lunch room area until we heard a ranger’s voice shout from behind us, “10:30 Kings Palace tour!”

There were about 80 of us in total and we followed the ranger to the far edge of the lunch area and he gave us a little orientation and what to expect from Kings Palace.  After the introduction and orientation we followed him down the trail to where the junction is located.  Looking around the rest of the people on the tour, I was quite surprised by the variety of people.   There were very young children and even senior folks in their 70s who came along for the adventure!

Note: I would highly recommend you bring a flashlight.  Even though, all of the caverns have lighting (and emergency lighting) we enjoyed the tour much more with our own flashlight.  No offense to the ranger but he carried a flashlight too but his was weak.

Heading down to the Kings Palace

Heading down to the Kings Palace

Just at the entrance to the Kings Palace

Just at the entrance to the Kings Palace

This is the location where the ranger checked our reservation tickets.

Kings Palace

The trail winds around and eventually makes a giant loop back to the starting point

The trail winds around and eventually makes a giant loop back to the starting point

Kings Palace

Kings Palace

The graffiti you see below is from some of the first people to explore the cave.  They left markings so they could remember what areas they explored and more importantly, how to get out.

Kings Palace

The Kings Palace is a very large room that rises a hundred feet or so.  It is incredible to see in person and it is even more inspiring once you hear the history behind this part of the cave.

The ranger had been carrying a small candle lantern the entire time so he could turn off the lights in several locations to show what it would be like to explore the cave back when it was first discovered.  It was really cool to see some of the rooms with just a candle.  Don’t worry, the ranger makes sure everyone is sitting down before turning off the lights, then he shares a quick story, flips on the lights again and you continue down the trail.

Jim White who was the first person to explore the cave, came down with only matches and a small lantern.  At first he was scared and gave names to formations and rooms such as “Devil’s Room” and “Devil’s Path”. But once he came to this room called Kings Palace, a change came upon him.  He started to see the cave as a beautiful creation and not something to be afraid of.   Instead of naming rooms and formations with the word devil, he named the places as Kings Palace, Queens Chamber, Rock of Ages and Temple of the Sun – a lot more inspiring!

Here is Kings Palace

Here is Kings Palace

The other side of Kings Palace

The other side of Kings Palace

We continued on down to the Papoose room and the Queens Chamber.

Papoose Room

Papoose Room

Papoose Room

Papoose Room

Kings Palace

Queens Chamber

Queens Chamber

Kings Palace

Queens Draperies

Queens Draperies

Kings Palace Kings Palace Kings Palace Kings Palace Kings Palace

We eventually made our way back to the starting point and finished up the tour.  It is near impossible to get on camera just how incredible these caverns and formations truly are.   The only way to experience it is to come here and discover for yourself.


The Return:

You can now either explore The Great Room or head back to the Lunch Room and go up the elevator shaft.


Personal Thoughts:

I came to Carlsbad Caverns with little to no idea on what to expect.  I purposely did not look up too much information about it because I wanted to experience it in my own way – and I’m glad I did.  Kings Palace is one of those adventures that I will never forget.  I still can’t get over the fact that we were 800+ feet underground and all of this incredible stuff exists down here, silently, in the dark.  You must make a trip to see Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

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Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! JeffTJohnson@ymail.com

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