Near Carlsbad, New Mexico
Many incredible and beautiful cave formations. Many large rooms.
1 mile roundtrip
830 feet below the surface
1.5-2 hours ranger guided tour
Entrance fees required. Also you will need a reservation for Kings Palace which in 2015 it cost $8 per person.
Bring bottled water only.
Open daily, except
No sun exposure
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.
Yes. Underground at the Lunch Area and at the surface in the visitor center
Yes, at the surface
Only backcountry camping allowed, all other camping can be done in the city of Carlsbad.
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.
Bring a flashlight, light sweater, bottled water.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park: 32.175386°, -104.444191°
Just follow the Green trail for the Kings Palace guided tour
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.
There is also a small gift shop area which is kinda cool to check out.
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.
This is the location where the ranger checked our reservation tickets.
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.
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!
We continued on down to the Papoose room and the Queens Chamber.
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.
You can now either explore The Great Room or head back to the Lunch Room and go up the elevator shaft.
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.