The Best List of Caves in New Mexico
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Do you have any fascination with caves? Many people are obsessed with cave exploration as they believe that caves offer a glimpse into a completely different world, whether it is underground or within a mountain.
New Mexico welcomes you to some of the most impressive caves in the US, from underground ice caves to hand-carved sandstone caves. So, if you are into spelunking, New Mexico will be a dream destination for you.
The Top Caves to Visit in New Mexico
When you explore the caverns and caves in New Mexico, you open a window into the state’s natural history and cultural heritage. The underground wonders of New Mexico can be appreciated by those who are eager to trek underground or traverse vigorous hikes in remote areas. You can enjoy exploring the caves, which are said to be the jewels of the ground, or enjoy a walk above the ground and admire the natural beauty.
The top caves in New Mexico would be –
- Fox Cave
- El Malpais National Monument
- Conkling Cavern
- Carlsbad Caverns
- Burnet Cave
- Bandera Volcano Ice Cave
- Snowy River Cave
- Shelter Cave
- Sandia Cave
- Pendejo Cave
- Lechuguilla Cave
- Ra Paulette’s Hand Carved Caves
- Jornada Bat Caves
Visiting each cave in the state would be an arduous task. We suggest that you see the best caves that the state has to offer. For your ready reference, let’s break this down a bit and group the caves under different categories. It is vital to be equipped with proper gear for visiting the caves and always carry at least two to three light sources for your safety.
Best Caves in New Mexico
Let’s focus on the most popular and famous caves of New Mexico!
Ice Caves in New Mexico
Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano
The Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano is a private attraction in NW New Mexico along the Continental Divide. An admission fee is charged here but you are allowed to check out both the ice cave and the volcano so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
The Bandera Volcano erupted 10,000 years and visitors today can go to the top of the ancient caldera for some breathtaking views. The Ice Cave is in a collapsed lava tube in the vicinity of the volcano. The temperature here never crosses 31 degrees F, thereby creating an ecosystem that is worth the trip.
Bat Caves in New Mexico
When we speak of deep caves can the bats be far behind? Yes, in New Mexico, we have a couple of caves that are home to a considerable bat population. It is time for us to check those out.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns in the Guadalupe Mountains are the most well-known cave in New Mexico. Inside the cavern, you will come across the Big Room, a huge limestone chamber that is almost 4000 ft long making it the 5th largest cave chamber in the US. But what makes Carlsbad Caverns special is the bat population spanning a whopping 17 species!
Every spring, 400,000 Brazilian free-tail bats migrate to these caverns. During the day, they hide in these caverns and start to exit the caverns in droves as the sun sets in. There is an evening bat program for the visitors, but one needs to call up the park as the timings of this program changes with the time of sunset. No fee is charged for this.
Jornada Bat Caves
The Jornada Bat Caves located in the Southern region of the state is home to the Mexican free-tailed bats, which are fully protected. These bats occupy the caves from March to October, and the maternal colony is more than 100,000. There are seven other species of bats at the Jornada Cave site, including the spotted bat and Allen’s big-eared bat.
Apart from these species, millions of other bats use the caves as a stop-over during their migration period. The authorities take extra care to ensure that Jornada caves receive minimum disturbance.
Check out other caves by state
Carved Caves in New Mexico
New Mexico has many incredible landscapes, but the amazing hand-carved cave is astonishingly beautiful, and you should come here at least once.
Ra Paulette’s Hand-Carved Caves
Not many people are aware that New Mexico is home to the most beautiful works of art. The stunningly beautiful hand-carved caves were constructed by the renowned artist Ra Paulette. He has been creating natural caves for the last 25 years, including close to dozen fantasy-like caves in the deserts of New Mexico. What makes these artistic caves incredible is that they are carved by hand.
Although this craft is not a money-making one, he enjoys creating these caves as part of his spiritual experience. Most of his caves are inaccessible to the public as they are made on private lands. The private tours of these hand-carved caves are a life-changing experience, and it is an experience that you will never find anywhere.
Indian Caves in New Mexico
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
The cliff dwellings that you see today were built in the 1200s. The Pueblo people usually built their homes in the open and in the caves. The Mogollon people built their homes in the natural caves between 1260 CE and 1280 CE. Archaeologists claim that around ten families lived in these dwelling for at least one generation.
They were hunters and gathers but had also taken up farming in their daily lives. The farms were found on the banks of the Gila River.
Ancient Caves in New Mexico
The Lechuguilla Cave, at 242 km, is the 8th longest cave in the world. It also holds the distinction of being the 2nd deepest in the US. The cave is mainly known for its rare formations and unusual geology. The cave is named after the canyon through which one must enter. Access to the cave is limited as entry is only allowed for the exploration team, scientific researchers, and trips of the National Park Service.
Mining Caves in New Mexico
Humans have been living in the cliff dwellings of New Mexico for many centuries, and it allows caving explorers to view fossils.
The Fox Cave is a unique roadside attraction that first opened in the 1950s. As per folklore, Billy the Kid used it as a hideout, and Geronimo camped here. When you look at the cave’s ceiling, you will find that it is covered with soot from the fire that was once lighted in the cave when the people sheltered here.
There is a gift shop here that displays many items of particular interest. The adults will love the chance to hunt for mines at the Flume mine. There are numerous gemstones just waiting to be found, such as garnet, citrine, and aquamarine.
Pueblo Caves in New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument
The 33,677-acre national monument preserves the homes of the ancestral Puebloans and is located near Los Alamos. Most of the Pueblo structures that are located here date between 1150 to 1600 AD. There are many beautiful hiking trails around, but the unique feature is the cave dwellings. There are several rock paintings, kivas, and petroglyphs inside the Frijoles Canyon.
While some of the dwellings were on the canyon floor, others were in the volcanic voids of the canyon walls. The Painted Cave deserves special mention as it is a stunning piece of art. It has a beautiful pictograph panel in the lower end of the Capulin Canyon. However, the downside is that reaching the cave is not an easy task. One needs to endure a strenuous 11-mile hike to get to these caves.
Sand Caves in New Mexico
The Tree Cave
The cave has been singlehandedly created by Robert Paulette, the artist who created this fantastic cave out of soft sandstone. The entrance to the cave is long and narrow, and as you pass through this, you will find yourself in a massive chamber with a ‘tree trunk’ column in the center. The ceiling of this cave is so high that you might feel that you are in a cathedral.
There are plenty of carvings on the ceilings and walls of this cave that are truly amazing. It is a different kind of art as you can walk around inside it, touch and feel it even. The Tree Cave, no doubt, is a special place, and everyone should experience it at least once.
Salt Caves in New Mexico
Are you trying to find ways to rejuvenate yourself from a hectic holiday season? Then it would help if you came to New Mexico’s main salt cave that gives you enough reasons to relax in a quiet environment.
Santa Fe Salt Cave
The Santa Fe Salt Cave is a tranquil health center that is different from all the health spas you have been to till now. The unique feature of this health spa is that it uses halotherapy – a special form of health treatment that focuses on breathing salty air.
Followers of halotherapy strongly believe that the therapy sessions help you get relief from ailments like asthma and seasonal allergies. The exterior of the salt cave is humble looking, but as you enter the spa, you will feel that all your tension has dissipated from your body. The walls and floors of the cave are adorned with Himalayan Pink Salt, the lights are dimmed, and soothing music plays from the speakers.
The staff members will lead you to a zero-gravity chair, where you will be asked to settle in for the 45-minute session. You will come across a small gift shop in the salt cave where you will get candle holders and bath bombs.
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