Top 12 Things to Do in Carlsbad After You Visit the Caverns
Woman golfer in front of water. Golfing is one of the many things you can enjoy in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a must-see experience, at least once in your life. But if all you do is see the caverns, you’ll miss out on the pleasures and treasures of the City of Carlsbad.

Here are 12 things you can do in Carlsbad to make your visit truly unforgettable.

The caverns are underneath the Guadalupe Mountains. But there’s a lot of natural beauty in and around the mountains themselves.

Drive the Backcountry Byway

One: If you like being outdoors, you can drive the Guadalupe Backcountry Scenic Byway, beginning 12 miles north of Carlsbad. The road ascends about 3,000 feet through cream-colored limestone outcrops, dotted with prickly pear and spiny evergreen sotol.

Two: The highway takes you into the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which has the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, an environmentally diverse collection of flora and fauna, and stories of the Mescalero, the Butterfield Overland Stage, and the men who made the park.

Sitting Bull Falls is one of the many things to do near Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Be sure to visit Sitting Bull Falls when you’re in Carlsbad. Photo courtesy City of Carlsbad.

Take a dip at Sitting Bulls Falls 

Three: The byway also directs you to the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area. Take a dip at the waterfall or hike one of the many trails in the area. Then enjoy a picnic at one of the historic shelters.

Ride. Ride. Ride. Mountain Bike La Cueva Trails

Four: Ride your mountain bike, your horse, or just hike the La Cueva Non-Motorized Trail System of more than 15 miles of maintained trails. It’s a mountain-biking challenge for all levels of riders. Or simply walk a quiet trail to enjoy desert plants, wildlife, and birds.

See Chihuahuan Desert animals and plants at the zoo

Five: Learn more about the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Here you’ll find more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. You can take the walking tour, with its excellent views of the Pecos River valley. Shady benches, restrooms, and drinking fountains along the route make this a very civilized hike!

Sculpture entitled "Facts of Life" outside the Carlsbad Museum.
Sculpture entitled “Facts of Life” outside the Carlsbad Museum. Photo by Cheryl Fallstead.

Enjoy exploring Carlsbad history and art

Six: The Carlsbad Museum was founded in 1931 as a cultural and educational institution. It collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets artifacts, documents, and works of art relating to the prehistory of Carlsbad, the surrounding communities of southeastern New Mexico, and the greater American Southwest.

Seven: If it’s art you crave, you’ll find plenty in Halagueno Arts Park. Works by local sculptors and artists reflect the spirit of Carlsbad. Sculptures of a roadrunner, coyote, box turtles, cottontails, and more stand guarded by the Emerald Dragon, a scrap-metal sculpture.

Eight: These and other art installations are all part of the Pearl of the Pecos Arts and Culture District. Carlsbad is a rural community, and the “Pearl” is centrally located, walkable, and considered the “heart of Carlsbad” as the area is populated with locally owned art galleries, creative businesses, restaurants, and boutique hotels.

Play a round of golf

Nine: Golfers will find an 18-hole Championship course at Lake Carlsbad Golf Course. It features a 6,220-yard fairway on a 72-par course. Golfers can also tee off on the nine-hole, par 3 course. Not ready for the big time? Check out the new miniature golf course!

Play around in the lake

Ten: Brantley Lake State Park is best known for water recreation. You can enjoy boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, water skiing, hiking trails, exceptional bird watching, developed and primitive campsites, and restrooms with showers. Cast your line and you can expect to land largemouth bass, white bass, walleye, channel catfish, trout, sunfish, bluegill, and crappie.

Eleven: Be sure to visit Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area where you can explore miles of scenic park trails along the Pecos River. The park area includes splash pads, pickleball, tennis, volleyball, paddleboat rental, and a seasonal waterpark.

Lake with boat dock in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Sure, it’s the desert, but Carlsbad has plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water. Photo courtesy the City of Carlsbad.

A slide for every family member

Twelve: For family enjoyment, sample the water slides, lazy river, and zero-entry children’s play area at the Carlsbad Water Park.

Don’t forget the Pecos River Flume

Thirteen: And before you head home, make a stop at the Pecos River Flume, the river that crosses itself. The 497-foot-long flume once carried 9,000 gallons of water a second in an aqueduct across the river to irrigate semi-arid farmland. A century after it was featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the flume is no longer used for irrigation, but it’s still there … crossing itself.

Read more about Carlsbad here!

Read 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Carlsbad here.

Story by Bud Russo • Courtesy photos


This story sponsored by the CITY OF CARLSBAD


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