Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns- 6 Great Places to Stop

Intro to Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns-

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New Mexico’ is the’s moniker is the Land of Enchantment, and for good reason! We stopped at many places throughout the state and enjoyed everything about each spot. One of our favorites was Carlsbad Caverns, deep with formations unique to any cave we’ve seen before. We then got on the road to see Albuquerque afterwards.

So whether you are driving from Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns or Carlsbad Caverns to Albuquerque like we did, here’s what you need to know about how to get there and a few fun spots to stop in!

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Transportation from Albuquerque to Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad is the closest major town near Carlsbad Caverns, so these transportation options will get you to Carlsbad.

Bus from ABQ to Carlsbad

The bus is the first option to get from Albuquerque to Carlsbad. Greyhound runs the route just about daily. The bad part is taking the bus requires a longer time commitment as the route takes around 11 hours, taking up an entire day.

Fly from ABQ to Carlsbad

Probably the most expensive option, but if you need a quick transfer from Albuquerque to Carlsbad you can fly on Advanced Air from one to the other. Flying into regional airports can be pricey though.

The flight itself is just over an hour. Factor in arriving early, checking, boarding, and driving to your final destination and it will save just a little time than just driving.

Drive from ABQ to Carlsbad

Driving is really the best and most efficient option. You can rent a car or take your own and head out on your own schedule. The route is only about 4-1/2 hours, much quicker than a bus ride.

I recommend driving. This way you can work around your own schedule, pack as much as you can fit without extra fees, and enjoy some fun stops along the way.

empty 2 lane road with blue skies and just a couple small random clouds, barren on the sides of the road

Driving from Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns

Distance from Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns: 303 miles

Drive time: 4 hours 37 minutes

The quickest way to get from Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns is to jump on I-40 east to 285 south, NM-524 to bypass downtown area of Carlsbad and onto US-62 west down to the caverns.

Of course if you are stopping in Carlsbad for lodging first, don’t bypass the city on NM-524. Stay on 285 instead.

A map of the direct driving route, plus a few optional stops marked near the route

Stops from Albuquerque to Carlsbad

Since the drive is longer, it’s nice to have a few stops to break it up a little, especially if you have kids in the car that need a break.

Albuquerque

Of course you should spend some time exploring all that Albuquerque has to offer. From the famous Taos Pueblo where you can gain cultural appreciation to the Earthship visitor center where you can enjoy the off-grid earth-saving way of life, Albuquerque has a lot to offer.

Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge/Salt Creek Wilderness

Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge is located near highway 285, shortly before you come to Roswell. It’ll be about 3 hours from Albuquerque to Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge.

This is a great stop on the route if you want to get outdoors and enjoy a little nature.

The whole area is over 24,000+ acres and many people enjoy the wetlands that are home to thousands of migratory birds and the sinkhole ponds you can find in the area.

If you visit in the fall, you may get to see the mass migration of over 26,000 sandhill cranes and 50,000 snow geese.

large tan building with flat front and banner signs hanging above entrance with alien faces noting the UFO center

Roswell

Roswell is about 3 hours into your journey from Albuquerque to Carlsbad, making it a great place to get out and take a break from the car.

In 1947 a local rancher claimed to have found a flying saucer on his land. This was the beginning of Roswell as a UFO/alien craze in the town.

Today, you can drive through Roswell and see how the town has adopted all things alien.

The event of 1947 now has a museum and research center you can visit that produces exhibits on anything and everything related to the incident.

For something a little more extraterrestrial, you can do the UFO Spacewalk. This art gallery is all space exhibits lit by black lights.

More traditional activities include visiting the zoo, downtown historic district, or the J Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary.

Bottomless Lakes State Park

About 14 miles south of Roswell you’ll reach Bottomless Lakes State Park. The beautiful lakes here are actually sinkholes and range from 17 to 90 feet deep.

You’ll love the beautiful color of the lakes, which take on a bluish green hue thanks to the plants that live among them.

Lea Lake is toward the southern end of the park and is great for swimming and paddle boarding. You’ll also have your choice of hiking trails from a half-mile to just over 3 miles to enjoy the scenic surroundings.

Summer opens up the rental station where you can get life jackets, paddle boards, or pedal boats.

driving on a road with a car in the distance, and various city items like tall lamp posts and restaurant signs in the distance.

Artesia

Artesia is one of the bigger towns that you’ll go through on your travels from ABQ to Carlsbad. That said, if you need a place to stop, stretch, or use the restroom, this is a great place.

If you want some activities, you can get that in Artesia, too.

Check out the street sculptures, large works of art that all have a story and a place in history in Artesia. It’s a nice way to walk around while having something fun to look for.

Carlsbad

Carlsbad is most likely where you will be staying the night if you plan to go to Carlsbad Caverns.

While the caverns are AH-MAZING, there are plenty of things to do around Carlsbad if you have time.

Nature lovers will love the state parks and the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens to get your fill of nature and animals.

Take the kids to the Carlsbad waterpark, an especially good idea on a hot summer day.

And if you have an extra day in the area, consider packing some snacks and making the short drive to Guadalupe Mountains National Park to get another stamp on that National Parks passport.

4 lane highway with no cars, blue skies with a couple small clouds, brown grasses on the side of the road
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Driving from Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns

The drive from Albuquerque to Carlsbad isn’t too bad. It’s a fairly simple and easy drive, though it takes a few hours. Making some fun stops along the way really breaks up the drive and provides a mini road trip all on its own.

So whether you are into nature or aliens, you’ll be able to find some fun stops from Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns.

Check out the best places to stay in Carlsbad and book ahead of time.

Make your New Mexico Trip Even Better!

Discovering more of New Mexico? Makes sure to stop in Santa Fe and even try out a self-guided walking tour to get the most out of your visit!

Want more New Mexico National Parks? Book a stay at White Sands, and then spend a day exploring this beautiful park!

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