7 Great Things to do near Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns is an incredible national park worth a visit. The park is located about a half-hour away from the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The town of Carlsbad has some of its own fun if you have an extra day or two in the area.

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So if you are visiting, make sure to check out other fun things to do near Carlsbad Caverns that will make the whole family happy and, especially in summer, many things that will keep you cool!

I’ll note right now that we did not have time to explore all these awesome things. Had we known there was so much in the area, we may have planned an extra day. My kids love random side attractions like a river flume (#6) much like we enjoyed the largest Pistachio in the world (near White Sands).

So plan ahead with a few extra activities to fill your day with fun with these family-friendly things to do near Carlsbad Caverns.

pinnable image with text "Best things to do NEAR Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico" and background image of a lake at sunset, a small dock in the water, tinted blue sky with a streak of a pink cloud coming near the viewer

Where to Stay in Carlsbad

While there are many great places to stay and camp in Carlsbad, we stayed at the Fairmont. The Fairmont was a typical, clean hotel with free hot breakfast and everything we needed for a quick trip to Carlsbad.

Another great thing about The Fairmont was that is located on the southern end of town, closer to the caverns. This great location cuts off up to 10 minutes of having to drive through town on the day of your National Park visit.

However, the activities listed in this post are located all around the Carlsbad area.

a lake at sunset, a small dock in the water, tinted blue sky with a streak of a pink cloud coming near the viewer

Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay

1. Brantley Lake State Park

33 East Brantley Lake Rd, Carlsbad

For a nice way to cool off on a hot, New Mexico day, take the family to Brantley Lake State Park. Kids will love running around playing on the covered playground. But if you want to be on the water, you can paddle away in a kayak or canoe.

Pack a lunch and have a picnic, or bring a tent and enjoy some of the best camping in Carlsbad.

2. Lake Carlsbad Beach Park (and Recreation Area)

708 Park Dr, Carlsbad

You have choices here! You can cool down by jumping in a pedal boat, walking along the water on the walkways, or really cool down by heading to the swim area and playing in the water.

You can walk along the sidewalks that run down the river, or head to a little island in the middle. A pedestrian walkway will take you to the other side of the river as well!

The beach park is open during the summer months. You’ll find rentals and snack shops nearby for a fun day on the water.

close up of two box turtles walking in straw

Photo Credit: Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, used with permission


3. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park

1504 Skyline Dr

For some unique things to do near Carlsbad Caverns, head to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park.

This is unique in the sense that I’m guessing you’ve never been to a state park quite like this.

At Living Desert, you’ll get to take a walk along a 1.3 mile trail to discover the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan desert. Try and find the sinkholes, gypsum, and various formations that help the animals and plants of the desert survive.

Then, go meet black bears, bison, deer, wolves, and more animals that call the local desert home.

The park also has a visitors center, where you can explore the exhibits and then purchase some of Maggie the bear’s paintings!

This unique state park is full of fun, and comes at just a few dollars per person to enter.

4. Sitting Bull Falls

742 Sitting Bull Falls Rd, Carlsbad

You’ll have to drive a bit to get here (it’s 40 miles from Carlsbad), but located near Carlsbad Caverns is the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area that is sure to give your family a fun time.

Sitting Bull Falls is made of a few waterfalls that reach 150 feet. The water is spring-fed and creates beautifully clear pools at the bottom.

The bottom of the falls isn’t too tough to get to. You can also view the falls from an ADA accessible viewpoint.

If you want to hike to the top and see the spring feeding the drop, that’ll take a little more effort.

If you have younger kids, just stay near the bottom enjoying the falls and snacks at the picnic tables among the tall mountain walls.

The recreation area has a few hiking trails and is open to the public on Thursday-Monday.

For $10 per car, you’ll get access to this beautiful area.

5. Carlsbad Waterpark

708 Park Dr, Carlsbad

Yet another great water activity, this one is sure to be one of the kids’ favorites. No hiking. No desert. Just fun.

This is a kid’s paradise. Older kids will love the bigger waterslides while younger kids will appreciate the zero entry kids play area.

The whole family can jump in and float along in the lazy river.

Carlsbad Waterpark is a great way to cool down on a hot summer day.

This waterpark is seasonal and open through Labor Day weekend.

large concrete flume over dry grasses.  Flume has 3 arches in picture and flat on top.

Photo Credit: C Hanchey on Flickr

6. Pecos River Flume

2309 Westride Rd, Carlsbad

If you have kids that appreciate interesting or unique stops, then you must stop at the Pecors River Flume.

What exactly is that?

The flume was originally constructed of wood in 1890, but washed away by 1902. It was reconstructed with concrete in 1903, making it the largest concrete structure in the world (at the time).

The flume is used to carry water from the Pecos River into areas that need irrigation. However, the flume carries the water across the Pecos River.

Because of this wild intersection, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not featured it as the River That Crosses Itself. Where else can you see something like that?!

large mountain in back with "Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Guadalupe Canyon" sign in the foreground and a brownish red rail protecting a drop off

Photo by Gower Brown on Unsplash

7. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

400 Pine Canyon Drive, Salt Flat TX

Just under an hour from Carlsbad, NM and just 30 minutes from the caverns is another national park.

While technically in Texas, this is still a very close and fun things to do near Carlsbad Caverns that is worth a visit. In fact, of the 10 tallest mountain peaks in Texas, 8 of them are within Guadalupe.

Guadalupe Mountains is a sponge reef full of fossils amid a very biodiverse area. Below you’ll be walking in the desert, and 3,000 feet higher you’ll be among the forest.

If you just plan a little day trip from Carlsbad, then you won’t be able to immerse in the park as much, but you’ll still get a great taste of the area.

For limited time, try walking the 2.3 mile Smith Spring trail. It’s a loop that takes you through the wilderness along a flowing spring.

You can also visit the Salt Basin Dunes. While these may remind you of White Sands National Park, the Salt Basin Dunes are within Guadalupe. They are a result of millions of years of shifting and water evaporation, leaving just gypsum and salt.

Things to do near Carlsbad Caverns

While it may seem like Carlsbad is a ways out from anything, there are actually a lot of great activities in the area. Whether you are looking to cool down from a hot New Mexico day at the water park or take another National Park adventure to Guadalupe Mountains, there are plenty of fun things to do near Carlsbad Caverns without having to go too far.

So plan your next trip with an extra day to get a feel for the Carlsbad area and enjoy all the activities near Carlsbad Caverns for when you are done exploring the caves.

Explore New Mexico:

Check out What To Do in Albuquerque

The Best Places to go in Santa Fe (and check out this self-guided walking tour of Santa Fe)

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