Sooner or later we'll once again be able to enjoy visits to parks around the country, and while we're waiting, we can start to compile a list of potential activities in NPS areas. If you'd enjoy a challenging, ranger-guided trip into part of a "wild" cave, the Spider Cave Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park may be just what you've been looking for.
It's important to know right up front this isn't a leisurely stroll through an artificially-lighted cave to ooh and aah at the pretty formations. There are, in fact, some beautiful formations in Spider Cave, but make note of the trip's description: "It's one of the most strenuous tours offered at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Visitors on the tour will belly crawl, chimney over pits, and resign themselves to lots of stooping."
This Tour Is a Great Introduction to "Real Caving"
Descriptions of the tour on various websites say this trip is a great introduction to "real caving," but they emphasize it's not a trip for anyone who is claustrophobic, has a fear of heights, isn't in good physical condition, or objects to getting dirty. There will be some serious crawling through tight spaces to get from Point "A" to "B" .... and back, and it's a half-mile hike through the desert to and from the cave entrance.
According to the park staff, "The rewards, however, are fantastic!" If all that sounds appealing, but you just don't care for insects, don't let the name of this trip put you off. Spider Cave apparently got its name from the harmless "daddy-longlegs" that were abundant here when the passage was first discovered; you're not likely to see many these days, except perhaps near the entrance.
Check After the Park Reopens to See If Tours Have Resumed
Prior to the shutdown, tours were being offered every Sunday at 1 p.m., so check the park website at this link once that service, and the park, are back up and running, to see if the tours have resumed.
Required equipment—helmet, headlamp, gloves, and knee pads—are provided for participants, but you'll need to bring AA alkaline batteries for your headlamp. You can get details when your reserve a place on a tour, and it's important to do so well in advance. The tours sell out early, and are limited to a maximum of eight people. Back in September, the cost of the four-hour tour was $20 ($10 ages 12-15 and Senior Pass holders).
Think you'd be interested? For a good overview of the Spider Cave Tour, check out the following short video.