Way down under

At New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns, descend into a world of mystery

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park is 27 miles south of Carlsbad, New Mexico, on U.S. 62/180. The nearest major airport is El Paso, Texas, 150 miles west of the park. The park has a restaurant ($); Carlsbad has motels and restaurants. For a trip planner, contact the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce  (505/887-6516).

The temperature within Carlsbad Cavern is 56° ; a light jacket and rubber-soled shoes are recommended for cave tours. Above- ground, dress for the high Chihuahuan Desert: June's high averages 91°, with a low of 64°.

Plan your visit by contacting the park  (505/785-2232). Hall of the White Giant and Spider Cave tours run once weekly and may fill up two months in advance; Lower Cave tours run more frequently. Tour fees range from $7 to $20 plus $6 park entrance fee, and difficulty varies: Some excursions require gloves, kneepads, hard hats (provided), and lights (provided, but bring four AA batteries). Don't miss Slaughter Canyon Cave (bring a flashlight), with two daily tours Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. To make tour reservations, contact the National Park Service (800/967-2283).


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