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Slaughter Canyon trails reopen at Carlsbad Caverns

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Beginning Saturday, Nov. 11, the Slaughter Canyon Trails at Carlsbad Caverns National Park will reopen. Overnight camping in the backcountry continues to be closed.

Rangers will be available at the trailhead from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on opening day with informational and educational opportunities. A one-hour guided bird walk through Slaughter Canyon will be offered at 10 a.m. and noon. Binoculars and identification books will be available for visitors to borrow. A ranger will also be stationed at the entrance to Slaughter Canyon Cave to provide interpretive talks about the cave’s geology and historical bat guano mining operation.

“We are pleased to be able to provide visitors with the opportunity to experience the Slaughter Canyon area,” said Superintendent Carmen Chapin. “Visitors can enjoy a variety of plants, wildlife, and mountain scenery in this area of the Chihuahuan Desert.”

The Slaughter Canyon Trail is a 5.3-mile one-way path with an elevation change of 1,850 feet. It is rated as difficult and takes seven hours to hike one-way. The first few miles of this trail follow a rocky wash inside Slaughter Canyon before quickly gaining elevation.

The Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail gains 500 feet in elevation over a rugged half-mile path. The views of Slaughter Canyon are spectacular. Considered a difficult trail, hikers generally take about 45 minutes to go from the parking area to the cave entrance. 

For safety, the park recommends that visitors wear long pants and sturdy hiking boots; bring at least one gallon of water per person, per day; take breaks often; know their limits; and keep at least 100 yards away from all wildlife. More information and trail maps are available at the Visitors’ Center.

In August 2022, heavy rain fell in the park and washed out sections of trails in the backcountry and the unpaved Walnut Canyon Desert Drive. The park continues the process of repairing other trails and areas.

The following backcountry trails and areas remain closed: Yucca Canyon and access road, Guadalupe Ridge (Visitors’ Center to west park boundary), Rattlesnake Canyon, Juniper Ridge, and Ussery and Double Canyon. Other hiking trails near the Visitors’ Center (Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail and Old Guano Trail) are open.

Photo Courtesy NPS / Eymard Bangcoro

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