Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail is Short, Steep and Beautiful

After spending the morning at Carlsbad Caverns, we decided to hike the Slaughter Canyon Cave trail in the afternoon. The trailhead is about 18-miles south of the caverns but still inside the boundaries of the national park.

Interestingly, we learned about this hike from a total stranger who we met at the Carlsbad Cavern National Park entrance sign. There was a crowd of people waiting to take pictures of the sign when Gail struck up a conversation with a lady from Florida. She had hiked the Slaughter Canyon Cave trail a day earlier and recommended it to us.

The Hike to Slaughter Canyon Cave

When we arrived at the trailhead, Gail and I were a bit confused. We couldn’t recall if the woman we spoke to mentioned hiking to the cave or not. There are actually two different hikes with nearly the same name. The hike we took to the CAVE is a 1-mile round trip with a steep incline.

Those who want to explore inside the cave at the top are required to make reservation. For us, the hike was the main attraction and the only reason we were there.

The trail started its steep upward incline to the top immediately. Our legs picked a comfortable pace as we pushed our bodies up the mountain. The loose rock path did not seem to be particularly well maintained but it did not bother either of us much.

A half mile later we reached the closed cave. To make sure no one entered the cave without permission, the entrance was reinforced with a steel gate that looked like a jail cell with a paddle lock.

From this vantage point, the view of the Guadalupe Mountains was fantastic. We sat on the rock ledge for a short break and quietly admired the beautiful landscape in front of us.

The hike down was uneventful as we navigated our way down the loose rocks. Our best advice on this hike is to be sure to wear good hiking shoes that grip. Having good footing is more important going downhill than uphill. Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail is a short hike but a steep one. Coming down the mountain could be alarming to someone who fears heights.

A review on the hiking website All Trails sums up this hike well:

For starters, it’s BEAUTIFUL! but whoever said it was steep and a little scary for someone who is afraid of heights was underestimating. The last 1/3 is VERY steep, has very unsure footing due to washout and is pretty high. I cried a little during the initial descent back down Imao. Please wear good shoes and bring water!

Lauren Voldahl

For other posts on other desert hikes, click the links below:

Hiking In Arches National Park

The Exhilarating Hike to Angels Landing is Special

Peekaboo Trail at Canyonlands is Remarkable

Amazing Splendor at Bryce Canyon

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