Underground Lunch Room

Carlsbad Caverns “Underground Lunchroom” is a controversial national treasure that has been shared by generations of visitors. If you’re like many of us, your parents bought you a box lunch here when you were 9 years old, and THEIR parents did the same for them.

Jim White, the discoverer of Carlsbad Caverns, originally sold his self-published Jim White’s Own Story, in the Underground Lunchroom. He used his original guano bucket, the one in which he descended into the caverns, as a stand to hold his books.

Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960's
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960’s
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960's
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960’s
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960's
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960’s
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960's
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom Now
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960's
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom Now
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1960's
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom Now

It is likely that the Underground Lunchroom has been used by at least 50 million people.

Later, the Underground Lunchroom began selling meals and other souvenirs. In the 1950’s lunch counters were installed, and these historic counters are still preserved on one wall of the lunchroom, but they are rarely used.

It is likely that the Underground Lunchroom has been used by at least 50 million people over several decades, though the exact number is impossible to know. In its hey-day it would serve over one million visitors a year. Historic photos show visitors lined up to buy box lunches, drinks, and even cigars. The problem, however, is that so many visitors (even those who don’t smoke cigars) and so many meals are drastically changing the cave ecosystem.

Vintage postcard of Lunchroom Carlsbad Caverns National Park circa 1935
Carlsbad Caverns Underground Lunchroom in 1930’s
Carlsbad Caverns in the 1980s
Underground Lunchroom circa 1980’s

It is still possible to eat in the Caverns to this day. Visitors can purchase a meal and eat at a personal lantern lit table. To protect the cave, food service is limited to sandwiches, salads, yogurt, parfaits, and other food that does not involve cooking in the caverns. The days of cooking in the caverns have given way to a greater sense of protecting the cave ecosystem with less impactful foods. However, visitors can still also enjoy much needed warm drinks such as coffee or hot chocolate. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, and a small selection of other items are for sale, though underground selections are somewhat limited to protect the cave.

One of the most popular activities for visitors is to write and send postcards from underground. Yes, there is a mailbox in the caverns, and you can stamp your postcard “Mailed from 750 feet below ground.”

Visitors may also have their photo taken in a photo booth that provides souvenir pictures and also allows guests to send “video emails” of themselves in the caverns to friends and family on the surface.

Visitors can purchase a meal and eat at a personal lantern lit table.

The Future of the Underground Lunchroom

The current Concessioner, Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company, is working with the National Park Service on a long-term plan to reduce its footprint and to remodel the facilities in a way that will further protect the Caverns. These new facilities will be designed to allow for food and gift sales while protecting the Caverns from additional damage.

Historic Underground Lunchroom circa 1950’s
Historic Underground Lunchroom circa 1960’s
Underground Lunchroom Now

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