This part of New Mexico is quite remote, and those that do pass by are likely to be en route to or from the nearby Carlsbad Caverns
; the Living Desert though well-deserves a diversion of a few hours as it has one of the best collections of desert life in the Southwest (the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson is also very good). The state park is 2 miles from Carlsbad on US 285. There is ample parking but no campground - the nearest (free) camping is provided by the Lincoln National Forest, 30 miles to the west, in a scenic but little visited area that also has abundant desert plants.
In the park, animals in sheltered cages include snakes, lizards and birds of prey, and there is a walk-through aviary with humming birds and other colorful species. In outside pens there are bison, Mexican wolves, elk, mountain lions, javelinas (desert pigs), antelope and many others.
The park grounds include many naturally-growing Chihuahuan desert plants, but non-native species such as the giant saguaro have been added, and several nature trails lead past many types of cacti, agaves, yuccas, trees and bushes, including the distinctive spiky ocotillo after which the surrounding hills were named. A more organized and comprehensive collection is housed within a large greenhouse, and small plants are available for purchase.
has a good selection of hotels, some just a few miles from the state park.