We did CC and most of NM/northern AZ last summer on our 13,000 mile, 2 month Road Trip. I could write a novella, but CC and area opins of mine are:
-CC is definitely worth the half day down below.
-Do the self guided tour: start at walk down in Natural Entrance, walk through and return via elevator.
-Plan on 2-4 hours, esp stopping to shoot pics.
-A few serious photogs had a mono pod; I had a small gorilla pod, which I only used infrequently. Yes, tripods, mono pods, etc are permitted.
-A group of Japanese pro shooters were doing loooong time exposures with a 'colored laser like pointer light': I saw some of their shots on camera back and they were astounding.
-I took many pics with std on cam flash, (so-so results), and many with handheld, at Iso 1600, 1200, etc. The IS in my Canon 40D let me get away with many of those, as some of the cavern area 'scenes' are light up pretty well. Be sure to set you WB to incandescent for non flash pics.
-The scale of some of the cavern 'rooms' are almost sci-fi in size, and I had no idea how to shoot that kind of scale....we just walked and looked in awe.
-the 'walk ways' and occasionally steps are dark and sometimes slick; be careful.
-take/wear a light golf type wind shirt for the lower depths: it is cool down there.
-one has to dodge the school kids' groups, the idiots waddling through trying to shoot with their cell phones, etc. But, most cool scenes on the walk are shoot able if one is patient.
-Wish I had taken a fold up monopod...
-Eat a good b'fast or lunch before wandering down on your self guided tour.
CC NPS Site:
We went north from Carlsbad, through Roswell, (a pretty town full of UFO tourist crap), up to ABQ.
In ABQ, we hit the Museum of Nuclear Science, a very interesting overview of the 'discovery/history' of nuclear and its development through war time; some remarkable exhibits, imo.
Sandia Peak is worth the drive to summit for views and fun road, (11k+ feet),and the Tourquouise Trail from ABQ to Santa Fe, or vice versa, is a very good two lane blacktop:
Santa Fe is very good town, Taos is ok, if you or spouse want a brief art stop, though SF is loaded with art in the 'Canyon Road Art Gallery' area:
Grand Canyon: Have been there a dozen times; south rim is where 95% of the drive bys go to. It is packed on any day, esp weekends. One must park a ways away now, and walk/bus in. Get there early or late: the mid day sun is flat, crummy for pics, or just viewing. If time/dough permits a helio ride is worth it, one time, imo.
We did the North Rim this trip, as we had the time: it is nearly empty, and much different looking than south rim, but it is way out of most people's way, and only one way in and out.
I could go on and on, but hope my 50Cts is of help. We did 34 states and 4 provinces of CDA, and an Alaska cruise, but my fave states were not in any order: NM, AZ, UT, WY, MT, CO.
Have a great trip, and if possible, boogie down the fabulous 2 lane blacktops in lieu of the interstates, imo.
Full Tilt Boogie Set of our Road Trip on Flickr: