Permits and Reservations

Two cavers stand on rubble in the light from a giant hole in the ceiling of the surrounding lava tube.
Lava tube caving at El Malpais offers a challenging experience for well prepared cavers. A free caving permit is required to visit any lava tube cave at El Malpais, and not all lava tube caves are open to visit to protect sensitive natural and cultural resources.

NPS Photo

Individual Caving Permits

A free caving permit is required to visit any lava tube cave at El Malpais National Monument. Individual caving permits are issued for a minimum of 2 people and a maximum of 10 people per group. The capacitiy for each cave is 10 people per cave per day. Cave permits can be picked up at the El Malpais Visitor Center at Exit 85 on I-40 in Grants, NM or at the El Morro National Monument Visitor Center.

Not all lava tube caves are open to visit. Visit the caving page for information on open caves and how to prepare for caving at El Malpais.


Special Use Permits

Individuals or groups who wish to use El Malpais National Monument for a special purpose or event require a Special Use Permit. A Special Use Permit must be applied for and approved by the Superintendent. Special Use Permits include, but are not limited to, weddings, large group picnics, sporting events, church services, public spectator attractions, entertainment, ceremonies, 1st Amendment activities (fee is waived), or anyone wishing to use a public address system. Permit applications require a $100 non-refundable processing fee and must be received by the park at least 2 months prior to proposed activity. Your submission of an application DOES NOT guarantee approval of a permit. Special use permit applications are available to download. If you have questions or are interested in these permits, please contact the Special Use Permits Coordinator by e-mail.


Research Permits

Anyone wishing to conduct research at El Malpais National Monument must first submit an application. Contact the Research Permit Coordinator at 505-285-4641 ext. 227 or email us for more information.


Permit Requirements for Commercial Filming & Still Photography

Effective October 28, 2022 and following a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on October 21, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) functionally reinstated previous laws and regulations related to commercial filming in national parks. The NPS has rescinded the interim guidance that was in place during litigation and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks.

This means that all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit. "Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Individual parks may require a permit for non-commercial filming if a permit is necessary to manage the activity to protect park resources and values, minimize conflict between user groups, or to ensure public safety.


Commercial Filming & Still Photography


Last updated: February 27, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1900 E. Santa Fe Ave.
Grants, NM 87020


505 876-2783

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