On warm summer evenings, Brazilian free-tailed bats burst from a lava tube known as Bat Cave for a night of hunting insects over the lava flows of El Malpais National Monument. Witness this phenomenon for yourself along the El Calderon Trail off Highway 53.
Seeing Bats On Your Own
Bats fly out of Bat Cave in search of food most summer evenings. Head out to El Calderon before sunset to see the bats, but be sure to take proper precautions to ensure the safety of both the bats and you!
Know Before You Go
- Bring a flashlight, ideally stronger than a cell phone, for the hike back to the parking lot.
- Check the weather forecast. Late summer is in the middle of the monsoon season, and thunderstorms may pop up as the day goes by.
- Leave your pet at home. Dog barks are disorienting to bats.
- The peak season for outflight numbers hovers around the first week of July.
- Be mindful that reptiles, such as rattlesnakes, become more active as the sun goes down. Keep an eye (and ear) out for them on your way to and from the cave, and give them plenty of space if you see one.
Once You're at the Cave
- Keep quiet or speak in hushed voices as you approach and stay around the cave.
- Using flash photography is discouraged. You are still welcome to take photos and video, just without flash.
- Never shine your flashlights at the bats.
- Sit on the hillside opposite the cave entrance.
- There are many caves in our park that bats can use and many factors (such as weather) that may affect their activity, so be aware that the number of bats emerging may vary throughout the year.
Ranger-led Bat Outflight Programs
Ranger guided bat outflights may be offered during summer months. The program is weather permitted. Please contact the El Malpais Visitor Center at (505) 876-2783 or look on the events calendar for more information.
Last updated: June 14, 2021