Last updated: July 11, 2023
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, typically from late May through mid-September. 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. Don't risk getting struck by lightning!
- Bring warm clothes. At 7,000 ft elevation, it gets chilly after the sun sets!
- Leave your pet at home. Dog barks are disorienting to bats.
- The peak season for outflight numbers hovers around the first week of July.
- Plan to arrive at Bat Cave at least 20 minutes before sunset. The hike from the El Calderon Trailhead to Bat Cave takes about 20 minutes.
- Keep in mind that bats are wild animals and are not always predictable. Some nights they won't fly out until after sunset, and occasionally they won't fly out at all! Factors like monsoon rains and temperature can impact bat behavior.
- 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
Bat outflight programs will return in the summer, typically from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Check out the ranger programs for this summer's schedule!