Why You Should Add Carlsbad Caverns Bats to Your Bucket List

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bats flying through the sky

If you’re interested in America’s National Parks, you’ve probably heard of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. They’re known for their hauntingly beautiful stalagmites and stalactites, a first-hand view of New Mexico’s geological history, and yes – bats! So what time of year is best to see the Carlsbad Caverns bats? And what do you need to know before you go? 

We’ll answer these questions and more to help you prepare for an unforgettable, awe-inspiring visit. Let’s begin!

About Carlsbad Caverns National Park 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in Carlsbad, New Mexico, near the Guadeloupe Mountain Range. It features 120 known caves and receives about 500,000 visitors each year. 

The Carlsbad Caverns are unique for several reasons. Instead of being made by penetrating water and carbonic acid (how 90 percent of the world’s limestone caves form), the caves were made from an aggressive chemical called sulfuric acid.

This resulted in very dry caverns, as well as long, meandering passageways that stretch deep under the ground. The park, therefore, is a rare opportunity to learn about the history of the Capitan Reef as well as the ancient cultures that lived there. 

To visit the caverns you can either take an elevator or hike down the natural entrance. If you choose the Natural Entrance Trail, you will descent about 750 feet in 1.25 miles. You are also able to hike out the natural entrance, but we recommend entering through the Natural Entrance Trail, exploring the caverns, and exiting via the elevator. It’s important to note that this entrance is not wheelchair accessible.

Don’t forget to stop at the visitor center for some unique souvenirs!

Sign for Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico

About the Bat Flight Program At Carlsbad Caverns

The Bat Flight Program is one of the more popular aspects of the Carlsbad Caverns. Every night from late May to October, save for inclement weather, a park ranger provides an educational talk about the bats, and visitors get to watch the bats emerge from the caverns at sunset.

The seating is outside at the Bat Flight Amphitheater, which provides an excellent view of the bats, but the best part? It’s completely free!

Why You Need to See the Bats At Carlsbad Caverns

While bats might not have a reputation for being the cutest creatures, seeing them fly at Carlsbad Cavern is a once in a lifetime experience. One visitor left a review on TripAdvisor saying, “I was spellbound by the whirling vortex and the large groups of the little creatures leaving in the sunset.”

Below are a few additional reasons why you need to see the bats at Carlsbad Caverns.

Informative Park Ranger Lead Program

One of the best parts about visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park is the information you’ll obtain. When you visit the caverns, a knowledgeable park ranger will provide in-depth knowledge on the caves and their history.

They also make sure you have plenty of time to explore. Moreover, the information they provide on the Bat Flight Program is second to none. It’s no secret that the rangers are passionate about what they do.

A visitor from Hawaii stated on TripAdvisor, “I appreciated the ranger program before the bats exited the cave. It was a good time to have more background on the bats, their behavior, and what is still unknown about the bats.” 

It’s Free!

As we mentioned before, the Bat Flight Program is entirely free! This allows everyone to experience breathtaking flight and education about the bats and the local ecosystem.  

The Amphitheater Provides A Great View

One look at the theater, and you can tell it provides a perfect view. Located on a slope right above the cave’s natural entrance, you’ll be sure to have an ideal seat regardless of where you sit. It’s also accessible to people of all abilities and provides wheelchair access to some of the best spots. 

A view of the amphitheater from which visitors can see the bats exit the caverns of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

You Can See Hundreds Of Thousands Of Bats

There are seventeen species of bats in the park, three of which roost in Carlsbad Cavern. The largest colony has 400,000 Brazillian free tailed bats, all of whom take flight at night. Rest assured, you will see plenty of bats. 

It’s important to note that the National Park Services takes the health of the bats seriously, so cameras and other electronic equipment are not permitted during bat flight.

See Bats At Sunset And Sunrise

Not only can you see the Brazillian free tailed bats (and other species) take flight at sunset, but you can also see them return at dawn. Every morning between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., the bats come back to their cave to roost for the day, and you’re welcome to sneak a peek if you decide to wake up that early.

Night owls and early birds can rejoice; there is truly something for everyone.

Hundreds of bats flying out of a cavern

What Time Of Year Do the Bats Fly At Carlsbad Caverns?

The migrating bats return in mid to late April, and visitors are welcome to sit at the amphitheater and watch them take off at night during this time of year.

However, the Bat Flight Program doesn’t start until Memorial Day weekend. If you want a truly educational experience, you might want to wait until late May. The program runs all summer through October. The park is open year round so if happen to visit during the off-season, you can still learn plenty of information about the bat flights program at the Park’s Visitor Center.

Do You Need Reservations to See the Bats?

You don’t need reservations to see the bats. It is entirely free, and spots at the amphitheater are first come, first served. There is no reason not to see the Carlsbad Cavern bats! Only have 10 minutes after dinner? No problem. Just passing through the area? Perfect! This experience is accessible to anyone regardless of budget or circumstance. 

Bats hanging in a dark cave

Getting Into Carlsbad Caverns

If you’re interested in exploring the Caverns, you must reserve your spot online beforehand. Once you get to the park, you’ll need to purchase your tickets, which are $15 per adult (16+). Children 15 and younger are free. Your ticket is good for three days. Once you have your ticket, you can book a tour with a park ranger to learn more about the caverns. Or feel free to take a self guided tour so you can go at your own pace.

If you’re a veteran or have an America the Beautiful pass or a Senior pass, admission is free. However, you’ll still need to make reservations online before you go. 

Pro Tip: Once you’ve witnessed the bats at Carlsbad Caverns, head northwest to Utah to awe over The Mighty 5: Why You Need to See These National Parks in Utah.

Get Batty At the Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns National Park needs to be on the top of your “must-see” list. Witnessing hundreds of thousands of bats fly off at sunset is something that we can’t accurately put into words. You must see it for yourself.

Moreover, the beauty of the caves will leave you breathless as you venture deeper into the caverns. It’s genuinely like entering another world. So what are you waiting for? Start planning!

Have you ever seen the bats at Carlsbad Caverns National Park? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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  1. The summer I was 20 yrs old (1974) I worked in Sequoia Nat’l Park. One of the park’s attractions is Crystal Caverns. They only do guided tours, but as a park employee I got to know other park employees and one just happened to be the ranger who conducted the guided tours of the caverns. He took a few of us down to the caverns late one night and gave us a personal tour, complete with the total blackout experience, which scared the heck out of me. I found the total absence of light to be very disorienting and it made me very dizzy, I almost fell over. Many years later I again visited the caverns, this time with my son and his wife and when it came time for the blackout, I crouched down so I could feet the ground with both hands and feet. The second experience was much less disorienting and therefore less scary. Beware tho…it’s a steep hike down a canyon to reach the caverns…which means a steep hike UP afterwards. The trail is not accessible for folks w/mobility challenges and it’s the only access to the caverns. Folks w/heart/lung issues are also cautioned.

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