Find a seat and adjust your eyes. At sunset, during warm weather months, the sight of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) streaming swiftly from the entrance of  Carlsbad Cavern into the night is not to be missed. 

Bat viewing site. National Park. New Mexico.
Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns view emerging bats from the park’s amphitheater. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.
Bat viewing site. Carlsbad Cavern. New Mexico. Cave formations.
Understanding cave systems helps us understand the wide array of bat habitats. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Brazilian free-tailed bats are certainly the stars of seasonal nightly bat flight programs. But, if you’re keen on bat identification, you’re also likely to see cave myotis (Myotis velifer) and fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) identified by their mouse-like ears, as they fly with free-tailed bats from the cavern’s entrance.  

Free bat flight programs are offered every evening, weather permitting, from Memorial Day weekend through October. Participants are seated in the Bat Flight Amphitheater located near the Natural Entrance to Carlsbad Cavern. Seating at the amphitheater is on a first-come-first-seated basis. 

National Park Service rangers provide a talk before bats begin their flight. Start times for the programs are based on the time the sun sets. To protect the bats, electronic devices of all kinds are not allowed at bat flight programs and in surrounding areas. The National Park Service notes that the behavior of bats changes when bats, accustomed to total darkness and silence, are disturbed by sounds and light. 

Seventeen bat species reside in this Chihuahuan Desert national park that sprawls between New Mexico’s Guadalupe Mountains and the Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Not all bats roost in the park’s famous caves. Eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis) roost in the park’s trees. Canyon bats (Parastrellus hesperus) roost in rock cliffs and cracks throughout the desert landscape.

MORE INFO

  • Park tours, ranger talks, displays, and published materials offer excellent opportunities to understand caves and their importance. Hidden beneath the surface of the national park are 120 known caverns, possibly more, formed millions of years ago when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone.
  • Self-guided tours through the Big Room of the cave system are popular and require a timed pass to traverse a relatively flat trail through cave formations of all shapes and sizes. The Big Room is the one of largest single cave chambers in North America. 
  • To get to the Big Room, visitors take an elevator 750 feet below the ground or may opt to hike the steep and strenuous Nature Entrance Trail, which takes an average of an hour to complete.
  • What’s the difference between stalagmites and stalactites? Stalagmites grow from the ground up. (Note the “g” for ground in the name). Stalactites grow downward.
  • Visitors to the park should always reference the National Park Service’s up-to-date announcements regarding surface hiking, backcountry camping, and other access considerations
  • Hotels, RV parks, camping sites, and glamping options are available within proximity of the park.