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The Best Time to Visit Carlsbad Caverns in 2024

The Best Time to Visit Carlsbad Caverns in 2024

What's the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns?

The best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns is from April to October, when visitors can witness the spectacular migration of Brazilian free-tailed bats and possibly other bat species. This period offers unique experiences like bat flights at dawn and dusk, alongside ranger-led stargazing and night hikes.

Despite year-round access to most facilities, these special programs coincide with higher visitor numbers. Be mindful of extreme summer temperatures, which can soar up to 100°F, and come prepared for the heat.

A trip to New Mexico would be incomplete without stopping at one of the area’s most remarkable landmarks, Carlsbad Caverns. You’ll find this cavern, and others, within a national park founded to protect the area.

Frequent travelers know how busy high-traffic national parks can be during the peak season and how prices increase during this time. This guide highlights all the information you’ll need, whether you’re looking for the cheapest trip or the best overall time to visit.

The best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns varies depending on what you want out of a trip. Check out these suggestions to plan a trip at the right time for you!

Overall Best Time to Visit Carlsbad Caverns

Bats flying around the entrance to a cave during the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns

James William Smith/Shutterstock

The overall best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns are the months between April and October. One major factor that draws visitors during this time is the massive population of bats that migrate to the park.

In addition to watching these fascinating creatures leave the cave in the evening, early risers can also witness the bats returning to the cave in the morning. Not all bats roost in caves like the migrating Brazilian free-tailed bat, so you may also glimpse other species of bats around the park.

While most facilities stay open year-round, certain activities in the park are only available between early spring and mid-fall, including ranger-led stargazing and night hikes. The park offers these programs when more people visit, so expect fewer opportunities as attendance declines.

Though April through October is the best time to visit the park, weather conditions during this time can be extreme, especially during the summer. Come prepared to deal with hot temperatures of up to 100°.

Cheapest Time to Visit Carlsbad Caverns

Light shining into a cavern illuminating a walkway for a piece on the cheapest time to visit Carlsbad Caverns


The cheapest time to visit Carlsbad Caverns is during the low season for travel, mid-January through February. This time falls in line with travel trends in the United States and applies in particular to airfare if it is required for you to reach the national park.

One of the best aspects of visiting national parks is the consistent pricing throughout the year. Entrance fees remain the same low price year-round, and amenities within the park stay at the same rates.

Unlike other national parks, Carlsbad Caverns only offers backcountry camping. Visitors camp outside the park or find lodging in nearby Carlsbad. These prices vary depending on the time of year.

You can still save money visiting Carlsbad during higher traffic times by avoiding holidays when people are more likely to travel, and prices increase. Camping, rather than staying in other lodgings, also saves people money.  

Least Busy Time to Visit Carlsbad Caverns

Switchbacks going back and forth down a steep hill leading to the entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns

Doug Meek/Shutterstock

The least busy time to visit Carlsbad Caverns spans from January through February after many folks have already traveled for the holiday season.

However, since many of the park’s best features aren’t available during this time, you may want to consider other options. September and October fall during the peak season but also experience a decline in attendance as fewer families travel while kids are in school.

Visit during this time to catch the tail end of bats’ stay in the park and experience some stellar stargazing, especially if you plan your trip around the Draconids Meteor Shower.

April and May also have fewer visitors than other parts of the peak season if you avoid holidays and typical spring break times.

Bats begin to return to the area during these months, and while programs about these creatures won’t resume until Memorial Day weekend, you can still spot them in the park.

Worst Time to Visit Carlsbad Caverns

Stalagmites covered in blue ice pictured during the winter, the overall worst time to visit Carlsbad Caverns


Unfortunately, the least busy and cheapest time to visit Carlsbad Caverns, January through February, also happens to be the worst. The park sometimes experiences icy and snowy conditions in addition to cold weather during this time.

Though weather sometimes causes closures in the park, these aren’t as extreme as other national parks where large areas become inaccessible due to snow. The visitor center remains open all year, providing water bottle filling stations, a restaurant, a gift shop, and restrooms.

If you’re looking for a quiet trip and don’t mind missing the bats, this worst time to visit might be one of the best! You can still check out Carlsbad Caverns and hike the numerous trails in the desert landscape while enjoying a great deal of what the park offers.

Things to Consider

Slaughter Canyon pictured with a stone path leading up a steep hill in the desert


Still unsure about the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns? Take a look at our summary of the weather and climate by month below:


January in Carlsbad Caverns brings cooler temperatures, ranging from 0 to 14°C (32-57°F). This month is ideal for exploring the underground marvels of the caverns without the crowds, enjoying the quiet beauty of the desert landscape, and participating in ranger-led tours of the Big Room.


February continues with cool weather, perfect for enjoying the peaceful trails on the surface, exploring the unique formations like the Lion’s Tail and Hall of the Giants inside the cavern, and experiencing the serene winter landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert.


As spring approaches, temperatures in Carlsbad Caverns range from 5 to 18°C (41-64°F). March is great for hiking in the backcountry areas of the park, exploring the natural entrance route to the cavern, and observing the early signs of spring in the desert flora.


Spring temperatures in April range from 9 to 23°C (48-73°F). It’s an ideal time for bird watching as migratory species return, experiencing the Lower Cave tour for a more adventurous exploration, and enjoying the mild weather on the park’s scenic drives.


May sees warmer temperatures from 14 to 28°C (57-82°F). Explore the King’s Palace guided tour to see beautiful cave formations, enjoy stargazing in the park’s dark skies, and hike along the Guadalupe Ridge Trail.


Summer arrives with temperatures between 20 to 34°C (68-93°F). June offers opportunities for attending bat flight programs in the evening, exploring the Slaughter Canyon Cave on a guided adventure, and enjoying the cooler temperatures inside the caverns.


July maintains warm temperatures from 22 to 35°C (72-95°F). It’s a popular month for experiencing the full swing of the bat flight program at dusk, exploring the scenic Walnut Canyon Desert Drive, and enjoying picnic areas in the park.


Temperatures in August range from 22 to 34°C (72-93°F). Visit the Rattlesnake Springs for wildlife viewing, take part in the ranger-guided night sky programs, and explore the deeper sections of the cavern with a guided tour.


As fall begins, temperatures range from 18 to 30°C (64-86°F). September offers a pleasant transition, with opportunities for hiking in the less crowded trails, enjoying the late summer bloom of desert plants, and exploring the caverns comfortably.


October sees cooler temperatures from 11 to 25°C (52-77°F). It’s a great month for exploring the natural beauty of the park with fewer visitors, enjoying the surface trails like the Natural Entrance Trail, and participating in educational programs offered by the park rangers.


Fall temperatures in November range from 6 to 19°C (43-66°F). November is ideal for a quieter visit to the caverns, exploring the Big Room at your own pace, and enjoying the late fall scenery of the surrounding desert.


Winter returns to Carlsbad Caverns in December with temperatures ranging from 0 to 14°C (32-57°F). December brings opportunities for peaceful explorations of the caverns, experiencing the unique underground holiday decorations, and enjoying the tranquility of the park during the off-season.

Frequently Asked Questions

Amazing view of the rolling cliffs and hills illuminated at dusk during the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

These are some of the best frequently asked questions from travelers, and the answers!

Do you need a reservation for Carlsbad Caverns?

While a reservation isn’t required to enter the national park, you will need a reservation to explore the cavern. If you already hold a National Park pass, the park waives the entrance fee, but you still need a reservation to enter the cave.

Is Carlsbad Caverns hard to walk?

The self-guided trails through the cavern rate at a moderate challenge level. The trails total two and a half miles, but some steep areas are more strenuous than others.

Using the visitor center’s elevator, you can bypass some of the trail’s more demanding parts. The elevator takes you to the Big Room trail, most of which is also accessible by wheelchair.

What months are the bats at Carlsbad Caverns?

The park’s most famous residents, Brazilian free-tailed bats, migrate and return to the Carlsbad Caverns to give birth to their young starting around mid-April. The bats are most prevalent from May through October when they leave the caves seeking warmer weather in the south.

What time do the bats leave the cave at Carlsbad Caverns?

The time the bats leave the cave varies depending on the sunset. Rangers post these times daily and offer a Bat Flight Program for folks to watch thousands of bats take flight.

How many days do you need to visit Carlsbad Caverns?

How many days you will need depends on what you want to see in the park. If you just want to check out the actual caverns, you shouldn’t need more than a day. However, there are plenty of above-ground trails to hike in the park, so you could spend two to three days exploring.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Carlsbad Caverns?

Overall the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns falls between April and October when most programs are available and spectacular numbers of bats fill the air. However, visiting during other times of the year can be just as exciting, depending on how you want to explore the park. Happy travels!