There’s quite a few Volcanoes in the United States, and one thing I learn is there are far more than I ever realized. Capulin Volcano National Monument protects an extinct cinder cone volcano in the New Mexico Mountains.
One thing I found fascinating about this volcano is that it rises pretty solidary from the plains around it. You can really get an incredible view of the Volcano as you approach and it really looms over the landscape.
About Capulin Volcano National Monument
Established in 1916, the Capulin Volcano NM protects the incredibly well preserved and extinct symmetrical cinder cone volcano. It really is impressive and an amazing specimen of its kind. It’s an overall old yet “relatively” young cinder cone at roughly 55,000 – 62,000 years old.
The National Monument is about 800 acres, with much of the activity centered around the tree covered volcano. It really is something to see all the trees that grow on the volcano. You almost forget its a cinder cone.
The volcano is one of the best and most beautiful examples within the 8,000 square mile Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field and incredible views of the landscape from the peak. Also great stargazing as its a very dark sky area as well.
Best Time to Visit Capulin Volcano National Monument
The Volcano is open year round which makes it a pretty easy place to visit.
Summer is hot in the area, so you’ll have to content with the heat when visiting. Although also, summer is when the park is open longer.
Winters, the hours are shorter, and snow and ice are possible. This is definitely of concern for the road up to the volcano rim. It can be closed or more treacherous during those times.
Overall though, even in the warmer months, the trip to the rim and the hikes are generally pretty short. The Rim hike is the longer of the two hikes and skippable if the heat is high.
Things To Do at Capulin Volcano
There’s not a ton to do at Capulin Volcano National Monument. It’s worth a trip if you are passing through, but probably not worth a special trip to the site. It’s also not really worth the price unless you have an annual pass (in my opinion). But if you are here, there’s a few great things to do.
There’s a few things off the volcano rim with collapsed lava tubes and old lava flows. Nothing that there aren’t better examples of at other parks (such as the ones at Craters of the Moon).
Road to the Rim
The main attraction of the volcano is the cinder cone itself. From the Visitor Center, travelers can drive the road up to the peak of the volcano. It’s a well maintained road although there are a few places that do feel a bit close to the edge.
The road is approximately 2 miles long and doesn’t take very long to get to the top. For me there were a few construction/ one way areas that required you waiting on traffic to pass.
The road is closed to trailers, RVs and other vehicles over 26 feet in length. The road is also closed to bicycles and pedestrians during hours the road is open to autos (generally 8 or 9 am to 4 or 5 pm)
Hiking into the Crater
The Crater Vent trail is probably the best of the options from the peak of the volcano. This very short, 0.2 mile paved trail takes visitors down into the crater area of the volcano. There’s a few placards along the way for information as well as some great photo spots.
Hiking Around the Crater
There’s a hike from the parking area at the summit that takes visitors along the rim of the volcano. This 1 mile paved loop takes visitors around the rim for views both of the landscape as well as the crater. Overall the views don’t change too much but it’s a quick hike for those with time.
Lava Flow Trail
The Lava flow Trail is a 1 mile unpaved loop that takes visitors through old lava flows. It gives some lovely views of the volcano and just the general landscape of the area. Hikers should park by the visitor center as the trailhead for the Lava flow trail is in the south portion of the parking lot.
Also another unpaved / unimproved trail. This 2 mile trail is the most strenuous of the hikes in the park and gives views of old lava flows and old lava tubes. The trailhead for the Boca trail is a bit north of the visitor center. Just follow the road towards the summit and you’ll see the trail on your left.
Where to Stay
Places to stay are few and far between near the National Monument. However, there are options a bit further away.
There is no camping available within the park. Unfortunately it’s a day-use only park, so all camping would need to be done in private campsites outside the park or other national park sites.
There’s no hotels near the National Monument. For the most options I would recommend looking in Raton, New Mexico about 30 miles from the site.
- Hearts Desire Inn: Really lovely Bed & Breakfast in Raton. Offers a good breakfast as well.
- Howard Johnson: Clean high quality option in Raton. Probably on the higher priced end for the area, but lovely option and good service.
- Raton Pass Motor Inn: Great option in Raton. Good rooms, free breakfast.
There is one visitor center located at the entrance to the National Monument. You do need to check in to verify that you paid or have a pass. I don’t know if they actually check afterwards but it was also where I got the brochure for the monument. There’s also some cool displays, a film about the site, bookstore, and other information.
- Private Vehicle: $20
- Motorcycle: $15
- Per Person (foot/bike): $10
- Capulin Annual Pass: $35
Annual America the Beautiful pass is also accepted. In my opinion the best deal you can get.
46 Volcano Highway Capulin, NM 88414
The Park is a generally day use only park. Therefore you’ll need to exit by the time the gates close. For much of the park, the park is open from Sunrise to Sunset daily.
However, the road to the top does have different hours.
Summer: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Memorial Day – Labor Day)
Fall / Winter: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm (Labor Day – Memorial Day)
There is one passport stamp located at the visitor center upon entering the National Monument.
Website: Official NPS Website
Capulin Volcano is a bit off the beaten path for most people. It’s a great place to stop as a detour on your way to other locations within New Mexico.
Located about 30 miles from Raton New Mexico down US-64, the Volcano is definitely on it’s own out there. There are a few small “towns” nearby but very few services. The closest gas stations are in Des Moines NM about 12 miles from the National Monument.
Distance to Capulin Volcano National Monument
- Raton, NM: 32 miles (33 minutes)
- Taos, NM: 124 miles (2.5 hours)
- Santa Fe, NM: 200 miles (3 hours)
- Amarillo, TX: 188 miles (3 hours)
- Pueblo, CO: 138 miles (2 hours)
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