Located 30 miles east of Raton, New Mexico, Capulin Volcano National Monument is one of the few places left where you can actually explore the crater and rim of an extinct volcano.
The Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field
Nine million years ago, a volcano disrupted an area and created a field that is known today as Raton-Clayton volcanic field. The largest volcano in this field or Sierra Grande, is the type of volcano that had 3 periods of volcanic action. Each volcanic action is divided by thousands of years of silence. All volcanos look similar, like mountains in the valley, except for one – the Capulin Volcano.
About Capulin Volcano
Capulin is different than the other volcanos in the Raton-Clayton volcanic field. This volcano represents the most recent eruption of volcano activity.
The land around the volcano represents a transition zone between the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the high steppes of New Mexico. If you stand in the middle of the Raton-Clayton field, you will actually see that most of the peaks around you are small and they rise just a few hundred meters above the steppes. With 1000 foot high peak, the Capulin Volcano is considered to be the largest and best-preserved volcano in this field. It is located between two towns – Capulin and Folsom.
Capulin Volcano National Monument
In 1916, the Capulin Volcano National Monument was established by Woodrow Wilson. This National Monument includes a two-mile roadway from the crater’s rim and the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center is positioned in a way that it provides an opportunity to all visitors and tourists to enjoy a fascinating view of the valley, the Raton-Clayton volcanic field, the lava flows and the breathtaking landscape.
For those looking for a little adventure – there are two hiking trails that lead to the top of the volcano. The first trail leads all the way to the bottom of the volcano’s crater and the second goes all around the top, making a complete tour of the crater rim.
So, if you are ready for a full volcano experience – I recommend you to take a hiking tour and enjoy the view around you!
Operating Hours – General Info
Capulin Volcano National Monument is located in northeast New Mexico. The monument is located 34 miles east of Raton, NM, and 60 miles west of Clayton, NM. No public transportation systems serve the park.
The access road is targeted to re-open on 3/6/17 – new operating hours are not currently available.
RVs/Vehicle Restrictions – the maximum size of vehicle allowed on the Volcano Road is 26 feet in length and/or 8 feet in width. No trailers or towed vehicles are permitted on the Volcano Road. If you are towing a trailer it will have to be unhitched and left at the Visitor Center. If you are driving an RV towing a vehicle, you will have to unhitch and drive the smaller vehicle to the volcano rim.
There is a fee of $7.00 per vehicle 26 and under feet – per day. If you plan to visit many parks with a year the America the Beautiful pass will provide a great return on the investment.
Pets are allowed in the park only on the Nature Trail adjacent to the Visitor Center. In areas where pets are allowed, they must be on a leash.
Capulin Volcano Visitor Center: 575-278-2201
Current road conditions are available by calling 575-278-2201 x 302
Children can become a Junior Ranger there are numerous programs available.
Location coordinates 36.7811° N, 103.9695° W
Things To Do
Hiking, birdwatching, wildlife and plant viewing, picnicking and geologic sightseeing.
You may see mule deer and elk, black bear, and pronghorn. The birds you may see are hawks, hummingbirds, and various songbirds.
The rangers offer several guided tours.
The Crater Rim Trail paved, 1-mile loop around the top of the volcano that is moderately difficult due to steep climbs and descents. Opportunities for panoramic photographs and information boards about the surrounding features in the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field.
The Crater Vent Trail is a 0.2 mile (one-way) trail leading to the bottom of the Capulin’s crater. This trail is paved and has an elevation change of 100 feet.
The Lava Flow Trail at the base of the volcano is an unimproved, 1 mile loop that crosses one of the volcano’s lava flows. Pick up a trail guide at the visitor center to learn more about Capulin’s lava flows and features along the way.
The Nature Trail is adjacent to the visitor center. It is a figure eight sidewalk trail that is handicap accessible. Stop along the way at descriptors discussing plant life, geology, and wildlife in this short walk around a volcanic “squeeze up.”
The Boca Trail is an unimproved, 2 mile strenuous loop through the Boca area. This is the vent area at the base from which the volcano’s lava flows originated. The trail provides close up views of numerous geologic features.
Camping & Lodging
Food & Gas
The best bet is to bring food and snacks with you and enjoy the picnic areas. The closest restaurant is The Sierra Grande Restaurant in Des Moines, NM, is open year-round for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Other restaurants and fast food are available in Raton and Clayton.
Best Time To Visit
Elevations range from about 7,000 feet to 8,182 feet on the crater rim. It may be windy at the top of the volcano. Summers are mild with temps in the 80s. Thunderstorms are common in July and August. Winters are cold, and blizzards may result in temporary park closures.
Drives & Scenic Overlooks
Unfortunately, the 2-mile entrance road was closed for repairs so I was only able to view the volcano from the main road. Make sure you check the alerts area on the NPS page for updates on any closures.
Trailers and towed vehicles are prohibited your vehicle must be 26 feet or under. Because the road has no shoulders, bicycles and pedestrians are only permitted when the road is closed to vehicles after park hours.
There are photo opportunities as you drive through the volcanic field. There are also opportunities on the main road to the park; there is an old abandoned building that was interesting. Hiking the trails and getting into the volcano will provide some unique views.
My Trip Report
Due to the road closure, I was not able to fully experience all this monument has to offer. I look forward to returning one day to complete my exploration. The surrounding Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field area is very beautiful.
Have you been to Capulin Volcano National Monument? Did I leave any must-dos or must-see sights off the list? Let me know in the comments below.
We Are The Parks
- Follow the Rules. A new story about bad behavior in our national parks comes out almost every day. With people regularly doing things like walking on geothermal features, getting far too close to wildlife, illegally using drones, and vandalizing priceless natural and cultural treasures, NPS resources are stretched. We can all help the NPS and protect valuable natural resources by following established rules.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles. With visitation to NPS sites at an all-time high, it is even more important for all of us to be good stewards of the places we visit. An easy way to reduce your personal impact in learning about and practicing Leave No Trace principles.
- Petition & Vote. In addition to supporting petitions and sending letters to your congresspeople. Consider the preservation, protection, and adequate funding of public lands when voting for local, state and federal officials consider. If these things are a priority for you as well, check in with your local and national conservation organizations to see how politicians in your community view the protection of public lands before you cast your votes.
- Get Involved. There are many ways to volunteer including artists-in-residence and citizen science programs.
- Support. Consider making a donation to the National Park Foundation. The NPF is the official charitable partner to the National Park System.
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