The Capulin Volcano National Monument is one of several volcanoes in northeastern New Mexico. It sits about a 30 minute drive east of Raton, New Mexico, where the only real chance for lodging, other than camping, is in the area.
Some of the brochures and trailside information list it as dormant and others as extinct. It’s estimated that the last eruption occurred around 60,000 years ago. And now the lava fields surrounding the base from that eruption offer great opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing, particularly deer.
With a friend I hiked all four trails, about 4.5 miles in total, around the volcano. All of them are relatively well marked, but we did manage to lose the backside of the Lava Flow Trail loop as we made to return to the car park to go to the crater of Capulin.
The other trail at the base is the Boca Trail. It is about two miles long, difficult in parts, and winds through the scrub on the west side of the volcano. A free booklet from the visitor’s center explains different points of interest along the trail including a campground last used in the 1960s, some small hills, and rock formations that were a result of the eruption.
There are several great views from the Boca trail, but the best are from up above on the Crater Rim Trail. There it is possible to see as far away to Oklahoma’s Black Mesa State Park. Many other volcanoes are easily spotted in the immediate area from the rim, including the massive Sierra Grande, which towers 2,200 feet from the plains below.
Only 500 feet down from the rim of Capulin is the base of its crater. The Crater Vent Trail is a short walk down, paved just like the rim, and stops where the volcano was blocked. It is an easy and enjoyable half mile walk that shouldn’t be passed up after doing the more strenuous Crater Rim Trail.
The monument tells a great story of the land, both past and present. It is a disappointment though that more land isn’t encompassed to make it a national park with the other surrounding volcanoes. A nice portion of the Santa Fe Trail would also the be included, offering a great historical opporunity for it as well.