On Top of The World… in New Mexico
On one of our road trips into Colorado, we made a point to plan our route so we could stop at Capulin Volcano National Monument. My husband is from Northeastern New Mexico, so he is very familiar with this territory. However, it wasn’t until after I married him that I visited more of the Northern parts of the state, so this was actually my first time to visit the extinct volcano.
Capulin Volcano resides along part of the famous Santa Fe Trail that dates back to the 18th century. This stretch of the highway is also part of the National Scenic Byway Program that was established in 1991. This program has designated 150 specific roads as especially “distinct and diverse” which have one or more of the following qualities: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and/or scenic. The main goal of this program is to acknowledge and preserve these particular roads; I better add them to my bucket list!
Geological history of this volcano can be traced back to over one million years ago. This is a “cinder cone” volcano and is part of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field that contains around 100 other volcanoes which vary in size and type. And the archaeological history can be traced back to about ten thousand years ago when Paleoindians wandered around the area in search of bison. You probably won’t see any bison here, but keep your eyes open, as you might see a deer or two.
Since this is a National Monument, there is an entrance fee which you pay in the Visitor’s Center at the base of the volcano. There’s a paved road that winds around the volcano, taking you to the top, which is around 8,000 feet in elevation. We had the luck of a mostly sunny day when we were there, and the panoramic views were remarkable; I felt like I was on top of The World! They say that you can see portions of the four different adjoining states: Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas…be sure to bring your binoculars!
If you have the time, there are five different walking trails. Three of the trails are located at the bottom of the volcano, near the Visitor Center. There’s a paved Nature Trail that’s great for viewing birds, plants and wildlife. The Boca Trail and Lava Flow Trail are “unimproved” (dirt) trails that allow you to explore more of the lava flow. Pets are not allowed on the trails – except for the Nature Trail; but be sure to check with the Park Ranger, in case these regulations have changed.
The Rim Trail is a one mile paved loop around the top, but might not be for everyone, as it has a few steep areas. The Vent Trail is also accessed from the top, and is paved and takes you into the bottom of the crater.
Be Round Trip Ready: This is a must see if you’re ever in Northeastern New Mexico. You should have your binoculars and camera ready for this stop!