Capulin Volcano National Monument

Written by on July 11, 2015 in NM Outdoor Adventures - 1 Comment

More than 60,000 years ago, a giant volcano blew its top. A rain of cooling cinders formed a perfectly shaped cone over 1,000 feet high. Today, it’s known as Capulin Volcano. The rim of the crater is about a mile in circumference and the crater about 400 feet deep. Rising 1,300 feet above the plains of northeast New Mexico, visitors can gaze out over four states — you can see the nearby Sierra Grande Mountains in New Mexico, Black Mesa in Oklahoma, parts of the Texas panhandle and in the far northwest, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado.

Capulin Volcano is just one of about one hundred volcanic features in the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field which covers about 8,000 square miles in northeastern New Mexico and southeastern Colorado.

A two-mile paved road provides access to the top of the cinder cone, and paved trails allow you to hike the rim and down into the interior of the crater. Sitting at more than 8,000 feet, Capulin experiences cooler summers than is typical of the rest of the Southwest, while winters are cold and snowy. In summer, highs may reach 85 with lows in the 50s. Winter may have warm days in the 60s, but single digit temperatures and snow are common. The park is open year-around except Thanksgiving and Christmas, but come dressed appropriately for the weather.

The Visitor’s Center offers exhibits about geology, natural history and the human history of Capulin Volcano, as well as a terrific 10-minute video that details the story of Capulin’s eruption and the surrounding Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. During the summer, the rangers give talks twice a day and are stationed along the trails to answer questions.

In 1926-1928, archeologists stumbled on a find that was to revolutionize our thinking on the arrival date of humans on the North American continent. The diggers found bones from at least 23 extinct bison (bison bison antiqus) and 19 projectile points. The projectiles, now known as “Folsom points,” were embedded with the bones indicating the bison had been actively hunted and killed. This discovery stunned archeologists and changed the known arrival date of humans in North America from 3,000 years ago to over 10,000 years ago.

The nearby small town of Capulin, New Mexico, has an RV and tent campground, while dining, shopping and ladging opportunities are more numerous in Raton, New Mexico (30 miles west) and Clayton, New Mexico (58 miles east).

Capulin Volcano National Monument
P.O. Box 40
Capulin, NM 88414
Phone: 575-278-2201

About the Author

One Comment on "Capulin Volcano National Monument"

  1. Char Proctor September 21, 2010 at 7:33 pm ·

    This sounds like a place we would like to visit.

Comments are now closed for this article.

Get Adobe Flash player