Capulin Volcano pin

Capulin Volcano pin

In 1980 when Mt. St. Helens erupted I was in Denver. Overnight about a quarter of an inch of ash fell on my vehicle. On the way home I went through northern New Mexico, and chanced to see the side road to

Aerial photo of Capulin Volcano

Aerial photo of Capulin Volcano

the cinder volcano, Capulin National Volcano monument. I drove up the road, visited the Visitors’ Center, and then took the hiking trail down into the crater. It was an eerie moment in a way. I was sitting in the crater of an extinct volcano while ash from Mt. St. Helens was slowly drifting down on me.

The Capulin Volcano last erupted more than 60,000 years ago. From a vent on the earth, pressurized magma exploded into the air, raining lava rock, fire, and ash onto the local population of mammoth, bison, and short-faced bears.

The cinder cone that remained now rises 1,000 feet above the valley floor. The visitor center holds exhibits about the volcano and the geologic and human history of the region. A self-guided trail to a vent at the base provides a glimpse inside the volcano.

A short drive up a paved road (hiking to the top is permitted only when the road is closed to cars) leads to a one-mile trail along the volcano’s rim. Take a closer look inside the crater and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including three lava-capped mesas and the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Capulin Volcano National Monument is one of several volcanic peaks in the area, and the only one that still has a visible crater. The rich soil supports a thriving ecosystem of plants and animals, including wild turkey, mule deer, and black bear.

Location: 16-A2

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