Hiking to the top of a tall volcano most definitely is an adventurous thing to do! Volcanoes are a captivating subject because of the dangers they pose. In modern times, science has replaced volcanic lore with fact, so it is now known which volcanoes are active, dormant or extinct altogether. There is no longer any reason to avoid visiting an extinct volcano destination, yet inherently when thinking about it the nerves will be on edge, simply because not every eruption can be predicted. For those who fear the worst, the Capulin Volcano actually is as tame as it gets!
An introduction to this volcano destination was previously published in an article titled as Capulin Volcano National Monument Visitor Center. It is important to first stop in the visitor center, because there are many rules and regulations that apply to this natural landmark. The most important thing to keep in mind is this National Monument is only open during limited daytime hours, which end at around 4:00PM, so it is best to get to this destination close to when the gates open at around 8:30AM. The amount of time that the park is open is just right for a well rounded day trip that includes a picnic and a hike around the volcano rim.
The Capulin Volcano is over 50,000 years old and it is one of the best preserved volcanic cinder cones in the west. The top of this volcano is 8,182 feet above sea level and it is quite a sight to see from a distance. Doing the Capulin Volcano Crater Rim Hiking Trail is the best way to take a closer look at this majestic wonder of nature, so this is all the motivation that is needed to put on the hiking shoes.
Because the 1.1 mile long Crater Rim Trail is a high elevation excursion, it is best to take it easy when adjusting to the thin air. Staying extra hydrated and snacking does help to minimize altitude sickness. Taking frequent breaks helps the lungs to catch up too.
The loop trail begins and ends at the lowest point of cinder cone where a portion of the volcano exploded long ago. Either direction that one starts the loop trail will require a steep uphill climb, so be sure to go at your own pace. The hiking trail is paved to minimize foot traffic erosion, but even so, this trail is steep enough to cause problems for those who have mobility challenges and assistance may be necessary. Other than the steep grade of the trail to the top of the rim, the only other problem to be aware of is ice. Ice can coat the trail after a heavy winter, so traction cleats or mini crampons may be needed for a safe trek during the spring season.
When hiking the Rim Trail, a visitor will have great views of the Capulin Volcano Crater Vent and unobstructed panoramic views of the surrounding Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field, which is quite amazing to see! Much of this vast volcanic field can barely be noticed at ground level, but when on top of the tall volcano this volcanic field appears as clear as day. The views from up top are amazing to see and it is easy to notice the many baby volcano plume mounds in this region. The outlines of ancient lava flows can be seen under the top soil and many small iron rich cinder vents can be noticed on the ground below too. The views looking east extend so far into the Great Plains, that the curvature of the earth can actually be noticed. The Crater Rim Trail certainly is an amazing experience and it is well worth taking the time to do!
There are many nature trail signs along the pathway that provide insight into the flora and fauna found in this harsh volcanic environment. Taking the time to notice the plants and animals along the way will definitely enrich the experience. One might even catch sight of a hawk hunting rodents in the ancient cinder cone vent, which is interesting to see. There is also a short hiking trail that goes into the cinder cone vent and this is worth checking out too. This trail is located next to the parking area where loop trail begins.
Doing the entire Capulin Volcano Crater Rim Trail hike only takes about an hour, but the views from the top are so majestic, that spending some extra time on this trail is easy to do. There are several park benches along the trail and the picnic areas at the base of the volcano are quite appealing for a family gathering. Capulin Volcano National Monument certainly is one of the best day trip destinations in the entire west!
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