Our first visit to Capulin Volcano National Monument was in 2017 on our way to Colorado. I was looking for a stopping point between Amarillo and Great Sand Dunes National Park, and the volcano popped up in my search. It looked like the perfect place to stretch our legs, enjoy a picnic, and get a little site seeing in on our road trip. It proved to be all that and more, and we returned for another visit during our latest trip to and from Colorado again this year.
Where is Capulin Volcano National Monument?
46 Volcano Road Capulin, NM 88414
Located in the northeast corner of New Mexico, Capulin Volcano is an extinct cinder cone volcano and a U.S. National Monument. It’s a three-hour drive from both Amarillo and Santa Fe, and just over two hours from Pueblo, Colorado.
Capulin Volcano Park Entrance Fee & Hours
$20 Per Vehicle Entry Fee
There is an entry fee that covers up to 15 people in a private vehicle. The pass is good for 7 days, and we usually use it again we we drive back through on our way home to Texas. If you have a national park pass, it will cover the cost of admission at Capulin Volcano.
Operating Hours & Seasons
Capulin Volcano is open from dawn to dusk for the lower areas of the monument. Volcano Road is only open during business hours and closes to anyone driving up to the top at 4PM.
The Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30AM – 4:30PM (and is recently renovated). Hiking is available after hours until sunset on select trails.
The park is open all winter except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The park may close during inclement weather. Visitation is lowest in January and February. Visitation is highest from April through September. July is the busiest month at the park, with approximately 15,000 visitors. We’ve only ever visited in July, and never had any issues with delays entering the park.
6 Things to do at Capulin Volcano
1. Drive to the top
You can see the entire volcano for miles away, and as you drive closer, you’ll soon notice a road that winds around to the top. After you check in at the Visitor Center, a ride to the top is definitely in order. There’s a small parking lot once you reach it, and a 1-mile loop trail to hike up even higher for great views around the rim of the volcano.
2. Hike to down to the crater
In addition to hiking the Crater Rim Trail, you can hike down to the center of the crater via the .2 mile (one-way) Crater Vent Trail. You’ll want good walking/hiking shoes regardless of which trail you go on, as some of the paths can get a bit steep.
3. See the ladybugs in the summer
A park ranger in the Visitor Center tipped us off on this one during our last visit. Found along the upper Crater Rim Trail, we thought we’d be looking for bushes covered in ladybugs. Instead we soon realized that they were hiding in masses at the base of several bushes. I’ve never seen so many ladybugs in my life!
This is one we haven’t done ourselves yet, but we’ve heard they have spectacular views of the night sky. Capulin was named a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association in 2016, and they hold Dark Sky viewing most Saturday nights during Summer months, and select nights Fall, Winter, and Spring. Complete with giant telescopes, you’ll see planets, galaxies, nebula, and other amazing sights all with your own eyes.
5. Stamp your National Park Passport
This is one of my favorite things to do anytime we visit a national park designated area, and Capulin Volcano National Monument is one of them! You can find the passport station inside the Visitor Center, and you can stamp your passport with the stamps and ink they provide. And if you don’t have one of your own, you can learn more about them in this post I wrote up all about them!
6. Have a picnic
Capulin Volcano is a great stopping point between Texas and Colorado, and we usually have a picnic lunch while we’re visiting. The best place for picnicking is the picnic area at the bottom of the volcano, just passed the Visitor Center. There are isolated picnic tables by a parking lot, and bathrooms nearby, too.
Tips for Visiting Capulin Volcano with Kids
Every parent is acutely aware of the bathroom situation at all times, but even more so when you’re traveling to unfamiliar places. Fortunately Capulin Volcano has several bathrooms available: in the Visitor Center, by the picnic area, and even one at the top of the crater (complete with an airy opening where you can see down the side of the volcano!).
Best kid-friendly trail
The Crater Vent Trail which goes down to the bottom of the crater is the most doable with younger kids. It’s a short .2 mile paved trail with a view from the center of the volcano. The Crater Rim Trail is a great option with older kids, and has excellent views, but is definitely steeper, too.
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