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Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop

Distance1.24 mi
Elevation Gain361 ft
My Time40 min
Closest TownDes Moines
Food NearbySierra Grande Restaurant

Hiking Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop

The Capulin Volcano National Monument is located in north-eastern New Mexico and is part of an 8,000 square mile volcanic field called the Raton-Clayton volcanic field. The park is listed as an International Dark Sky park as well. From the top of the rim trail there is apparently a view of 4 different states. I took a chance to see the views and ended up hiking the Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop.

Getting Started

The Capulin Volcano is about 30 miles southeast of Raton New Mexico. The drive from Raton is super easy and the park is pretty easy to find. In fact I could spot it from a few miles away just based on how big it is on the horizon. When you get to the park there is a visitor center that you want to visit first so you can buy your ticket to take the road up to the top. The visitor center also has some good information and stamps for your national parks passport.

Once you have a ticket you can take the slow drive up to the trails around the rim. There is a picnic area and another trail about halfway up but the main trails are at the top. Once you wind your way up the hill and get to the top you will find parking for about 10 cars or so. From the parking lot you will have the option to take the Capulin Rim Trail by heading up the rim trail or the Volcano Vent trail by heading down into the base of the volcano.

Before you pick either trail, take a moment to walk across the parking lot and look at the surrounding landscape. If you take the Rim Trail you will see more of it but I thought it was great. Especially with snow covering most of the ground and hills on a late winter day.

The surrounding view of snowy fields and peaks from the Capulin Volcano is amazing in winter.
The surrounding view from the Capulin Volcano is amazing in winter.

Capulin Volcano Rim Loop

I started with the Rim Loop because I wanted to get the harder hike out of the way first. The Rim Trail leaves the parking lot and follows the profile of the rim all the way around the volcano. I took the trail counter clockwise, simply because that is the side of the parking lot I parked on.

The Rim Trail is paved path that had a bit of snow and ice in the winter. It was also pretty windy which brought a bit of a chill. The first third of a mile had a bit of an incline to it with a consistent grade of 10-13% which covered just under 300 feet of elevation gain. This third of a mile takes you to the top of the rim and then flattens out a bit along the back wall of the rim. The views of the inside of the volcano are really neat from the Rim Trail, showing the cylindrical cone that nature created so many years ago.

The Rim surrounding Capulin Volcano from the Rim and Vent Loop.
The Rim surrounding Capulin Volcano from the Rim and Vent Loop.

Once you make it to the backside of the rim there is a bit of another incline on the east side of the rim before a consistent decline back down to the parking lot. Along the Capulin Volcano Rim Trail the views alternate between the interior sloping walls of the volcano and the flat landscape peppered with old extinct volcano’s as far as the eyes can see on the outskirts. It was really an enjoyable hike and a great way to get some perspective on the ancient volcano. At returning to the parking lot it is then easy to jump onto the Vent trail to complete a loop.

The western wall of the volcano from the Rim Trail.
The western wall of the volcano from the Rim Trail.

Capulin Volcano Vent Loop

The trail down to the vent is shorter than the rim trail and is only about two-tenths of a mile down to the base of the Volcano. There are a few sections of the short trail that have double digits in grade and there is a total of about 100 feet of elevation gain from the parking lot down to the vent.

Snow covered path leading to the vent from Vent Trail.
Snow covered path leading to the vent from Vent Trail.

The base of the volcano provides some really impressive 360 degree views that really give a feel of what the volcano is all about. The walls of the volcano extend in what looks like a perfect circle from the vent. While I was walking across the rim it didn’t seem nearly as steep as it did while looking up. Amazing what a little change in perspective can do! At the vent there is a small information graphic that helps explain the science and history of the now dormant volcano.

The view of the Capulin Volcano from the bottom of the Rim and Vent Trail Loop.
The view of the Capulin Volcano from the bottom of the Rim and Vent Trail Loop.

I really enjoyed the hike both around the rim and to the base of the volcano. It is the first volcano that I have knowingly hiked around and I thought it was pretty cool. I will say that if you aren’t really into the history and geology of a cone volcano, you may not love this as a traditional hike. I really enjoyed it though and am glad I took a bit of a detour.

Video of Hiking Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop

have put together a quick time-lapse video of my time hiking at Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop in order to give hikers a feel of what the hike is like. If you enjoy this video, make sure to Subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get updates for all the latest videos.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 1.24 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 361 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 8,179 feet. I was also moving for a total of 40 minutes.

I am a Pro member of Alltrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.


The effort for the Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent loop is a little hard to judge. There is some elevation on the rim trail that can be challenging for some. Plus the volcano sits around 8,000 feet so people who aren’t used to hiking at elevation may have some problems. The vent trail has less elevation and might be a little easier for folks. One thing to keep in mind is that the trails are all completely exposed to the elements so you will need wind, sun and weather protection. For those reasons I am going to rank this hike as moderate but I think a lot of people will find it on the easier side.


The trails are all paved which makes them pretty easy to handle. On the day that I hiked, there was snow and some ice that made the concrete a bit slick. In winter you may need some traction devices like microspikes to help.

Access to Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop

Capulin Volcano National Monument is located at 46 Volcano Highway in Capulin, New Mexico. There is some construction on the roads currently and vehicles over 26 feet are not allowed to the top currently. Make sure to check their website for updates. The fees for a private vehicle is $20 for the day. You can also use a yearly National Parks Pass for your ticket. The Volcano Road is open 8:30-4:30 in the winter and 8-5pm in the summers. The night sky viewing area is available 24/7 but camping is not allowed.

Wrapping up the Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop

I really enjoyed my time at the Capulin Volcano and hiking the Capulin Volcano Rim and Vent Loop. I saw a sign on the highway for the monument on a previous trip and made a mental note but didn’t really know what to expect. What I saw was some beautiful landscape and a good educational opportunity to learn a bit of history about an area I didn’t know much about.

I will admit that if you aren’t into history or geology the trip out to dormant volcano might not be super exciting. The hike is a big loop and short walk down to the vent. It can be done in about an hour. It isn’t as exciting as some of the more popular parks like Grand Canyon, but if you are open to learning a bit and seeing the history of the lands it is well worth the short drive off of I-25.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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