Its always right there
If you drive from Oklahoma or north Texas, its very possible you might just pass by this little somewhat unknown mountain. In a field of volcanos, many times people are simply driving by to fast to notice. Yet this volcano, a National Monument, is always there. It faithfully says "hello" to me every time I pass it. Its one of the few things I look foreward to on the long trip, and its a good way to get used to the altitude faster. I've noticed that hiking in its 7000ft altitude helps me adjust almost overnight to the higher elevations in the Sangre de Cristos range. Time permitting, I never miss a chance to use this mountain to prepare myself from my 1300ft hometown elevation.
The Drive nor Hike are what you think...
It is three miles from the highway to the entrance of Mount Capulin. After paying your fees at the park office ($4 or so, not expensive) its another short drive to the top. Once in the parking area, there are two hikes. You can hike around the top of the rim or down into the center. Most people think of the volcano as being flat at the top, but this one really isn't. The hike, at first seeming to be nothing more than a circle around the outside, has so many ups and downs that you cannot imagine how tired it will make you - especially if adjusting to the altitude.
The around the rim begins on either side of the parking lot. I generally start on the south side because it has some stair steps going up. Might as well get the most climbing up out of the way while I'm not tired. As the trail continues to climb there are many benches to sit on. The trail goes up for about the first fourth of the trail, then it goes back down slightly, perhaps 50 feet or so, and again begins to climb again until you reach the eastern most side. At this side on a clear day, you can see Kansas, Rabbit Ear peak (which borders Oklahoma), and Texas to the south. As to continue on to the northern most side of the trail, at times you can see the Spanish Peaks in Colorado. There is an informational sign pointing this out on the trail. The Spanish Peaks are around 75 miles from the rim of Capulin.
Once your done with the north side of the trail, the trail slowly drops back down to the parking lot. At this point you may go to the center of the volcano, unfortunatly going down is easy - but coming out wears you out very well.
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