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13 Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking (Updated 2022)

We visited Capulin Volcano National Monument just outside of Raton, New Mexico because I heard it was one of the best places to see a sunset in all of North America. The setting sun stained the orange volcanic ash covering the ground in front of me with colors so brilliant and beautiful; I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. That evening, Capulin became known for much more than its panoramic views.

Capulin Volcano National Monument was my favorite site of this trip to New Mexico, even though we only sa few days there . It’s the kind of place that once you’ve visited, you can’t wait to get back to

History of the Capulin Volcano National Monument

The geological history behind Capulin Volcano is quite fascinating, and I would love to tell them all about it. Some basic facts are that Capulin is part of an extensive system of ancient volcanoes called the Raton-Claytoncanic Field and last erupted around 56,000 years ago.

The name “Capulin” comes from the Spanish word for blackberry (“capulín”) because there were a large number of wild berries surrounding the mountain when European explorers first discovered it. Since its discovery, Capulin has been used as a landmark for travelers and has been the site of several military engagements between Native Americans and settlers.


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In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared the summit of Capulin a National Monument because he felt that it represented a “remarkable illustration of recent volcanic activity.” In 2000, Congress upgraded Capulin’s status to that of a full-fledged National Park Service unit to protect it from development and mining projects that have threatened protected areas in northern New Mexico.

Capulin Volcano National Monument is my favorite site out of all the places I visited on this trip to New Mexico because you can still feel trapped inside an ancient volcano. It’s unlike any other place I’ve ever been, and no picture does it justice. Some day I would like to go back and stay longer than just 3 days so maybe next time we will have more time. The first evening was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in my life.

Capulin Volcano (2)

13 Boondocking Spots For the Capulin Volcano National Monument



Unfortunately the Capulin site is not boondocking friendly. There are no really close ideal boondocking stops and you are better served to make this a day trip from one of the places we have to offer below. You can easily drive from any of them in an hour, stop and see the sites and head to one on the other end in another hour. That will five you all the time you need to see the volcano and all it has to offer.

1. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Locations – Sierra Grande Rest Area

Address
Des Moines, New Mexico
GPS: 36.68384, -103.786623
Elevation: 6414′

Management: Rest Area

The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument boondocking area is paved. Sierra Grande Rest Area is open year round. The maximum RV length at Sierra Grande Rest Area. s unlimited. You may stay overnight at Sierra Grande Rest Area. . Capulin Volcano National Monument Free Campsites – Sierra Grand Rest Stop.

Best Review:

Wide open, plenty of room, clean, new(er) asphalt, and nice views. The truckers seem to gravitate mostly on the south end, keep driving past the bathrooms to the north end and pick your spot. The periodic trains passing through was the only bummer. I’d definitely stay here again.

2. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Free Campsites – Less Than 20 Miles: – Sierra Grand Rest Stop

Address
Des Moines, New Mexico
GPS: 36.682187, -103.785911

Management: Rest Area

None

3. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Spots – Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

Address
Maxwell, New Mexico
GPS: 36.573319, -104.580399
Elevation: 6014′

Management: Fish and Wildlife Service

Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge is open May to October. You may stay 3 days at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge. The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument boondocking area is dirt.

Best Review:

Perfect place for a stay. Very quiet and lots of birds enjoy. Area has put toilets at the entrance. There are a few trash cans and picnic tables. View of the lake was nice. The Maxwell website said they allow up to 5 campers for up to 3 nights stay. We will definitely stay here again.

4. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Locations – Walmart Trinidad Colorado

Address
Trinidad, Colorado
GPS: 37.13849, -104.522761

Management: Retail Store

The road in is Paved. Walmart Trinidad Colorado is open year round. You may stay overnight at Walmart Trinidad Colorado. The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument free campsite area is paved.

Best Review:

None

5. Capulin Volcano National Monument Free Campsites – Springer Lake Wildlife Area

Address
C 17
Springer, New Mexico
GPS: 36.407448, -104.649962
Elevation: 5938′

Management: State Park

There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 days at this area. The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument boondocking area is dirt.

Amenities:

Boat Ramp
Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms

Best Review:

Stayed for one night. Only one other camper on the other side of the lake. Both sides of the lake have pit toilets and enough room for a couple of campers with trailers. I stayed right below the dam next to a large tree for shade. When I was there it was really windy one day.

6. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Spots – Mills Canyon Rim Campground

Address
Mills, New Mexico
GPS: 36.071833, -104.349431
Elevation: 5751′

Management: National Forest Service 

The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument free campsite area is gravel and 7 miles from a paved road. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 days at Mills Canyon Rim Campground.

Amenities:

Fire Ring
Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms

Best Review:

Just day triped to see the ruins and even in late April 2021 it’s already fairly packed although both campgrounds did still have open sites. Road’s in fine shape, made it down to the river and back in a Prius. It is narrow and takes time, but even it a low clearance sedan it’s not bad.

7. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Locations – Mills Canyon Campground

Address
Across Forest Rd 600?
Roy, New Mexico
GPS: 36.047501, -104.376671
Elevation: 5123′

Management: National Forest Service 

There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 days at this area. The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument boondocking area is dirt.

Best Review:

The Mills Canyon Campground construction project on the Kiowa National Grassland near Roy, New Mexico is essentially complete. While minor work is still in progress, the Rim Campground, the Mills Canyon Campground, the Mills Ranch site, and Forest Road 600 to the bottom of Mills Canyon are open for visitors.

8. Capulin Volcano National Monument Free Campsites – Allsups # 111

Address
425 Hwy 87 South
Texline, Texas
GPS: 36.374837, -103.018977
Elevation: 4682′

Management: Truck Stop

Truck stop parking lot.

Best Review:

None

9. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Spots – Charrette Lakes

Address
Wagon Mound, New Mexico
GPS: 36.18744, -104.81098
Elevation: 6663′

Management: State Park

The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument boondocking area is dirt and 17 miles miles from a paved road. Charrette Lakes is open year round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. You may stay 14 days at Charrette Lakes.

Best Review:

Thirteen miles off highway I-25 north of wagon mound new Mexico, on dirt road marked 569,starting in Colfax county ending up in Mora county going west from crossroads, no sign except to the village of Colmor which is east of crossroads. Lake is atop butte with toilets, fishing, and camping. Almost no shade, but picnic tables and primitive fire spots. Signs at entry, no trash , no water, several acres of lake.

10. Capulin Volcano National Free Monument Boondocking Locations – Picketwire Canyon Overlook

Address
La Junta, Colorado
GPS: 37.6437, -103.58051
Elevation: 4685′

Management: Bureau of Land Management 

The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument free campsite area is dirt and 17 miles miles from a paved road. Picketwire Canyon Overlook is open year round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. You may stay 14 days at Picketwire Canyon Overlook.

Best Review:

11. Capulin Volcano National Monument Free Campsites – Picket Wire Corrals

Address
23998 Rourke Road
La Junta, Colorado
GPS: 37.658972, -103.620042
Elevation: 4649′

Management: National Forest Service 

This popular meeting spot, about 33 miles south of La Junta, offers wildlife interpretation and corrals for public equestrian use however all campers and and boondocking visitors are welcome. The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument boondocking area is dirt.

Best Review:

This is not a campground, it is merely a parking area beneath the corrals. In off season it might be possible to stay for a night or two, but I wouldn’t try it in peak season. We haven’t stayed here. We passed by while exploring the grasslands.

12. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Spots – Picket Wire Canyon – Comanche National Grasslands

Address
Forest Service Road 500A
Kim, Colorado
GPS: 37.659885, -103.571121
Elevation: 4631′

Management: National Forest Service 

The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument free campsite area is dirt and 20+ miles from a paved road. Picket Wire Canyon – Comanche National Grasslands is open year-round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35′. You may stay 14 in 28 at Picket Wire Canyon – Comanche National Grasslands.

Best Review:

Stayed here October , still warm out, camped in popup topper, trail to dinosaur tracks is six miles ( one way). Two hikers died in 2009 in summer half mile from trail head, there are remnants of corral below, in the 1859 gold rush to cherry creek (Denver) by 1860’s white freighters drove out Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians to take over grasslands from Bent’s fort south and north , productive Purgatoire river basin grasslands, ranchlands.

13. Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Locations – Felt OK Picnic Area

Address
Felt, Oklahoma
GPS: 36.55936, -102.793087
Elevation: 4442′

Management: National Forest Service 

The road into this Capulin Volcano National Monument boondocking area is paved. Felt OK picnic area is open year round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 1 night at Felt OK picnic area.

Best Review:

Had the place to myself on a Saturday night. Clean vault toilets. Had a good data signal through either AT&T or Verizon (I don’t remember which). he only downside was the faint droning noise from engines all night off in the distance. I assume they are probably irrigation pumps.

Top 6 Trails to Hike at Capulin Volcano National Monument with detailed descriptions



Capulin Volcano National Monument charges a fee to enter. Fees are $20 per vehicle or $15 per motorcycle. If you are entering on foot or bike the fee is $10 per person. You can also purchase a park specific annual pass for $35.

Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail #1. Crater Rim Trail

1. Crater Rim Trail Capulin Volcano National Monument Boondocking Spots

Amazing views of the plains as well as the interior of the volcano! The wayside panels were extremely informative and also assisted in pointing out a variety of interesting subtleties, such as how the prevailing wind lopsided the cone and how to spot lava ripples in the landscape. I would have preferred if the path hadn’t been paved in order to give it a more gritty and incredible feel (you are, after all, traveling on the rim of a volcano!! ), but if the pavement makes this gem more accessible to more people or helps to protect the site, that is also a positive thing.

Length: 1.1 mi
Elevation gain: 347 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Partially paved, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail #2. Crater Vent Trail

2. Crater Vent Trail Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail

Go on a thrilling drive to the summit of an extinct cinder cone volcano! It is possible to see the western part of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field as well as the crater of the Capulin Volcano from this location. The Crater Vent Trail at Capulin Volcano is a quarter-mile hike that takes you to the bottom of the crater’s caldera. This is a fantastic family outing where you can teach your children about the inner workings of a volcano.

Length: 0.3 mi
Elevation gain: 45 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Nature trips, Walking, Views, Wildflowers, Rocky, Fee, No dogs

Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail #3. Lava Flow Trail

3. Lava Flow Trail Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail
Great views of the volcano from its crater rim are available in a short amount of time with little effort. The views out onto the plains were also beautiful, and provided a different perspective on the scenery. Overall, this trail is a wonderful complement to the rim trail. The trail is well marked and has plenty of shade and loose rocks. There is a lot of beauty. Bring plenty of water, and take it slow. Put on a pair of sturdy shoes.

Length: 0.9 mi
Elevation gain: 114 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildflowers, Fee

Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail #4. Capulin Monumnet Drive

Capulin Volcano Scenic Drive

It’s really fascinating! The hike along the crater rim was breathtaking…. You really get a sense of the volcano’s geologic features when you’re there. The views from the crater rim were absolutely breathtaking! Several craters could be seen in the surrounding area. After that, we climbed into the crater vent and then along the Boca trail to the mouth of a collapsed lava tube, where we camped overnight. Later, we went on a hike through the lava flow. We hiked 4.8 miles, which was relatively easy but extremely educational. The Capulin Volcano National Monument comes highly recommended by me!

Length: 5.2 mi
Elevation gain: 702 ft
Route type: Out & back

Scenic driving, Paved, Views, Fee

Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail #5. Boca Trail

5. Boca Trail Capulin Volcano National Monument

We should have turned around sooner, but we were too stubborn and ended up with our boots drenched to our ankles in muddy water. This is something I would not recommend doing after a snowfall because the snow melts into a mucky mucky mess.

Otherwise, it was a nice, relaxing little trail that was not at all strenuous, contrary to what the National Park Service brochure claimed (and I was out of shape, to boot). There are lots of interesting little lava-related things to look at, as well as some interesting flora. At least one deer was spotted out and about.

Length: 1.8 mi
Elevation gain: 301 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Views, Fee, No dogs

Capulin Volcano National Monument Hiking Trail #6. Capulin Nature Trail

5. Boca Trail Capulin Volcano National Monument

Capulin National Monument remains open during Covid, despite the fact that New Mexico State Parks are closed to visitors from outside the state. Made a good place to stop, picnic, use clean restrooms in the open visitor center, and stretch legs while driving the stretch from Raton to Clayton, California.. Even though the Nature Trail is only a few minutes long, it offers beautiful views as well as information about the local plants and geology. A great trail for those who are limited in their mobility; however, the walkway from the visitor center to the trail is currently torn up and under repair, so you must cross over grass to access the paved loop.

Length: 0.1 mi
Elevation gain: 0 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Nature trips, Walking, Fee

There are many beautiful trails, complete with different kinds of trees, birds, rocks, and fascinating little creatures. The trails are also close to the visitor center if you need to use the restroom or grab a drink. If you don’t have time for a full day of hiking, take one of the short hikes to get your feet wet.

How to Get To the Capulin Volcano National Monument

Visitors to Capulin Volcano National Monument would have a wide array of activities in which they could participate. These include exploring the various trails in the park and visiting the many restored Native American structures. Visitors can also hike to the summit, walk through a lava tube, or explore the volcano with a ranger from June-October.

October through May, Capulin can only be accessed by foot, horseback, mountain bike, or cross-country skis. Multiple trails run throughout the monument’s 289 acres, and visitors should make sure to pick up a map when they arrive for an accurate view of each trail’s length and difficulty level. The trails may flood or ice over during the winter months; people should always check weather conditions before hiking.

Visitors to Capulin Volcano National Monument would have a great time during any season of the year, so planning a trip here is a must for nature enthusiasts who love getting to know new places.

Places and Things to Do At the Capulin Volcano National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument is a special place where visitors can lay down on their backs or sit cross-legged to gaze directly at the sun. This field is popular because it provides a fantastic opportunity to watch the progress of sunrise and sunset without getting any direct sunlight in your eyes.

Capulin Volcano National Monument has many trails for hiking, which are also great places to see red-tailed hawks, mule deer, elk, or white-faced Ibis birds. There are even some Native American structures that have been restored with historical information about them plaques near each structure’s entrance.

My favorite activity and one of the best things to do and see in Capulin Volcano National Monument during the day is to hike around. There are multiple trails, which can get you to different spots within the monument’s 289 acres. It was exciting when we went on a ranger-guided tour of the volcano itself. No pictures I took there did it justice, though, so maybe someday I’ll go back for longer than 5 hours and take plenty of pictures while exploring everywhere.

Capulin Volcano National Monument has some fantastic views both inside and outside its borders, something worth seeing if you ever want to be amazed by nature.


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