The word volcano brings to mind large, mountainous mounds of earth spewing smoke and oozing red and orange rivers of lava. Volcanoes evoke thoughts of trips to locations like Hawaii, Iceland and Italy. While an active volcano is a breathtaking site to behold, sometimes a dormant one can provide an easy and affordable family day trip. Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico is the perfect place to spend an afternoon traveling with kids.
Crossing through New Mexico
Whether you are road tripping or live close by, this volcano offers a fun, active and educational day with your kids. It lies on Route 325 just between Texas to Colorado. You will pass through a small portion of New Mexico with grassy mounds and bright yellow wildflowers before you spot this unimposing mound in the distance. The signs on the side of the road will guide you there.
The big bonus for kids
Upon arriving, stop in the Visitor Center to pay a small entry fee and see the park film before you begin your drive to the top. There are several little trinkets, but be sure to grab a Junior Ranger’s packet before you leave. Successful completion and a chat with the park ranger with your child about his favorite thing about the trip will earn him a patch and an official Junior Park Ranger badge that he will need to show off to his fellow kindergartners for sure.
Four states and other stunning sights
The road spirals around the volcano until you hit the parking lot at the top. From there, you can walk to the bottom where the caldera used to be or hike around the rim and soak in the views of the surrounding countryside while you enjoy the volcano itself from every possible aerial angle. Keep an eye open for buzzing hummingbirds out on the trail and sunbathing lizards on the rocks. At the very top you are 8,182 feet up and can see the volcanic fields where more than 100 recognizable volcanoes live—not to mention portions of four different states: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
The trail around the crater’s rim can be steep, so don’t plan on bringing a stroller. Children should be active and have appropriate footwear to truly enjoy this trip. Unpaved trails at the base of the volcano which lead to the top are always available for the adventurous family who wants to make their trip a full day excursion.You can take a hike or you can opt-in to a ranger-guided tour to really learn about the volcano’s past while traveling with kids. It last erupted around 56,000 years ago, but as it now provides archaeological and geological material, it is an important American landmark today.