Capulin Volcano is considered one of the world's best examples of a cinder cone volcano. Its distinctive, nearly-symmetrical conical shape is relatively well-preserved, and has taught geologists a lot about how these types of volcanoes form. But even if you're not interested in geology, the great views and abundant plant and animal life will make this a memorable place to visit!
Capulin Volcano is the most notable out of hundreds of smaller volcanoes in an area of northeastern New Mexico called the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. Volcanoes are very common at the edges of continental plates, such as the Ring of Fire encircling the Pacific Ocean, but volcanoes in the middle of a continent like this one are much rarer. The most likely explanation for New Mexico's volcanoes is a small mid-continent rift. As geologic forces within the earth slowly pull a chunk of the American West away from the rest of the continent, certain other parts of the continent (known as "rifts") become stretched thin, like pulled taffy. One such rift runs through the center of New Mexico, and is actually part of a larger system of rifts extending all the way from New Mexico to Oregon. The thinner continental crust in these rift areas makes it easier for underground pockets of magma to break through to the surface in the form of volcanoes.
A second mile-long path encircles the crater's rim. Fair warning though: it may not look it from where you're standing in the parking lot, but there's actually a sizable elevation difference from this side of the crater to the other. So at times, the path gets pretty steep!
Also spotted a mother deer and her baby darting across the crater, as well as a few hummingbirds, which pass through the region on their migration and are naturally attracted to the abundant wildflowers! I mean, it's a gorgeous place. If I was a hummingbird, I would definitely come here!