Continuing our look at the national parks and monuments of the Great Plains we unfortunately must skip Colorado. The Great Plains portion of Colorado has no major national parks or national monuments. There is Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site and Sand Creek National Historic Site. Both of these are important in their own way, and I in no way intend to slight them, but they lack the grandeur of a larger national park or monument.
Moving south from there, we enter New Mexico which features the surprising Capulin National Monument. Capulin is an extinct cinder cone volcano that rises 1000 feet above the surrounding plains, and sits roughly in the middle of a whole series of volcanoes that dot this portion of northeast New Mexico. Capulin is surprising because volcanoes are not typically associated with the Great Plains. Some may choose to argue that they are an outlier to the Rocky Mountains, and not really part of the Great Plains, but I think most geologists and geographers would agree that the 12,000 and 13,000 foot peaks to the west are the part of the Rockies, but the 8,000+ foot volcanoes of the Capulin area are separate, and clearly rising directly from the plains.
The park consists of the mountain itself with a road to the crater rim. From there, you can hike the circumference of the rim (about 1 mile), as well as down to the bottom of the crater. On a recent trip there, the wind was blowing and gusting upwards of 60mph, and I wondered if I was not going to be tossed from the summit like a napkin. My hat proved useless as it required too much vigilance to keep it on my head. I managed to keep from losing it, but that’s about it. All in all, I found it to be an invigorating place and an excellent example of the character and variety that exists (surprisingly to some) on the Great Plains!