Cycling Capulin Volcano National Monument
Ride 2.4 miles gaining 708’ at 5.6% average grade.
Climb summary by PJAMM ambassador Dan Razum, San Jose, California.
Capulin Volcano isn't a long climb but it is well worth doing for the scenery and the bonus ride along the walking trail that circles the rim. Plus, it's pretty rare to bike to the top of a volcano. Ok, it's an extinct volcano, but it's still pretty cool.
Volcano from a distance as we approach.
One caveat about this climb: you can only do it when the park is closed, which means you can't do it during the day. Officially, you are allowed to ride after 5:30 pm but we talked to a park ranger and he said you can also bike in the morning, as long as you finish by 8 am. We recommend riding in the evening, to allow enough time to stop and enjoy the scenery, especially if you ride the trail along the top.
The climb starts at the entrance to the National Monument on route 325. After a few minutes we arrive at the visitor center. There is a $20 fee for cars, but there is no charge for biking after hours. Right after the visitor center there is a closed gate (if the gate is open then you can't bike). We just go around the gate and start climbing up the cone of the volcano.
As we climb the views open up and we can see the surrounding countryside in all directions. We also see why bikes are not allowed when cars are on the road: it is a fairly narrow road, with some tight curves and no guardrails most of the way.
The climb isn't too long and we soon reach the end of the road, at a parking lot on the rim of the volcano. However, there is a walking trail around the entire rim of the volcano. The trail is paved but a bit rough and very narrow, since it is designed for walking. It is also very steep in places, especially in a few sharp hairpin turns, but the views from the trail are spectacular, so we highly recommend riding the trail. Since the trail is a loop around the rim, we can start from either side, it doesn't really matter. There are a few steps at the beginning of the trail but other than that the trail is doable on a road bike. Well, except for a few sharp, steep turns, where it is really best to walk the bike for a short distance, both climbing and descending.
Even though this climb is a little out of the way and you're only allowed to bike after hours, we highly recommend it for the beautiful scenery. But do be careful coming down, on both the trail and the road, it is easy to pick up speed quickly and there are some sharp drop offs.