Capulin Trail – Trail #116

The Capulin Trail – Trail #116 is a 2 mile trail that starts at the Dome Trailhead and ends at the boundary of Bandelier National Monument along the Rio Capulin.

Trail Conditions: Poor


NOTE: The road to the trailhead is in poor condition, and much of the trail is also in poor condition due to the Dome and Las Conchas Fires. This trail only advisable for experienced hikers with high clearance 4WD vehicles who can navigate off trail. It is not necessary recommended.

From the trailhead, which also includes the St. Peter’s Dome Trail and the Boundary Peak trail, the trail goes off to the north (left) towards Capulin Canyon and the Rio Capulin. The first ~1 mile of the trail is in good condition as it winds its way down the severely burned mesa.

There are a number of shrubby gambel oak that have comeback following the fires. In some places, they have obscured the trail, so be prepared to push through some overgrown spots if the trail becomes difficult to follow.

Also, despite the trail being burned, in places you should be able to find old trail infrastructure like rock walls and t here have been a number of cairns built more recently that should help guide you.

At about a mile, the trail approaches a small point above a cliff face overlooking the canyon below. The trail can be difficult to find in the couple hundred yards proceeding this point, but if you lose the trail, fret not. A small gulch or draw emerges on the right. The trail switches back into the top of this draw before contouring around below the small cliff face.

As long as you’re able to find the trail at this point, you should be fine. From here, the trail will switchback gently down towards the water. The trail was build on loose volcanic rock, so finding good footing can be difficult at times, so be careful.As you approach the bottom of the canyon, there will be a number of downed logs across the trail that can be a bit of an obstacle for passage.

Due to the fires and ensuing floods, significant erosion has created some steep, lose walls in the final 20 feet down to the water, so be careful. From this point, the trail used to follow the water downstream into Bandelier National Monument, but this final .5 miles was completely washed out following the fire. Still if you are motivated enough, you can continue to pick your way downstream through the canyon. However, this is also a good turnaround point.

NOTE: The road to the trailhead is in poor condition, and much of the trail is also in poor condition due to the Dome and Las Conchas Fires. This trail only advisable for experienced hikers with high clearance 4WD vehicles who can navigate off trail. It is not necessary recommended.