For those who love hiking, there is no better feeling than hitting the trail and never seeing another soul. At Valles Caldera National Preserve, you can easily do just that. The preserve encompasses a 12-mile volcanic caldera caused by the simultaneous eruption of several prehistoric volcanoes, which ring the preserve's magnificent grassy valleys. There are trails that take you up along the rim of the caldera with breathtaking views of the expansive caldera below, as well as lower elevation trails that allow you to explore the lush valleys. Black bears, coyotes, elk, and prairie dogs all call the preserve home and are often easily spotted thanks to the limited number of visitors on any given day.
Valles Caldera is an "experiment" in federal land management and the preserve limits the number of visitors who can hike on most of the trails in any given day. This allows the preserve to remain in pristine condition and gives hikers an amazing backcountry day hiking experience. With advance reservations and a $10 per person fee, the Valles Caldera shuttle will drop you off and pick you up at a remote trailhead. You can also fly fish for trout on your own reserved section of one of the preserve's streams. The preserve is still very much under the radar, and the park staff told us that on many days, the preserve remains well under capacity. So while advance reservations are recommended, you may still be able to sneak onto a shuttle if you show up the same day.