When I think of volcanoes I think of Hawaii and mountains of lava. Finding out there was a actual volcano in Arizona was a amazing thing. Sunset Crater is cinder cone that formed from a Lava erruption thousands of years ago. So while you won’t see active volcano you can see the hardened lava rocks and the cinder cone Sunset Crater.
Address: 6082 Sunset Crater Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 ( entrance to park is about 15 miles north of Flagstaff along HWY 89)
Price:$25 per passenger vehicle $15 per motorcycle $10 per cyclist or pedestrian. There are also free entrance days so be sure to check out their website to find out when
Additional Info: Pets are not allowed in the buildings or on trails of national monument. They must be kept leashed. Off trail hiking is not allowed due to potential damage to geological features.
What is a Cinder Cone
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument preserves two volcanoes. The first is t a 1000-foot-tall cinder cone that erupted sometime around 1085 CE. The second is Lenox Crater Volcano which is approximately 300 feet tall. Lenox Crater is also considered a cinder cone.
I did not understand what a cinder cone was but fortunately The Sunset Crater website explained it. It stated “Cinder cones form when runny basalt magma is mixed with water beneath the ground. As the rock-water soup reaches the surface of the earth, the water flashes into steam, causing the liquid rock to explode from the ground. When Sunset Crater Volcano erupted, it created a curtain of fire 850 feet tall! For comparison, the Statue of Liberty is only 305 feet tall. As these tiny bits of lava cooled off, they fell back to earth as tiny rocks called cinders or lapilli. These cinders piled up around the volcano’s vent, creating a cone-shaped pile we know today as Sunset Crater Volcano.”
Ok now that the technical stuff is out of the way lets get to the fun. If you love learning then Sunset Crater in Flagstaff Az is a learning experience you do not want to miss. At the entrance to the park is a visitors center. Trust me you want to check it out. There are hands on items and learning stations that will help give you a good foundaton of knowledge.
Hiking and Exploring Sunset Crater
After stopping at the visitors center you will drive to the monument. Once you get to the monument there is a parking lot. There are many trails to choose from. The trails that are right off the parking lot are mostly paved and have some cute photo ops and information boards. We tried to stop at each board so as we hiked we knew what we were looking at.
- Lava Flow Trail: Explore the Bonito Lava Flow and numerous volcanic features while walking at the base of Sunset Crater Volcano. It is 1 mi round-trip and is the easiest as it is paved.
- Lava’s Edge Trail: This is a 3.4 mile hike round trip. It goes along the jagged edge of the Bonito Lava Flow. You will walk under the ponderosa pines, over loose cinders and rough basalt
- A’a Trail : On this .2 mile hike you can observe jagged blocks of rough basaltic lava, formed as the Bonito Lava Flow cooled over 900 years ago.
- Lenox Crater Trail: Hiking Lenox Crater Trail is a 1.6mile hike. You will be able to view Sunset Crater Volcano, the Bonito Lava Flow, O’Leary Peak, and from the summit views of the San Francisco Peaks.
- Bonito Vista Trail: This is a .3 mile paved hike. It gives a expansive view of the Bonito Lava Flow and surrounding volcanoes.
- Lava Flow Trail: This is a 1 mile hike at the base of the Sunset Crater Volcano. You can explore the Bonito Lava Flow and numerous volcanic features while walking. This is my kiddos favorite hike.