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"Sunset Crater" Arizona Things to Do Tip by toonsarah

Arizona Things to Do: 557 reviews and 1,040 photos

  Sides of Sunset Crater (by Chris)
by toonsarah
  • Sides of Sunset Crater (by Chris) - Arizona
      Sides of Sunset Crater (by Chris)
    by toonsarah
  • Bleak landscape near Sunset Crater - Arizona
      Bleak landscape near Sunset Crater
    by toonsarah

A little to the north of Flagstaff is Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, which is well worth the short detour if you are in the area. The crater is a classic example of a cinder cone – the remains of a volcano which was born in a series of eruptions sometime between 1040 and 1100. The volcano is no longer active, but signs of its former activity are everywhere, in the form of lava, cinders and black soil. It makes for a dramatic landscape, and we found it an interesting contrast with the very different crater we visited a few days later, Meteor Crater.

We followed the self-guiding Lava Flow Trail, a one mile loop (graded easy-moderate) through the site, with an informative leaflet as our guide, picked up at the visitor centre. This takes about 30 minutes and gives you an excellent insight into the formation of this bleak landscape. But although the landscape does appear bleak at first sight, there are signs everywhere of new plant growth re-colonising the area, as you can see in my photos. As the NPS website (link below) says, “Within the dramatic geologic features are small islands of pine and aspen trees, desert shrubs, and wildflowers.”

The National Monument is open year round and charges $5 per person, good for seven days and also covering Wupatki National Monument (which we didn’t visit).

Directions: From Flagstaff, take U.S 89 north for 12 miles (19km), turn right on the Sunset Crater - Wupatki Loop road and continue 2 miles (3km) to the visitor centre

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Mar 17, 2010
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