Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Written by on July 21, 2012 in AZ Outdoor Adventures - Comments Off on Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Less than 900 years ago, a volcano erupted in a curtain of fire near Flagstaff, Arizona. Additional vents formed along a 6 mile line (the San Francisco Volcanic Field) and also sent ash high into the air. The Sinaqua Indians in the area must have had plenty of warning to get clear because, although the pithouses were burned and filled with ash, scientists have found no bodies. Experts believe the tribes migrated to Wupatki and Walnut Canyon to get away from the ash falls. The thin layers of ash in the area actually helped the Native American people by holding moisture in the soil. For nearly 100 years, the Sinagua trade and agriculture flourished before the people moved on. The Hopi, Zuni and Navajo tribes are descended from these people and stories and traditions of the eruption still live on in their histories.
For perhaps the next 150 years, the volcano slowly built a cinder cone some 1,100 feet high. In the final eruption, a layer of red scoria was deposited, giving the top of the cone its warm red color. Sunset Crater was nearly dynamited in 1929, to create a landslide for the Hollywood movie “Avalanche.” Local citizens were outraged and lobbied for its protection. The result was establishment of Sunset Crater National Monument in 1930.

A stop at the visitor’s center is a great place to start your exploration of the most recent volcanic eruption in the Southwest. Thanks to the dry desert terrain, the lava flows and cinder cone are well preserved. Although the area appears to be as desolate as the moon, take time to hike the 1-mile Lava Flow Trail and you will be surprised. This self-guided loop trail will take you through the lava flow and cinders and you’ll likely discover colorful, ruggedly dramatic geological features coexisting with twisted Ponderosa Pines, pockets of aspen and wildflowers as well as an amazing array of wildlife. If you’ve got plenty of energy, The Lenox Crater Trail will take you to the top of the crater and offers amazing view across to the San Francisco Peaks and hundreds of miles of Painted Desert.

Other attractions in the area include:
Wupatki National Monument
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Petrified Forest National Park

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
6400 N. Hwy 89
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Phone: 928.526.0502

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