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Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument


The peaks, cinder cones, and lava flows of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument represent a long period of volcanic activity. Evidence found here suggests that the eruptions were separated by periods of inactivity during the last two million years. The last of these eruptions occurred about 900 years ago, forming the symmetrical cinder cone with its summit crater. Lava, cinders, and ash were blown from the volcano, covering the area in a blanket of black ash and cinders.

Sunset Crater National Monument
©National Park Service
The Bonito Lava Flow is one of several flows that streamed out from thebase of
Sunset Crater Volcano around 930 years ago.

The region's Sinagua Indians had to leave the area until the volcano quieted and the ash settled. As the eruptions ceased, lava poured out from vents near the cinder cone's base. Minerals contained in vapors that escaped from fumaroles stained the cinders red. The volcano's cinder rim now seems to glow as if lit by a perpetual sunset. The 3,000-acre monument was proclaimed in 1930 to protect the area's volcanic treasures.

A visitor center provides information on the geology of the monument and is the contact point for guided tours. A self-guided trail with markers leads across a lava flow, where hikers can see a hollow lava tube, squeeze-ups, hornitos, and other volcanic features. The lava tube is 25 feet long and so cold that there is ice in it for most of the year. The Lenox Crater Trail takes visitors for a climb up a cinder cone.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Information

Address: 6400 N. Hwy 89, Flagstaff, AZ
Telephone: 928/526-0502
Hours of Operation: The monument is open from dawn to dusk. Visitor center hours are:

  • Nov. - Apr. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • May - Oct. 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Admission: Admission: $5; children under 16, Free

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Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

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To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.


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