Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument


We were looking for some place different to take a hike yesterday morning before our almost daily monsoon thunderstorms, so we decided to pay a visit to Sunset Crater Volcano, 12 miles north of Flagstaff.


This volcano was estimated to have erupted between 1040 and 1100, leaving behind a 1,000 foot cinder cone and miles of lava flows.

There are only two short (1 mile each) trails in the park. The Lenox Crater Trail takes you up a very steep climb on a cinder covered crater. At the top it almost looks like a parking lot, the area is so barren of vegetation.


Then we drove a bit farther down the road to the Lava Flow Trail. Volcanoes make for such an interesting landscape.



Especially with all the dead trees.





If you continue another 16 miles or so along the park road, you then come to Wupatki National Monument, which contains the remains of the Wupatki Pueblo. We decided not to drive on since the thunder and rain were already starting.


Speaking of thunder and rain, on Saturday night we had quite the storm. A group of young people were tent camping up the hill behind us, and many of them left during the torrential downpour. I bet they had a fun drive on the muddy road out of here, but I wouldn’t have stayed in a tent during that kind of weather, either.

It was quite a show.




  1. I enjoy Sunset Crater, too, and I have enjoyed the forest service campground there also. The hosts there did me a big favor a few years ago and I'll never forget them for helping me.

  2. gumo, yes I forgot to mention we drove through the campground which is just before the National Monument entrance. It looked like a nice place to stay, especially if you get one of the perimeter sites. There were way too many families with kids there when we drove through, although most appeared to be packing up on Sunday morning.

  3. I am keeping a note of all these hikes you two are doing. Hopefully, when we leave Utah and head for TX we will be able to stop in Flagstaff. I would love to do some of these trails.

    Great lightning shots.

  4. Well now you've peaked my interest in volcanos. I'm wondering why the area around sunset would still be so barren 1000 years later when Mount St. Helen's and other have grown back. Guess I'd better go ask ol' Wiki since I'm to far away to drive over to the visitor's center there and ask. Great lightning shots. I love watching lightning if it is far far away.

  5. Sherry, the area that is so barren is on the cinder cones. The cinder is so thick not much can grow, although there are islands of vegetation.

    Of interest is that in 1928 filmmakers wanted to create a landslide there for a movie. Activists protested for protection of the area and Herbert Hoover established the monument in 1930.

    There used to be a hiking trail to the top of Sunset Crater but it was closed in 1973. Foot traffic and erosion had turned the trail into a hip-deep rut. What man does to nature!

  6. We enjoyed Sunset Crater, as well. Glad you got to see it. Those lightening shots are great. I've never been able to get any.

  7. My reflexes are too slow to get lightning shots...those are beauts!
    Box Canyon Mark

  8. Nice variation to your hiking. It is fun to change up the scenery. Those dead tress are so beautiful.

    You captured some amazing photos during that storm. Isn't it fascinating how beautiful and dangerous at the same time these storms are!

  9. Good to know about Sunset Crater. There are a lot of interesting lava sites around Bend, OR, this reminded me of that area. Great lightening shots!

  10. GREAT lightening photos! I love seeing the lightening, but haven't tried to capture any yet. We've been having great strikes here, too, for the last couple of weeks. :)