Sunset Crater National Monument

Location: northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona
Date: December 7, 2013

Sunset Crater from the Lava Flow Trail

Sunset Crater is one of the many extinct cinder cone volcanoes around Flagstaff, Arizona, but Sunset Crater is the only protected as a national monument. The monument was created in 1930 because there were plans to detonate large quantities of explosives on the side of the mountain as part of a movie. President Hoover created the monument to prevent Sunset Crater from being irreversible damaged.

Lava and cinder cones along the first short trail

Lava along the first trail

As one of the larger and more prominent cinder cones around Flagstaff, Sunset Crater is visible from miles away. The monument has a few short trails, but hiking to the summit of the crater is prohibited. If you want to hike to the rim of a crater, you can do so to the barely noticeable Lenox Crater in the monument or to another crater on BLM or Forest Service land in the area.


The strong wind and sub-freezing temperatures made doing anything outside during my visit unpleasant. I only stopped three times, and the first was at the short trail through a lava field. This trail was only few hundred yards long and simply gives you close up views of lava. I then stopped at the Lava Flow Trail below the west side of the crater. After taking a few photos, I continued to the other side of the crater at the Cinder Hills Overlook.

View from the Cinder Hills Overlook

View from a pull-off along the the entrance road. San Francisco Peaks and Humphrey Peak are at right

I then went on to Wupatki National Monument, which is along the same loop road from US 89, but at a lower elevation where no snow was present and the wind was minimal in places. For more trips to cinder cone volcanoes see my posts about Capulin Volcano in New Mexico and Firepit Knoll in Zion National Park, Utah.

The first trail goes through the area in the foreground. Sunset Crater is at right.

Sunset Crater from the Cinder Hills Overlook

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.




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