Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

And the road trip narrative continues.

Sunset Crater National Monument is located slightly northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona, and is reached by the same loop road that passes through Wupatki National Monument. One would think it would be a rare person who visited one without also seeing the other, but apparently it happens. I spoke with a fellow recently who had been to Grand Canyon National Park and to Sunset Crater but drew a complete blank when I asked him about Wupatki.

 As is fairly obvious from the map, Sunset Crater isn't particularly large. It is also fairly limited in what one can do there. There are a couple short hiking trails that provide views of the volcano or the lava flows, but you cannot climb the volcano itself. On the other hand, it is surrounded by the Coconino National Forest. The Forest does have numerous recreational opportunities, including long hiking trails, back country camping, and a campground (Bonito) located immediately adjacent to the momument. The campground is named after the lava flow which, as my Guide to RV/Trailer Camping in U. S. National Forests, notes, lends "another worldly appearance to this starkly beautiful place."
 If I had any photo editng skills at all, I would play with the above photo so it didn't look like the mountain was about to be struck by a humongous flaming object.
I must confess that Sunset Crater Volcano was place where we behaved like windshield tourists. We pulled into one overlook, admired the view of the mountain, admired the view off in another direction, and then got back in the car and continued on our way. We overshot the parking for the trail by the lava fields, which actually merited a closer look, and then stopped at the Visitor Center. We briefly contemplated doubling back to the lava field trail, but it was getting late in the afternoon, we weren't sure just how far we were from Flagstaff or how long it would take us to find a motel, and so instead continued on our way.
In retrospect, I wish we had spent a little more time at Sunset Crater. It was interesting seeing what is obviously fairly recent volcanic activity. In geologic terms, a little over 800 years since the last major eruption comes close to being no time at all. Definitely worth visiting if a person is in the Flagstaff area; it's only 14 miles from I-40 so it's pretty easy to get to. If a person wants to camp, the Bonito campground is open May 4 through October 8 and can accommodate motorhomes and trailers up to 44 feet long. Sites at the campground are reservable through No hookups, but potable water is available and there are toilets.

Top photo and map lifted from the National Park Service.


  1. Volcanoes are an interesting subject. Have you read Winchester's Krakatoa?


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