“Every adventure is worthwhile.”
During our road trips, we often try to check those attractions that lie along the way to our main destinations. One such attraction was the Sunset crater volcano. The long drive from Monument valley to Phoenix seemed to be tiring and boring and so hubby googled to check if there were any places worth stopping by on the way. He found the name Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, a nature preserve just 15 miles (24 km) north of Flagstaff, and along U.S. Highway 89. We had never seen a crater and so decided to give it a try.
We headed towards the monument along highway 89.First we stopped at the visitor center which was just at the entrance, for information of the area. With our national park pass, our entrance to the park was free or else there was a minimal fee of $5 per person. The monument is managed by the National Park Service in close conjunction with nearby Wupatki National Monument. The site had an interesting historical background.
In 1928, local citizens learned that a film company planned to dynamite the slopes of the cinder cone to create a landslide for a movie. Their protests prompted President Herbert Hoover to protect Sunset Crater and the surrounding 3,100 acres as a National Monument in 1930. It occupies an area of 5 square miles (13 square km) within Coconino National Forest. Hiking on the volcano cinder cone itself has been prohibited since 1973 because of excessive erosion caused by hikers.
The monument is centered on a truncated cinder cone, the remnant of an extinct volcano that rises 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the surrounding area. The cone was dated by means of tree rings found in remains of nearby buried Native American pit houses; it apparently began forming after an eruption that occurred in the winter of 1064–65 (eruptions probably continued intermittently for roughly 150 more years).
It was winter time and the snow and the pine trees alongside the road made a spectacular view.
The monument contains numerous lava flows and lava beds with ice caves. Powerful explosions profoundly affected the lives of local people and forever changed the landscape and ecology of the area. Lava flows and cinders still look as fresh and rugged as the day they formed. But among dramatic geologic features, you’ll find trees, wildflowers, and signs of wildlife.
We had never seen lava before and so were very excited to get such a close up view. There are two trails in the area. One, the Lava Flow Trail, takes you on a mile-long loop at the base of Sunset Crater and the other, Lenox Crater Trail, is a half-mile walk up an old volcano along a wide path of loose cinders.
We stopped the car and walked around the one mile trail. We did not go to the crater as it was a very long uphill hike. The volcanic lava all around the area was quite unusual, like dug up tar roads!
We spent some time around the area but the temperature was pretty cold and so we couldn’t stay outside for long. Taking some quick photos we headed back for Phoenix. All in all the view was just amazing and we had a wonderful time there.