Marvel at fascinating geological features and varied wildlife on the scenic hikes and self-drive tour that skirt this almost millennia-old volcano.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a spectacular natural attraction and the most recently formed volcano in Arizona’s San Francisco Volcanic Field. Follow hiking trails and scenic roads to viewpoints and get up-close to the volcano’s interesting landscapes and wildlife. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument formed around 900 years ago following an eruption in a region inhabited by prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan people. The volcano’s cone is some 1,000-feet (305-meters) tall and the crater is 400-feet (122-meters) deep.
Start your visit at the Sunset Crater Volcano Visitor Center, where you can pick up information about the trails, guided hikes and ranger talks. Take a moment to browse the gallery of exhibits, which educate about volcanoes, their unique topography and the forces that cause them to erupt. Sit at the visitor center’s picnic tables to take in views of ash fields and the imposing volcanic slopes.
Choose from three short trails that present views of basalt formations, cinder cones and fossilized red rocks. Spot the rugged San Francisco Peaks and stand in places where hot lava once flowed. See birdlife, such as bluebirds, golden eagles and Steller jays, as well as lizards and snakes. A popular walk is the Lava Flow Trail, a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) long route that affords some of the best views of the volcano and crater.
An alternative to walking is to drive along a picturesque 34-mile (55-kilometer) long loop road. It takes in the volcano and the nearby Wupatki National Monument, a volcanic area home to the ruins of five prehistoric villages. Stop off at Cinder Hills Overlook for superb photo opportunities.
This striking natural landmark is about a 30-minute drive from Flagstaff. There is no public transport service so it’s advisable to get here via rented car. Free parking is available at the visitor center.
Access to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is from dawn until dusk year-round. Fees are applicable and are also valid for entrance to Wupatki National Monument. The volcano’s location does not work on GPS units so be sure to take a map. A schedule of guided hikes and ranger programs is listed at the visitor center.