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Feb 15, 2017
A MERE 1,000 YEARS AGO (A RELATIVELY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME IN GEOLOGICAL TERMS), THE EARTH OPENED UP IN NORTHERN ARIZONA, SPEWING LAVA AND POISONOUS GASES INTO THE AIR, CREATING WHAT WE NOW KNOW AS SUNSET CRATER VOLCANO, NAMED FOR ITS RIM OF RED AND YELLOW CINDERS—MIMICKING AN ARIZONA SUNSET. THE PARK OFFICIALLY BECAME A NATIONAL MONUMENT IN 1930.
The Sinaguan people occupying this area 1,000 years ago must have been warned of the impending explosion, possibly through earthquakes and tremors, because there is no evidence of human casualties resulting from the volcanic eruption. The Sinaguans relocated to communities nearby, like Walnut Canyon and Wupatki, where their farming benefited from the remaining ash and cinders.
Today, the area is a reminder of what took place not long ago. The ground is covered with lava flows and cinder deposits. Yet, wildflowers, pine and aspen trees and desert vegetation also inhabit the area, an example of how life marches on. The lava flows create an extremely inhospitable environment for wildlife, but the cave-like lava tubes do provide homes for insects, spiders, lizards and even bats.
Explore the 3,040 acres of this National Monument by foot, or on wheels. You can drive or bike through the park for an overview of the sites, or hike your way through lava flows and trails. Guided tours are also available, offering you an even deeper knowledge of the history and ecology of the area. There are other programs and events held at the monument throughout the year, check the website for the most up-to-date schedule.
There is plenty of lodging, including hotels, motels and RV parks, available in the nearby Flagstaff area. Camping is not permitted within the monument, however Bonito Campground is located across from the Sunset Crater National Monument visitor center, and is usually open from May–October.
Open daily, sunrise to sunset, year-round.
Scenic Drive: Open daily and nightly, year-round.
Visitor Center: Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. during November – May, and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. during May – October, closed Christmas.
Park Entrance Fees:
Per Vehicle: $20/day
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
6082 Sunset Crater Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86004