Jeff and I recently visited Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments. They’re located north of Flagstaff, on a loop road. Sunset Crater is at the south end and Wupatki is at the north part of the loop. To do them justice, you really need to set aside a full day to enjoy them. We’ve been there several times before, and planned to spend most of our time at Sunset Crater.
First, we visited Sunset Crater’s visitor center, then ate a picnic lunch nearby. The visitor center has some great descriptions of the event that created the volcanic field somewhere around 1040-1100AD.
There are also some great interactive displays. I jumped up and down on a pad that was connected to a seismograph. It showed how my movement created waves just as an earthquake would.
There was also a 3D animated video of how the eruption looked. You could even turn it to view it from various directions. Very cool for someone interested in geology, as I am.
We drove up the loop road, and stopped by Bonito Lava Flow and Lenox Crater. The lava flow looks so alien that the astronauts trained on it before the Moon landing. Sunset Crater is closed to people climbing on it, but not so with Lenox Crater. There’s a steep path to the top of it, which I hiked.
After lots of rests, ½ mile and 300 feet higher, I reached the top. There was a panoramic view of the San Francisco Peaks on one side and the cinder fields on the other. When I hiked down, it felt like ½ the distance.
At Sunset Crater, we walked the 1-mile loop path near the base of the mountain. You walk in and amongst the lava and cinder fields, sometimes dwarfed by the raw black rocks. It’s stark and beautiful and photos can’t do it justice.