Looking for lava flows? You’ll find a park full at Sunset Crater Volcano. The park has some interesting features which include cinder cones and lava flows in the park. It’s hard to get too excited, but unless you want to head up to Craters of the Moon in Idaho you won’t find bigger fields anywhere close.
As the newest volcano on the Colorado Plateau, it’s fresh and easy to see. Cinder cones can be plainly seen, though one is off limits due to wear. There are pamphlet guided trails that explain different formations, hilltop views of volcanoes across the plains, and a great visitors center with knowledgeable rangers. Having just driven through the northwest and learned much about volcanoes, I did my best to stump him. But he was there with a quick and accurate answer every time, despite being distracted with trying to get a seismograph back on-line.
The road is a loop that goes through the newer Wupatki National Monument. It will take a few hours to hit both, but well worth the time.
Hike one of the two trails or stop and take in a program given by park rangers. Allow at least 1 hour to stop at the Visitor Center and hike the Lava FLow Trail. To hike the Lenox Crater cinder cone allow an additional 45 minutes.
Lava Flow Trail is a 1-mile (1.6km) loop trail with a .25 mile (500m) accessible loop. It is a self-guided trail exploring a variety of volcanic formations.
The Lenox Crater Trail provides an opportunity to climb a cinder cone. This steep trail is 1-mile (1.6km) round trip and requires about 30 minutes up and 15 minutes down!
Please stay on designated trails. Backcountry hiking is not allowed in order to protect fragile natural resources. Use extreme caution hiking near lava – it is sharp, brittle, and unstable.
Pets must be kept on a leash at all times. They are not allowed in buildings or on park trails.
Food & Sundries:
From Flagstaff, take U.S 89 north for 12 miles (19km), turn right on the Sunset Crater – Wupatki Loop road and continue 2 miles (3km) to the visitor center. You can also go up to Wupatki and loop down through the park at the end.
Camping & RV:
There’s a nice campground in the park. I didn’t see any hook-ups, and water in the park is limited. There was an ice machine with a for sale sign and a camp host site. I saw a fire ring, table, and grill at most sites. There was a mixture of back-in and pull-through sites. Open from late May through mid-October.
You can find plenty of RV parks further south in Flagstaff.