Name: Sunset Crater
Volcano Type: Cinder Cone
Eruption Status: Dormant
Last Eruption: approximately 1085 CE
Location: 35.3642° N, 111.5040° W,
Northeast of Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Every Volcano Hopper has to get their start somewhere. Sunset Crater was the very first volcano that I was able to get my boots on. You can tell by the picture – I was absolutely giddy about it. And, yes, I bounced up the lava flow like a billy goat.
My partner in crime and I visited in the fall of 2009. We were driving through Flagstaff and I spotted the national monument on the map. I’m not above begging when it comes to visiting a volcano. Luckily, my man has a spirit of adventure too and didn’t hesitate to steer the car north onto Highway 89.
After our visit to the Visitor Center’s museum, which describes the history of the area mentioned in last week’s post, we set out on the Lava Flow Trail. I think my first impression – this being my very first lava flow – was a bit of surprise at how absolutely rugged the lava was. Even after a millenia of being exposed to the elements, the rock was still jagged and sharp. There’s a reason that this type of lava is called A’a (named by the Hawaiian lava flows of similar composition). That’s the sound you make when you walk on the stuff in your flip flops. Ah! Ah! (More like ow, ow, but hey, you get the point).
The lava flow itself was incredibly deep. Thankfully, a trail has been cut through it that makes it easily accessible. Looking back now after some of the other hikes I’ve done over lava, this trail is a cake walk. It really is pretty easy on the legs for the most part, and there’s even a paved section so that anyone can come out and enjoy it. But 1 mile took us at a couple hours since I had my paws into everything.
The trail winds through the Bonito Lava Flow, which flowed downslope and to the west of the actual crater. The lava is made of basalt, which is pretty low in viscosity. That means that it runs quite a bit like honey out of a jar. There are typically 2 types of basaltic lava flows: A’a and pahoehoe (pronounced pah-hoy-hoy). Pahoehoe turn into really cool, ropey formations when it hardens. I’ll talk a lot about that when I get into some of my Hawaiian posts. A’a is the chunky, rough stuff pictured here.
So why the difference? A’a flows are slightly more viscous when they flow, and just slightly cooler. They also tend to really get rocking and rolling when they move down that hill. The outside of the lava tends to cool pretty quickly, but the insides stay hot and keep jamming along faster than a marathon pace. That continued motion, plus the addition of some additional gasses in the lava, cause it to tear itself apart into ragged chunks.
As we start down the trail, the 1000 foot Sunset Crater looms
head of us. Its rim is painted with gold, orange, and red hues that are indeed reminiscent of a desert sunset. These spectacular colors are due to the variety of minerals that were ejected during the eruption, particularly gypsum, silica, and iron oxide. Over the past 1,000 years, oxidation has really allowed some of those colors to shine. The rest of the cone is made up of black and gray cinders. You can see where the wind has blown the loose cinders around; black waves are visible on the slopes.Up close to the crater itself – with a great view of the cinder sides and the sun’s lens flare photobomb. Photo Credit: Volcano Hopper
At the time we were there, the trail to the crater’s summit was closed. I believe it may still be. Early on after word got out that the volcano was in the area, many adventurers, scientists and tourists climbed to the top. Cinder is fairly fragile and can erode easily, so all the foot traffic began to cause the mountain damage. To preserve it’s magnificent conical appearance, the park service has closed off the trail. But there are still plenty of others in the area to explore!
Off to the right as we wandered deeper into the flow, is a smaller volcano called Lenox Crater. It is also a cinder cone, but is barely 1/3 the height of Sunset Crater. Sitting at 300 feet high, it’s easy to miss behind the wall of the lava flow.
So here we have two cinder cones on a single trail, and a whole slew more of them off to the east in what is known as the Cinder Hills. Sunset Crater is actually the youngest of all of the volcanoes in the San Francisco Volcanic Field. So what on earth causes all these cinder cones to form? Glad you asked.
Cinder cones are typically formed when ground water trickles down and mixes with basaltic magma. It turns into a Lava Soup: liquidy and runny, and not nearly as tasty as what Grandma used to make. As the new soup gets closer to the magma below (whether it be the mantle itself or a magma chamber) it heats up in moment and flashes into steam. The steam expands and blows all the rock above it up and out of the way in an explosion. The lava soup splashes out of the new hole. As it cools, the lava forms cinders that pile on top of each other to form a cone. Since the steam opened up a few holes in the ground, that creates an avenue for the magma to bubble up and ooze out over the ground in some pretty spectacular lava flows.
As we wander closer to the mountain, we come across several intriguing features:
During the eruption, gas trapped beneath the surface blew open several more vents near the volcano which allowed more cinder to splash out, causing spatter cones to grow. These guys look like a bunch of volcano mini-me’s.
Semi-cooled lava welled up through some the cracks that formed around the volcano like toothpaste being squeezed from its tube. The lava encountered harder surface rock and created some grooved, wedge-shaped features. These are known as “squeeze ups”.
When the ground cracked open at the start of the eruption, it formed a fissure. Part of that fissure is still intact and is visible from the trail.
Hornitos are upwellings of lava on a lava flow. As lava is flowing, it can tend to back up and create these raised “fingers”. Most of the ones here are now collapsed or damaged from people climbing on them.
While the lava flow did some serious damage when it came down the slope, and it certainly hearty enough to withstand the elements, there is a definite resurgence of life here. Many people focus on the destruction that volcanoes can cause, but they are integral in the circle of life. Volcanic eruptions produce extremely fertile soil which is especially useful for farming. At Sunset Crater and the surrounding area, there are flowers and trees of all shapes and sizes, and wildlife thrives here. Keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you’ll see!
After our hike through the Bonito Lava Flow, we drove to the east side of the volcano and the Cinder Hills Overlook. This provides a spectacular view of the other volcanic features in the area. Unfortunately, we ran out of time on our side-adventure and had to get back on the road. But if you’ve come this far, take the rest of the day and go exploring!
There is more hiking to be done at Lenox Crater and O’Leary Peak. If the Sunset Crater trail happens to be open to the summit, give it a go! Further down the Loop Road, (which is about 35 miles from entrance to exit on Highway 89), you’ll come across the Kana’a Lava Flow. If you look north, you’ll spot Strawberry Crater and it’s lava flow. Further along, you’ll enter the Wupatki National Monument where canyon dwellings and pueblos from the people who inhabited the region are preserved. There are some hiking trails here too for those interested in history and archeology.
If you have the opportunity to go through Flagstaff, take the detour and go check out Sunset Crater. It’s a sight definitely worth exploring. For me, it just fueled the addiction. Once this volcano and I had been aquainted, I certainly wanted to get to know more of it’s volcano friends.
Want to see more pictures? I’ll leave an album for you to browse on my Facebook page.
Want more information on the San Francisco Volcanic Field? Check out this article by the USGS: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2001/fs017-01/
Copyright © 2017 Volcano Hopper. All rights reserved.
This is actually helpful, thanks.
Thank you for the excellent post
Thank you for the great post
Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good results. If you know of any please share. Thanks!
I’m not familiar with any yet – but if I learn anything useful, I’ll be sure to share it with you!
Thank you for any other informative web site. The place else could I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal means?
I’ve a project that I’m just now working on,
and I have been at the look out for such information.
This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am actually pleassant to read everthing at single place.
Attractive component to content. I simply stumbled
upon your weblog and in accession capital to claim that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
Any way I will be subscribing in your feeds and even I success you
get admission to consistently quickly.
Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your website
by chance, and I’m stunned why this accident didn’t took
place earlier! I bookmarked it.
Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.
It’s amazing in support of me to have a site, which is useful
in support of my know-how. thanks admin
Hey very nice blog!
You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the internet.
I will highly recommend this site!
Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I
realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll
be bookmarking and checking back frequently!
I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your information. The article has truly peaked my interest.
I am going to take a note of your site and keep checking for
new details about once per week. I opted in for
your RSS feed too.
Howdy would you mind snaring which blog platform you’re working with?
I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a
hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and
Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!
Hi! I used WordPress to set up this site. It’s very user friendly, and allows you a lot of flexibility to change the design around so that it’s unique to you! Best of luck with your blog.
Just wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clearness in your post
is simply excellent and i could assume you’re an expert on this
subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.
Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.
Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.
Is it very difficult to set up your own blog?
I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick.
I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start.
Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Appreciate it
Hi! I’d start with a site like wordpress or wix.com to set up your site. They’re very user friendly and you’ll have no trouble setting up a beautiful blog. Best of luck to you!
It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog!
I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this website with my
Facebook group. Talk soon!
I got this web site from my buddy who told me concerning this
site and at the moment this time I am browsing this site
and reading very informative articles at this place.
Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am inspired!
Very useful info particularly the remaining phase 🙂
I deal with such information a lot. I used to be seeking
this certain information for a very long time. Thanks and good luck.
Hello my friend! I wish to say that this article is amazing,
nice written and come with almost all vital infos.
I would like to see more posts like this .
Thanks! I’m looking forward to bringing everyone more “boots on the ground” stories this coming year. Stay tuned! 🙂
I got what you intend, regards for posting. Woh I am pleased to
find this website through google.
Awesome things here. I am very satisfied to look your post.
Thanks so much and I’m taking a look forward to contact you.
Will you please drop me a e-mail?
This is the perfect blog for anybody who really wants to find out about this topic.
You realize a whole lot its almost hard to
argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa).
You definitely put a new spin on a subject which has been written about for ages.
Wonderful stuff, just excellent!
Thanks so much!
I do consider all of the ideas you’ve introduced for your
post. They are really convincing and will certainly
work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for novices.
May just you please prolong them a bit from next time?
Thanks for the post.
Can you tell us more about this? I’d want to find out more details.
I’d love to! Is there anything in particular you’d like to read more about?
I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a
blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
The issue is something that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about.
I’m very happy I stumbled across this in my search for
something concerning this.
Thank you so much! I’m glad you are finding the posts entertaining and informative. Glad to have you here!
Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources
back to your site? My blog site is in the very same area of interest as yours and my visitors would definitely
benefit from some of the information you present
here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Thank you!
Sure, that would be fine with me!
Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading
it, you will be a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and will eventually come back
someday. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great writing, have a nice
Thank you so much, and thanks for the encouragement to write. Have a nice morning as well, and I’ll look forward to seeing you back here soon.
Hi, just wanted to say, I liked this post. It was inspiring.
Keep on posting!
Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a entirely different
subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Great choice of colors!
Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article.
I want to read more things about it! I love it when individuals come together and share views.
Great blog, stick with it!
Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme
of this site. It’s simple, yet effective. A
lot of times it’s hard to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and
visual appeal. I must say that you’ve done a very good job with
this. In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for me on Chrome.
Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after
browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new
to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often! https://Www.nlrbfcu.org/crypto-master-course-review/
Glad to have you here!
Hey! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4!
Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
Keep up the outstanding work! https://www.businessandleadership.com/leadership/item/alexander-the-great-one-of-the-greatest-of-world-conquerors/
hello!,I like your writing very a lot! proportion we
keep up a correspondence extra about your post on AOL?
I require a specialist on this space to unravel my problem.
May be that is you! Looking ahead to see you.
Thank you for posting this awesome article. I’m a long time reader but I’ve never been compelled to leave a comment.
I subscribed to your blog and shared this on my Facebook.
Thanks again for a great article!
Hi! I’m so glad you’re here and are enjoying the posts. Thanks for leaving a note!
It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to
be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you
few interesting things or advice. Maybe you could write next
articles referring to this article. I wish to read even more things
Very good post! We will be linking to this great post on our website.
Keep up the good writing. https://Hickoryfoodfactory.com/
I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come
here and visit more often. Did you hire out
a developer to create your theme? Excellent work!
Hi! So glad you’re enjoying it. I’ve done all of the creation/content myself, and really enjoy making it something you all love! Thanks for being here.
This is actually useful, thanks.
Glad it’s helpful!
I will right away take hold of your rss as I can not find your
e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you have any?
Please allow me know in order that I may subscribe. Thanks. https://www.reviewsbysid.com/lazer-bond-usa-reviews/
Hi! I’m working on getting an email subscription set up, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the near future. Thanks!
I spent a lot of time to find something similar to this
You need to take part in a contest for one of the most useful blogs online.
I am going to recommend this web site!
Very good article. I will be experiencing some of these issues as well.. https://bahastopikgosip1.blogspot.com/
Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to look
it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking
and will be tweeting this to my followers! Terrific blog and terrific design and style.
Glad you found your way here! Glad you’re enjoying the posts. I hope you and your followers will find it useful. Thanks!!
When someone writes an paragraph he/shekeeps the thought of a user in his/her mind that how
a user can understand it. Therefore that’s why this paragraph is
Hi, I desire to subscribe for this blog to get latest updates, so where
can i do it please assist.
Hi! I’m working on getting a subscription set up, so keep your eyes peeled!
Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your article post. I wanted to write a
little comment to support you.
Thanks for being here, and for the support!
whoah this weblog is wonderful i love reading your
articles. Stay up the great work! You recognize, lots of individuals
are searching round for this info, you could aid them greatly. https://Www.businessandleadership.com/
Thanks so much! Glad that so many people are finding these posts useful!
Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks
I’ve read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the
opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this web site.
Thanks! I’m glad it’s unique and that you are enjoying it! Thanks for being here.
I like reading a post that can make people think. Also, many thanks for
allowing me to comment!
Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading!
Fantastic beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your web
site, how could i subscribe for a blog site? The account helped me a acceptable deal.
I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea
It is the little changes which will make the most important changes.
Many thanks for sharing!