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The two RV Gypsies explored
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
in Arizona

September 7, 2012

map showing location of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monumentsign: Sunset Crater Facts

Sunset Crater is a volcanic cinder cone located north of Flagstaff in U.S. State of Arizona. The crater is within the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

sign: Sunset Crate Volvano- Elevation 8,089 feet
first view in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
The Sunset Crater visitor center
sign outside the Sunset Crater Visitor Center
sign outside the Sunset Crater Visitor Center

history bookHundreds of volcanic eruptions gave life to this region's present landscape. All the hills and mountains seen in this area are volcanoes. They are part of a 2,200 square mile landscape of lava flows, cinder cones, and other volcanic wonders known as the San Francisco Volcanic Field. Sunset Crater is the youngest in this string of volcanoes that is related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks. [Note: The San Francisco Peaks, backdrop for Flagstaff and much of northern Arizona, were named in 1629 by Franciscan missionaries in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. This was more than 200 years before what was then a small town in California acquired a similar name.]

miles of volcanic rock
miles of volcanic rock

Roughly 900 years ago, the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano reshaped the surrounding landscape; forever changing the lives of people, plants and animals.

miles of volcanic rock
miles of volcanic rock

Sunset Crater can be seen from the lava flow

Sunset Crater can be seen from the lava flow
volcanic rock
volcanic rock

The Lava Flow Trail is a self-guided loop trail; an easy 1-mile round trip.

Pinus Ponderosa: Most of the pines along this trail do not look like their majestic and ponderous counterparts growing in nearby forests. The drier, hotter environment and nutrient-poor soils of this new volcanic landscape stunt growth. Their twisted, spiraling wood under the bark increases flexibility and helps the tree survive wind and snow damage.

Pine tree on The Lava Flow Trail
twisted, spiraling wood under the bark on the pine trees
pine tree
volcanic rock on The Lava Flow Trail
volcanic rock on The Lava Flow Trail
volcanic rock on The Lava Flow Trail
volcanic rock on The Lava Flow Trail

The standing section of lava shown below is called a squeeze-up. It forms as pasty lava from beneath the surface oozes through a crack in the lava crust, like toothpaste squeezed from a tube. Vertical grooves appear where the lava scrapes against the walls of the crack, creating an interesting formation.

a squeeze-up
a squeeze-up
a squeeze-up
a squeeze-up

history bookBuried under Sunset Crater's lava and cinders are dozens of pithouses. Those excavated revealed few artifacts; even building timbers had been removed. This suggests people had ample warning of the impending eruption. The changed environment forced new adaptations, which included migration from the area. Those who stayed nearby had to adapt their traditional agricultural technology to lower elevations and cinder-covered land.

Sunset Crater's lava and cinders
Sunset Crater's lava and cinders
Sunset Crater's lava and cinders, rocks
Sunset Crater's lava and cinders, rocks

history bookCinder cones erode easily and scars are slow to heal. In 1973, Sunset Crater was closed to climbing when 2-foot-wide rails eroded to 60-foot-wide swaths. Tons of cinder were shoveled back up the cone to fill hip-deep trenches. Scars are still visible today. Plants will eventually return to areas where cinders are left undisturbed. Walking in barren areas dislodges soil particles forming between the cinders.

sign: what if

trail scars
trail scars

The two RV Gypsies on The Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

The two RV Gypsies on The Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
The two RV Gypsies on The Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
lava rock The Lava Flow Trail
panorama
Karen Duquette on the Lava Flow Trail
Karen Duquette on the Lava Flow Trail

Below: Beautiful flowers growing through the cinder, fields of lava.... breathtaking!

flowers growing through the cinder
flowers growing through the cinder
flowers growing through the cinder
close-up of a flower
close-up of a flower

CINDER HILLS OVERLOOK: A series of red cinder-covered vents are in the valley shown below, marking a fissure along which the most recent volcanic activity occurred.

red cinder-covered vents

Sunset Crater began erupting in 1064 A.D. and marks the northwestern end of this fissure. Damage from hikers forced the National Park Service to close a trail leading to the center of the crater.

sign: Sunset Crater National Monument
Sunset Crater
Sunset Crater
Sunset Crater

Wupatki National Monument

sign: Wupatki National monument

sign: ruins

Below: The Painted Desert can be seen although it is hundreds of miles away.

 
The Painted Desert
road exiting the National Monument
look below

go back to the Arizona MenuPlease return to the Arizona menu to visit the rest of the two RV Gypsies adventures in Arizona. Or you can continue on to Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada from the bottom of the Arizona menu.