Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is located fifteen miles from Flagstaff, Arizona. The park is the best place to get a close up look at the volcanic activity that happened in the Flagstaff area over the past six million years.
Sunset Crater Volcano is a classic example of a cinder cone. The sunset-like colors at the top of the cinders from oxidization prompted explorer John Wesley Powell to write in the 19th century that they peaks seem to glow with a light of its own. These colors gave Sunset Crater Volcano its name.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
- Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
- Top things to do at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
- Things to do know when planning a trip to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
- National Parks near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
One of the highlights of visiting Sunset Crater Volcano NM is exploring the Lava Flow Trail. While exploring the trail you can see lava “Squeeze ups”, spatter cones and lava bubbles. There is no climbing allowed on Sunset Crater Volcano itself. You can climb the one mile long Lenox Crater Trail to hike up a cinder cone within the park.
For great views of Sunset Crater Volcano drive up to the Cinder Hills overlook for views of the crater and surrounding area.
Sunset Crater Volcano is one of the youngest of about 600 such scoria cones in the San Francisco Volcanic Field. Sunset Crater erupted about 1085 A.D.
Top things to do at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Visit the visitor center
The Sunset Crater Volcano NM Visitor Center is the perfect place to start your visit to the park.
Open year-round from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Closed January 1 and December 25.
Note: Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time year-round.
Become a Sunset Crater Volcano Junior Ranger
Junior Ranger programs can be picked up at the visitor center and turned in at either Sunset Crater Volcano or Wupatki.
The staff at Sunset Crater Volcano NM in Arizona offer interpretive programs when they can based on staffing levels seasonally. They offer 15-30 minute amphitheater ranger talks and 30-minute tours of the Lava Flow Trail.
Check with the visitor center to see if there are any upcoming interpretive programs.
Hiking and Trails
There is no backcountry hiking allowed within the park. This is to protect fragile geologic and archeological features.
Bonita Vista Trail
- Distance: 0.3 mi (0.5 km) round-trip
- Time: 20 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy, accessible
This paved trail offers views of an expansive view of the Bonito Lava Flow and surrounding volcanoes
Lava Flow Trail
- Distance: 1 mi (1.6 km) round-trip
- Time: 1 hour
- Difficulty: Easy, upper 0.25 mi (0.5 km) loop has a concrete surface.
- Pets are welcome on the paved portion of this trail. There is a pet station with waste bags at the trailhead.
This paved trail gives visitors the chance to walk along the base of Sunset Crater Volcano. Visitors can explore the Bonito Lava Flow and numerous volcanic features.
- Distance: 1.6 mi (2.6 km) round-trip
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Enjoy views of viewing Sunset Crater Volcano, the Bonito Lava Flow, O’Leary Peak.
Lava’s Edge Trail
- Distance: 3.4 mi (5.5 km) round-trip
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
Walk along the jagged edge of the Bonito Lava Flow. This hike does travel over loose cinders and rough basalt so make sure you are wearing proper footwear, have water with you and a hat/sunscreen.
Things to do know when planning a trip to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
6082 Sunset Crater Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments are connected by loop road FR-545
GPS Coordinates: 35°22’09.0″N 111°32’36.6″W or 35.369162, -111.543507
Driving directions from Flagstaff – Take U.S. Highway 89 north for 12 miles (19km), turn right on the Sunset Crater – Wupatki Loop Road, and continue 2 miles (3km) to the visitor center.
Drive time from Flagstaff to Sunset Crater Volcano is 30 minutes.
The park trails are open from sunrise to sunset
The park visitor center is open from 9 am to 5 pm
The park is closed on December 25th
Park Entrance Fee
Private Vehicle – Sunset Crater-Wupatki Entrance Fee – $25.00
Bicyclist/Pedestrian – Sunset Crater-Wupatki Entrance Fee – $15.00
Motorcycle – Sunset Crater-Wupatki Entrance Fee – $20.00
Flagstaff Annual Pass – $45.00 (This pass is valid for one year from the month of purchase. At Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments, it covers entry for all occupants of one private vehicle. At Walnut Canyon National Monument, it covers entry for up to four adults; children ages 15 and younger enter for free.)
You can also use your National Park Service Pass for entrance
Pets/Dogs in the park
Pets are only allowed in the parking lot. Pets are not allowed on any trails or inside buildings.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Camping
There is no camping within Sunset Crater Volcano NM but there is camping at the Bonito Campground, operated by the US Forest Service, which is located across from the visitor center. The campground is generally open from late May through mid-October. There are no hook-ups.
National Parks near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Walnut Canyon National Monument – 25 miles
Wupatki National Monument – 16 miles
Grand Canyon National Park -101 miles
Petrified Forest National Park – 110 miles
Tuzigoot National Monument – 85 miles
Montezuma Castle National Monument – 73 miles
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – 145 miles